Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Why should I vote in the election if I'm uninformed?
April 23, 2004 10:56 AM   Subscribe

In the gray, Mathowie wrote, "it's my hope that all Americans take part in the democratic process ... I'm kinda pissed that American Idol logs half as many votes as the entire last presidential election every wednesday night. Get out there and vote, people!" I admit that I haven't voted in ten years. Why should I? [More inside.]

Here's why I don't vote: I don't know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision. Is it REALLY better (for society) if I vote -- even if I randomly push buttons -- than if I leave the field and let more knowledgeable people do it? I try not to make other decisions based on ignorance, so why should I do this with politics?

I suppose many people would respond by saying that I should study the candidates and then vote. I don't do this because it is extremely painful for me. I HATE politics. There's nothing fun about it for me at all. If I watch CNN (which I try to every now and then), I want to scream. This is probably because I grew up in a highly-charged, politicized household, in which political "discussion" became associated in my mind with anger and fighting.

So is it my duty to endure something I hate for months before every election? People keep making me feel like I'm a bad person for not-doing-my part. And I would admit that I WOULD be a bad person if I failed to help a dying person because I didn't want to get blood on my tie. But that (hopefully), would be a rare event. Elections (when you count state & local ones) go on all the time. How much unhappiness need one endure?

Many people tell me that if I don't vote, I lose the right to complain about the result of the election. I'm not sure I buy that, but it's fine with me. I never complain about election results.

I've been told that I'm a bad person because people died securing my right to live in a democracy. But how does my not-voting hurt those dead people?

If simply going to the voting booth and making random decisions would make a less of a bad person, I'd do it. But in my eyes it would make me MORE of a bad person.

I realize this question MAY not belong on AskMe. It might lead to opinion-based, round-table discussion. If so, please delete it. But I'm assuming many feel there's a practical, tangible reason why I MUST vote. If so, please explain.
posted by grumblebee to Law & Government (95 answers total)
 
i clicked here thinking that this post was about my website... it isn't.
posted by lotsofno at 11:08 AM on April 23, 2004


If you can find the 5 minutes to call in and vote for something so inconsequential as American Idol (and pay 98 cents a call!), then surely you can spare an hour to go down to your local polling station and help shape your future for the next 4 years.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 11:08 AM on April 23, 2004


There is little motivation to vote because it doesn't make economic sense to (in terms of efficiency).
I recommend checking out Anthony Down's wonderful article on an Economic Theory of Voting.

The argument goes like this: in a single-member pluarlity system (a winner-take-all election system), there will be only two parties. The two parties will be competing for the middle, since the distribution of preferences lies on a bell curve. So, with two parties fighting for the middle of the bell, then there ends up being very little real differences between the two groups. Given that you will recieve little utility (benefit) of having one person winning versus the other, then you are likely to have some other way to better spend your time. It just doesn't make economic sense to spend the time informing yourself and voting since little difference will result.

His theory is evident now. Look at the real differences between Bush and Gore. I think you would be suprised at how little real difference between the two there is. Since your life won't be appreciably different regardless of who wins, there shouldn't be any reason for you to vote.

The only real reason is that if you are a single-issue voter and only one party will give you what you want. So I would suggest that it is the only reason you should vote.
posted by Seth at 11:08 AM on April 23, 2004


Sorry. By "in the gray," I meant MetaTalk, which has a gray background. Some people call MetaFilter "the blue" and AskMe "the green" for similar reasons.
posted by grumblebee at 11:10 AM on April 23, 2004


Follow up questions:

-Do you believe democracy works, or is at least a viable form of government?
-If so, how does it work if the voters don't vote?
-If not, what is your desired alternative? Can you personally do something to bring that alternative about?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:13 AM on April 23, 2004


Interesting, Seth. If I DID feel like voting based on a single issue, I would stop myself. My best friend is gay, and I'm very pro gay marriage. But if I discovered that Kerry was pro gay marriage and Bush was against it, I still wouldn't vote.

I would fear that my tunnel vision would make me lose sight of more important issues, and I would vote for a horrible person who just happens to share one of my views.

After all, I hate late trains, but I still wouldn't vote for Mussolini.

I still only feel comfortable if informed people vote.
posted by grumblebee at 11:16 AM on April 23, 2004


So, when you buy a car, do you blindfold yourself, walk into a random dealship, and let them charge you whatever they want for the car, with whatever options they choose? No? Why not?

Probably because you want to find a car that best fits you, and you don't want to get ripped off by a crooked dealer. Does that guarentee the car you choose won't break down sometimes? No, but a least you made an educated decision. You took part in the research process and made the car yours. You were able to choose options that you wanted.

And no, voting is not "fun". But some things in life aren't fun. Paying bills, commuting to work, being nice to people when I'm in a bad mood. These things are not fun. But sometimes you have to suck it up and do things you're supposed to do even when you don't want to.
posted by falconred at 11:17 AM on April 23, 2004


It seems like there are two things going on here. One, thinking about the candidates is a painful process, and thus you'd rather not go through the whole ordeal. If there was a less painful way for you to think about the candidates or the things that directly relate to your life, would you be more inclined to vote? Two, is voting itself worth it? That's an entirely separate can of worms. I'd argue that - yes - it is worth it, but that's coming from someone who can't!
posted by fionab at 11:19 AM on April 23, 2004


democracy doesn't need everyone to vote to stay a democracy. it's only important that everyone have the right to vote, so that the threat exists that they will kick anyone out of power who screws up badly.

that's why (functioning) democracies don't have famines. if there was a famine, grumblebee would be out there voting with everyone else.

it's better that you have the right to vote, but there's no compunction to use the vote if you don't want to. people that urge you to vote are usually doing so for their own political reasons.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:19 AM on April 23, 2004


Maybe think of it this way: Do you know any women who have opinions on their reproductive rights? Do you know any gay people? Do you know any senior citizens on prescription medications? Make a list of people you know who *would* be affected by differences in the ruling political party, even if you feel like you lie in the center of the curve. Candidates' websites generally list their platform positions; it shouldn't take too long to figure out which candidate will help your friends/family/coworkers/loved ones and which will hurt them. Then you can vote with your conscience.
posted by bcwinters at 11:20 AM on April 23, 2004


Two answers.

First, your vote on a national level (generally) has little effect and if you choose not to vote, no big deal. Voting for a national candidate generally affects you in minor ways. Obviously, there are exceptions but as a whole whether your congresswoman votes for or against a bill doesn't affect you.

Second, your vote, or lack thereof, on a local level has an extreme effect. Bond issues, local laws, property taxes etc, have a much greater effect since they are targeted to fewer people. Additionally, many areas have 'super-majority' requirements for tax issues. These require not only 50%+1 votes yes, but more than 50% of registered voter must vote in the election. So by not voting, you are in essence voting no to everything.

My thought on this is find one issue in a local election. Spend 20 minutes reading the voter pamphlet or other information and commit to vote on that issue. Leave the others blank if you want. But by voting, your ballot then counts as a cast vote and the super-majority issues are fulfilled.
posted by karmaville at 11:21 AM on April 23, 2004


should you try to keep yourself politically informed is a different question, and one i think more people are answering (without intending to).
posted by andrew cooke at 11:21 AM on April 23, 2004


If you're not voting, then you are probably missing out on jury duty as well.
(they seem to be linked somehow - at least around here)
posted by milovoo at 11:21 AM on April 23, 2004


I'm not crazy about democracy, but it seems like the lessor of various other evils.

Of course it won't work if voters don't vote.

So I am being selfish. I do all kinds of good things for people, but this is one way in which I am selfish.

I find that if I go 20 years without donating to charity, no one says much. If I go one year without voting, people accuse me of murder.

I wish there was some sort of system in which anyone could vote in theory, but before you actually did vote, you had to pass a test that would show that you had an understanding of the candidates, the issues, and the history involved. I realize that there are all sorts of problems with this idea, but it's a nice pipe dream.
posted by grumblebee at 11:22 AM on April 23, 2004


So is it my duty to endure something I hate for months before every election?

No. But political engagement doesn't have to mean obsessive watching of political games.

Do you have any opinions?

Do you care how much you pay in taxes? Do you think gay people are taking over our country, or wrong-minded people are restricting their rights? Do you think there are two many immigrants destroying our country, or that we should allow everybody the opportunities your ancestors had? Do you think women should have a right to an abortion or that innocent souls are being senselessly slaughtered?

These are all national issues. And you don't have to follow politics at all to find out how candidates feel. The Monday before the election, go the the League of Women Voters web site. They break down the issues for you. Pick someone you agree with. Maybe the country will get better for it.

I see from your profile that you life in New York. Do you know that your state government has decided to raise taxes rather than make cuts to balance its budget during economic hard times. Do you like this? Do you think tax-provided services are so important that anything should be done to continue providing them? Do you think your local politicians are a bunch of wimps afraid to offend someone and thus unwilling to make tough decisions? Are you and others you know having a hard time making ends meet because of all the extra money you're turning over to the government this year? You can do something about it. Vote.

(on preview): Lots of people say lots of things. I'm just gonna post it like I typed it.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:22 AM on April 23, 2004


Note: voting is NOT linked to jury duty in NYC. I'm not registered to vote, but I just served jury duty.
posted by grumblebee at 11:25 AM on April 23, 2004


I wish there was some sort of system in which anyone could vote in theory, but before you actually did vote, you had to pass a test that would show that you had an understanding of the candidates, the issues, and the history involved.

You do know there's no penalty for leaving some items blank, yes? You can vote for or against an issue or candidate and not register an opinion when you really don't care.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:26 AM on April 23, 2004


Of course it won't work if voters don't vote.

why wouldn't democracy work if people didn't vote? someone, somewhere, is going to vote, and they'll get to pick the government. what's wrong with that - it's a democracy, so if that government is terrible then sure as eggs is eggs a bunch of people will vote next time, to get them out.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:28 AM on April 23, 2004


Look at the real differences between Bush and Gore. I think you would be suprised at how little real difference between the two there is.

For better or worse, if Gore were in office, we'd have a very different economic situation with the tax cuts, judicial appointments would be different, we might not have ever gone into Iraq, and we might have done better or worse fighting terrorism. There would also be no presidential support of the anti-gay marriage amendment.

Since your life won't be appreciably different regardless of who wins, there shouldn't be any reason for you to vote.

Unless you get laid off or can't move up as quickly as possible. Unless you have friends and family who need affordable healthcare. Unless you are or know a soldier who is or will be deployed. Unless your daughter or granddaughter needs an abortion. Unless terrorists successfully destroy your family/home/business. Etc.

Back on topic, I don't believe you really need to know the ins and outs of policy, just the basic ideas. It's hard for me to believe you could not be aware of those just by living in this country with the rest of us.
posted by callmejay at 11:29 AM on April 23, 2004


It is easy to say that voting is the duty of every good citizen, just like serving on juries, paying taxes, and keeping right except to pass, but given you explanation, I really don't think it is a big deal that you don't vote. I enjoy voting because it makes me feel like I am part of something bigger than myself even if the liberal candidates I support fare poorly here in the deep south. But I don't get all upset when others complain about low voter turnout; my thought is the fewer people vote, the more my vote counts. In fact, in an ideal world, no one but me would vote (although they would have the right to vote).
posted by TedW at 11:33 AM on April 23, 2004


see how people saying you should vote generally want to change things? that's how democracy works - by annoying people. not by treating people like little children and telling them they have to do what they see no reason for.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:45 AM on April 23, 2004


Because voting entitles you to bitch about politics. And that's fun.
posted by Vidiot at 11:46 AM on April 23, 2004


I find that if I go 20 years without donating to charity, no one says much. If I go one year without voting, people accuse me of murder.

You may also be having a reaction to the old "If you don't vote, you can't complain" tired adage that people trot out around this time. There are many other ways to be politically active in addition to voting. Most of them require more time, more commitment and more personal involvement than voting, honestly. If you're running a Head Start program at near poverty level wages, but you don't vote, and do complain about constant funding cuts and lack of attention to kids' social programs, people might say "well go vote next time" but they're likely to get their ass kicked if they tell you not to complain.

I think either voting OR being active in some way locally is important. It's hard to make a compelling case -- if, in your case, you really aren't informed about the candidates -- that your national-level vote will matter. However, it is easier to make a case that uninformed populations in a general sense contribute to bad behavior on the part of their elected representatives who [if you're being charitable] have no idea what their constituents want or [if you're being uncharitable] know that their re-election is not really contingent on their good behavior while in office so they may as well suck up to special interests who can give them enough cash for the TV Ads they feel they need to win another election. It seems like at some level what you need is to care about an issue enough that you can get motivated to inform yourself and/or vote.

For me, it's easy: gay marriage is important enough to get me -- a fairly committed anarchist in a more social sense -- to get to the polls. Locally, I pay property taxes so I get to choose where they go if I go to town meeting and talk about it and vote. Maybe you need a non-CNN way to learn about issues? I've heard many people seem to like the Daily Show, scanning Google News headlines, or just bs-ing with their friends as a means to stay informed. You don't have to watch TV, and you don't have to read a lot, and you certainly don;t have to fight with people to have enough of an opinion [or figuring out which issues may matter to you] to make voting worthwhile.
posted by jessamyn at 11:47 AM on April 23, 2004


Unless you get laid off or can't move up as quickly as possible. Unless you have friends and family who need affordable healthcare. Unless you are or know a soldier who is or will be deployed. Unless your daughter or granddaughter needs an abortion. Unless terrorists successfully destroy your family/home/business. Etc.

See, but this is where you lose people like me and grumblebee. 9/11 would have had no effect on the economy if Gore were in power? Come on. Affordable healthcare? I didn't have it under Clinton and I don't have it under Bush -- why would Gore (or Kerry) be different? None of the concrete policy proposals seem too significant to me. With the war in Iraq you have more of a point; I don't see Gore having done that. I do see him having gotten much more involved in Afghanistan, though, so once again, I'm not sure how much of an impact that has. Abortion? Get real, abortion rights aren't going away anytime soon. Terrorism? 9/11 was going to happen regardless of who was in power.

The thing is, Seth's right. I can't see one meaningful difference between Kerry and Bush, or Gore and Bush, or whatever. I couldn't possibly care less which one is elected. Neither of them come within a mile of addressing any of the issues I have with the way our country is run. So why waste my time?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:50 AM on April 23, 2004


Find someone you like and respect, who you know stays informed-and ask them who'd they'd vote for and why.

Or, decide which political party best fits your view of America, and vote for their candidates.

Not a perfect system, but better than flipping a coin.

(I'm a poll worker. Please come and see us as it is a very long and boring day if you don't.)
posted by konolia at 11:55 AM on April 23, 2004


I second falconred. There are things in life that are not fun, but are part of being an adult. When you buy a car, or buy a home, or have to obtain insurance for your home/car/medical needs, there is a lot of research and thought that goes into the process so that you get what suits you best. (Some people don't car much about cars and will drive any old beater as long as it runs, but that's still a choice that they have made.) It may not seem like there is anything in it for you, but at a minimum there is a sense of being an active participant in the world around you.

What I have found works best for me is to always vote absentee ballot, and then I can sit down at home, read through all the voter information stuff, and mark my ballot without feeling rushed. And if there is something I don't feel I understand enough to vote about, I leave it blank.

And the more you vote, the less time it takes. certain issues come up repeatedly, and once you know how you want to vote on the issue, it goes quickly. Additionally, I've noticed certain people or groups that I seem to have an affinity with, or certain people I tend to always disagree with, and I look to see what individuals or groups are sponsoring or opposing the issue, and that often helps me inform my decision.
posted by ambrosia at 11:55 AM on April 23, 2004


You should vote because it makes you feel good, or because it makes you feel proud to have exercised your civic duty, or because it's otherwise fun to have done (not fun to do, but fun to have done yesterday). It's like playing a lottery: your ticket has an utterly insignificant chance of being a winner (making or breaking a tie), but it's still not-stupid to play if you enjoy the thrill.

I don't know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision

You're probably overestimating what you need to know to cast the "right" ballot.

Imagine you were omniscient and could pick the candidate that was, really and truly, the candidate you want to vote for.

Now imagine that you just look at the information that forces its way into your life, combine that with your gut feelings about parties and candidates, and just take a stab at it. 9 time in 10, you'll *still* vote for the right person for you.

Being super-informed is difficult. Being informed enough to be 90% confident of voting for your right candidate (at the federal level) is dead easy. Being informed enough to be 90% confident of voting for the right party is even easier than that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:58 AM on April 23, 2004


(memo to jessamyn: tongue was firmly in cheek in my above comment.)
posted by Vidiot at 11:59 AM on April 23, 2004


People keep bringing up economics. From my (admitedly simpleminded) viewpoint, there are two major economic philosophies that are commonly pushed: (a) spread the wealth, because then poor people are better off, and (b) help the rich people because then they will spend more and we'll all gain.

Which one of these is best? I don't know and I don't see how anyone can know. To really know, you'd have to run a huge experiment in some kind of global simulator. Real-world examples don't count, because the test-tube is too dirty.

I don't get how people are so sure they're right about extrememly complex economic issues. I guess it's akin to faith. And I'm not good with faith.

===

Someone mentioned issues of local taxes, and I find that personally very interesting and telling. If I discovered candidate B would, if elected, cost me $8000 a year in extra taxes, selfishness would kick in and I'd probably vote for candidate A.

But if I found out that B would cost me "only" $1000 extra a year, I wouldn't bother voting. Now, I'm not rich. $1000 is a lot of money to me, but I'd still rather lose it than get all wrapped up in politics. So I guess the tax question is a good one to determine how much it would take for someone to vote (out of self-interest).
posted by grumblebee at 12:03 PM on April 23, 2004


grumblebee - protect the electoral process from your own ignorance by getting educated, not by abstaining from the vote.

If you can't spend the effort to get educated, and you really just don't care enough to vote, you will wind up being governed by the uneducated, random button-pushing of other people. Don't vote? Other people do. Don't know enough? Maybe not, but they don't necessarily either. What's required around here is a greater number of educated votes. And it is in your power to work toward that.

You're setting up a straw man argument by saying that you don't vote because, if you did, it would just be random button-pushing. The point is you need to get educted and vote. It's a single process. This is "extremely painful" for you? I don't think you really know what pain is, then. There are many ways to ease the pain of figuring out how to vote. If you're not the kind of person who cares very much, then pick a party or a publication, and go with their endorsements. Can't find *any* party or publications worth trusting? Wow. Maybe the system is in more dire need of help than you thought. Better get with the program.

If the issues at risk aren't very important to you, I can understand that. Some people just want to be able to own a gun and watch TV and as long as they can, who gives a shit about gay marriage? If this is your boat, fine. Abstain. I find that apathetic people tend to be less compassionate, which leads to conservatism in the end, so just stay out of the elections. You'll make my vote a larger proportion of the deciding whole. Cool with me.
posted by scarabic at 12:03 PM on April 23, 2004


I didn't use to vote. Now I do. And it's made my life better, even if it hasn't had much effect on the nation at large.

Taking the time to educate yourself about candidates and issues takes much less time than browsing MetaFilter. It also gives you much more satisfaction in terms of: Sense of community, civic pride, rhetorical confidence, etc. The things surrounding your vote are more important than the vote itself in some ways.

Voting is good for you. Just like buying Girl Scout cookies and tipping your waitress is good for you. Don't do it to change the world, do it because it's a goodness.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:07 PM on April 23, 2004


grumblebee - how old are you? do you care AT ALL .. about the environment?

if you need a reason to get involved it should be at the top of your list.
posted by specialk420 at 12:08 PM on April 23, 2004


i think of voting as a right, privilege and duty. and so i do it.

when i can't, in good conscience, vote for either choice in the presidential election, i find out what else is on the ballot in advance of election day. i then make decisions about those things. there are often pretty important local issues, which are relatively painless to inform yourself about (last election it was a parks issue in my township), and i go vote on those issues and leave the presidential stuff blank. unless i'm seriously misinformed (and please, someone tell me if i am), blanks don't invalidate the whole ballot.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:09 PM on April 23, 2004


Scarabic, it's not painful to me like amputation or starvation. But try to think of the TV-show or song that you hate the most -- the most soul-destroying, psychic wounding one you know. Imagine someone told you that in order to vote, you had to watch that show or listen to that song a hundred times a day. That's what it's like for me.

If you can imagine that, maybe you'd deal with it and vote anyway. If so, you're definitely a better person than me. But I'd bet you'd reach a point (500 times a day? 1000 times a day) when self-interest would make you quit.

I don't want to make assumptions, but my guess is that you ENJOY politics -- at least on some level. If so, great. But that puts you in a bad position to understand someone who doesn't. (I love chocolate, so I have a hard time really getting someone who doesn't).

I am a little scared by all the people who keep saying you really don't need to know all that much to vote effectively. I disagree. I think the issues are complex.

Scarabic, my friends would tell you that I'm a very compassionate, loving person. I doubt I will become conservative any more than I will become liberal.
posted by grumblebee at 12:17 PM on April 23, 2004


special. I'm almost 40. Yes, I care. I care about a lot of things. I'm also sometimes selfish when making certain decisions leads to personal misery. Are you ever selfish?
posted by grumblebee at 12:19 PM on April 23, 2004


I vote, in every election. It's your responsibility as a citizen. It blows my mind how many otherwise intelligent people choose not to participate in this process. I would have thought that the margin of Bush's victory in 2000 would have cleared up any lingering doubts.

Seth- Look at the real differences between Bush and Gore. I think you would be suprised at how little real difference between the two there is.

Tax cuts for the rich. War in Iraq. The environment. The largest budget deficit in history, less than 4 years after the largest budget surplus. The rest of the world hating our guts. The PATRIOT act. Federal court nominees. Need I go on?
posted by mkultra at 12:34 PM on April 23, 2004


grumblebee, in your first post you wrote:

"I don't know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision. "

I've been in the same boat about local elections, but a few years ago I started actually reading the voter guide that gets mailed out to everyone that is registered. It has a full campaign profile of all the people running in your election. This is often enough to determine which candidates I like on paper.

But now that I have Google, I often run searches for local races, to see what the people are really like, what their history is in the community, etc. It only takes an hour or two to skim the guide and the web before you vote, and I feel better knowing I'm not just selecting a local judge because I like his name.

I know live in a new town, in a new state and I'm learning a lot by reading the voter guides. Seriously, this should be the first place you start.
posted by mathowie at 12:40 PM on April 23, 2004


If I watch CNN (which I try to every now and then), I want to scream. This is probably because I grew up in a highly-charged, politicized household, in which political "discussion" became associated in my mind with anger and fighting.

...

I would fear that my tunnel vision would make me lose sight of more important issues, and I would vote for a horrible person who just happens to share one of my views.


I applaud your concern. Your comments are really charged, which suggests a very sober approach to the task. My advice, for which I am prepared to be pelted with rocks, is "lighten up."

Politics has some downright hilarious aspects. Jessamyn mentioned the Daily Show above--they and some others do a good job of highlighting the farcical aspects of politics and world events. Instead of "it's too complicated and I don't want to make a mistake" approach to voting, consider the "we're all on this ship of fools together, might as well participate" approach.

It sounds like not voting is giving you as much--or more--stress then just going out and voting.
posted by whatnot at 12:40 PM on April 23, 2004


I don't know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision

Bullshit, and lazy. You are obviously able to navigate the Web, so ignorance is no freakin excuse. How hard is it to find these sites:

George Bush's Agenda (Don't blame me, that is how his site words it)
John Kerry's positions on the issues.
Ralph Nader on the issues
Other candidates running (with links to their pages)

Consider yourself informed. Now you have no excuse other than laziness.

And yes, this was a CRAP AskMe post.
posted by terrapin at 12:51 PM on April 23, 2004


Is it REALLY better (for society) if I vote -- even if I randomly push buttons -- than if I leave the field and let more knowledgeable people do it?

Rather than pitch you on the value, duty, joy, and benefit of being a voter, I'd just like to respond to this part of your query. You're wondering if it's better to leave it to the more informed, but I'm wondering why you think the average voter is any more informed than you are. Don't use your lack of familiarity with the candidates and issues dissuade you from voting, because that ain't stopping anyone else.

I'm a political junkie, and I've worked elections many times in various capacities. I find it fun. Even when I know my candidate doesn't stand a chance, I still vote. But that's just me. I don't need a reason other than I enjoy it.

You? Why should you vote? Beats me. If you don't feel motivated by any particular issue or don't have any opinion on anyone running, I can't think of a compelling reason to force yourself to do it. If you don't like it, don't do it. But don't use ignorance as an excuse.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:53 PM on April 23, 2004


So I am being selfish. I do all kinds of good things for people, but this is one way in which I am selfish.

You're not being selfish, you're being a patriot. I applaud you.

Honestly, where did we get the idea that people who don't understand the issues should be encouraged to make the decisions? Would you poll every random grandmother you met on the street before finalizing a technical specification? Would GM let its stockholders vote on every managerial decision? Should the NEA start a yearly ballot initiative so that regular people can choose what kind of art gets subsidized? That's insane. It's stupid.

Now, should these people be allowed to vote, so that the NEA isn't getting $12 billion a year during a famine? Yes. But when the issues start getting less clear cut, and when you start feeling out of your depth, the best thing you can do for the good of your country and your neighbors is to admit that and let those who know what they are doing make the decisions.

Now, that said, here is why you should vote, grumblebee: you are smart enough to realize that you don't completely understand the issues. Frankly, that makes you significantly smarter than your average voter. Now, in a perfect world, people should (as you suggest) be forced to pass a test before being allowed to vote. But this is not that world, and stupid people vote all the time. Therefore, your uninformed but fairly intelligent vote is actually more likely to lead to a good decision than most people's uninformed and unintelligent votes. And therefore you should vote, because while your judgement may not be perfect, it's better than most.
posted by gd779 at 1:02 PM on April 23, 2004


You know, grumblebee, in the amount of time you've spent tracking this discussion, you could have probably done a halfway-decent job educating yourself on the positions of the presidential and congressional candidates in the upcoming election.

While I agree that a resolutely ignorant might-be voter (as you appear to be) should not vote, I don't accept that there's any excuse for being so resolute in your ignorance. Even if politics gives you an upset tummy. How do you think it makes those of us who follow it closely feel?
posted by adamrice at 1:07 PM on April 23, 2004


i generally agree with ghostITM & gd779 that random "fill in the blanks" is not better than no vote at all.

but i still stand behind my original comment. if the broad presidential election is too much to stomach, stomach the smaller parts of the election and vote.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:10 PM on April 23, 2004


I don't want to make assumptions, but my guess is that you ENJOY politics -- at least on some level. If so, great. But that puts you in a bad position to understand someone who doesn't.

Well, I hope it helps answer your original question to know that I HATE politics also. I am very familiar with the agony of researching ballot measures, and having to listen to shrill debate just to get some opinions on candidates. I tear my hair out every time a ballot measure comes up, because I know the "pro" information in the voting materials will say that it will benefit the community at no cost, while the "con" information will say exactly the opposite. No, I don't know how to pierce the complexities of economics with blinding science and find the perfect answers.

I know it sucks. I do the best I can. That's not always a perfet job. I will never give in to apathy, however. And I will never pat myself of the back for not voting, because my vote would only be an imperfectly researched, ultimately uncertain opinion. You seem so hesitant to have an opinion, as if you're not worthy to have one on issues that matter. But that's your *right* in the US.

Come on, grumblebee, I know what you're saying. And you know what you have to do. Comparing the pain of doing a little ballot research to having your soul destroyed by listening to a bad song just betrays how shallowly you're approaching this subject. I hope you find some inspiration from the encouraging folks who've shown up here today to change your mind (including mathowie, no less).

Remember what Churchill said:
"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time."
posted by scarabic at 1:15 PM on April 23, 2004


If you don't see much difference between presidents, why not look at it from this angle: what kind of Supreme Court justice will this person nominate? There are at least three (and possibly four) spots that are due to open up on the Supreme Court in the next ten years, and the president will make those nominations. If you read the candidates sites, which terrapin helpfully linked above, you won't get any of the stomach-churning argument and debate of politics, but you'll know generally what the candidates stand for, and consequently, what kind of Supreme Court justice they will nominate.

Even if you see no real difference between what a presidency can do for the nation, I assume you can see what the Supreme Court does for the nation. Having a hand in deciding who will be interpreting the Constitution for the entire country in a binding and final manner does make a difference for you.
posted by headspace at 1:16 PM on April 23, 2004


Good advice, whatnot and mathowie. I see why you think I have all sorts of anxiety about this. In general, I don't. I'm very busy with all sorts of projects, so I don't dwell on it. But Matt's post on MeTa made me think about it, so I posted here.

If I met someone like me, I'd tell them that I think a good person contributes to his culture. That contribution MIGHT be through voting, but if he really dislikes politics, I would suggest that he contribute in other ways: give to charity, make public art, work in a soup kitchen, etc.

I don't understand why voting (for many people) is the most important way to contribute. Is it REALLY more important, or is it just symbolic.

If you hear of someone who someone who volunteers in a cancer ward, gives money to greenpeace, and puts on free puppet shows for children, but never votes, what would you think of that person?

What about someone who votes every year but never gives to charity, etc?
posted by grumblebee at 1:19 PM on April 23, 2004


9/11 would have had no effect on the economy if Gore were in power?

I was referring to tax cuts and the possible lack of an Iraq war. Better or worse, the economy would be different.

Get real, abortion rights aren't going away anytime soon.

How many pro-choice Supreme Court justices have to be replaced with pro-life ones to sway the next challenge?

Terrorism? 9/11 was going to happen regardless of who was in power.

Probably right. I'm talking about post-9/11 terrorism, abroad and in the US. Besides the events which have already happened abroad, the odds of something happening, and what happens if it does, are probably different with Bush than Gore. I don't know if it'd better or worse, but definitely different.
posted by callmejay at 1:21 PM on April 23, 2004


Seth wrote (way up top):
with two parties fighting for the middle of the bell, then there ends up being very little real differences between the two groups

I think that's true - when you look at their election platforms. But its what they do after the election that counts. You can pretty much guarantee that after winning the election, a Red is going to turn right and run, but a Blue is going to turn left and run. Maybe I'm jaded, but regardless of how much research I try to do on local and national candidates, it comes back to that, and I wind up voting party line.

The real reason to vote? You have a choice: you either get one voice or you get no voice. When you look at the other people in your town/state/country who are using their one, you better make damn sure that you use yours to offset theirs.
posted by grateful at 1:24 PM on April 23, 2004


grumblebee, seems like you really care a lot about not voting. If you're really committed, that's your business.

I'm not clear on what voting or not has to do with giving to charity or not. Voting is a matter of public record, charitable giving is not. I think voting is a big part of being a good citizen. I think charitable giving is part of being a good person.

I vote because it's a way for me to affect my world. It's not that hard to become well enough informed to be a responsible voter. The number of votes in Florida that would have indisputably changed the presidential election was not very large. Your vote could make the difference between an okay city commission and a great city commission.

I think it was when South Africa finally allowed blacks the right to vote, there were people who traveled for 2 days, and waited in long lines, just for the right and privilege of voting. I think of that every time I vote.
posted by theora55 at 1:30 PM on April 23, 2004


Scarabic, if you hate it as much as you say you do, then you really ARE a better person than me. You overcome something you loath for the good of those around you. I think that's great.

Part of my reason for posting this question is to get help separating the practical from the nonsense.

If you want someone like me to vote, you need to approach it by saying, "if you vote, X might change for the better," or, "if you don't vote, X might get for the worse." For instance, the tax and environmental issues DO get to me.

But I don't get "It's your duty to vote." To me, the best response to that it, "who says?" Who makes up what one's duty is or isn't?

Saying, "what if nobody voted," doesn't cut it either, because some people DO vote.

Saying, "you're lucky you get to vote, because in my country you can't" doesn't cut it for me. Okay, I'm luck. And?

I bring all this up, because when I've had this argument before, I RARELY hear any practical reasons. In fact, when I was growing up, I had teacher-after-teacher tell me it was my duty to vote, but none every explained WHY. It was my duty to vote because it was my duty to vote.

Chaging the subject slightly, I'm still scared by all the people who say, "it's not that important to delve deeply into the issues." I totally disagree. I think it's better for society if I either abstain from voting or deeply educate myself and then vote. I don't see how anyone benefits by an uninformed voter!

Yes, many people ARE uniformed and vote anyway, but I don't see how it follows that it's a good thing for me to join their ranks.
posted by grumblebee at 1:41 PM on April 23, 2004


I think voting is a big part of being a good citizen. I think charitable giving is part of being a good person.

What's the difference?
posted by grumblebee at 1:44 PM on April 23, 2004


In national elections, at least, the number of voters is generally great enough (with interesting exceptions like Florida in 2000) that the reasons for voting are more philosophical than practical. So here's the philosophical argument: Assume, for the moment, that you value being in a democracy over living under some other form of government. If you value it, you are ethically obliged to support it, and the way you support it is by being involved: educating yourself and voting. Giving to charity, etc, while admirable, does nothing to support democracy per se. Not voting while admitting to the advantages of democracy makes you a free rider, like the guy who walks by a piece of trash on the sidewalk because "someone else will pick it up." Sure, it may be smelly, but you can't just ignore it.

In local elections, issues can be decided by alarmingly small margins--I've voted in races where the margin of victory was something like 56 votes. If the matter is something that can affect you or that you feel strongly about, there's a clear incentive to vote, and a practical benefit to doing so.
posted by adamrice at 1:56 PM on April 23, 2004


grumble, voting rates among people our age is really low ...and many people I know feel that government is not responsive to them or their needs, so they don't vote. Not voting (for whatever reason) reinforces that and sends a message to government officials that we don't give a shit what they do, so they do shit.

I don't know if that's enough reason, but our voices need to heard too, not just the elderly or single-issue groups, or the fundamentalists, etc...
posted by amberglow at 1:59 PM on April 23, 2004


I know why I don't vote anymore; because I'm not prepared to participate in a system that is without integrity: I vote for a party that says they're going to do A, B and C when in power, and once they get my vote, they not only do not do A as promised, they then do the exact opposite of B (say Y) and throw away C and do T, R and Q. In short their promises, pledges and statements of intent are utterly worthless.

My vote for a party forms part of a contract which they feel free, and ARE free, to break, with (apparent) relative impunity; much like a lad might tell a lass he loves her to part her legs, and then ... never calls ... never phones ...

I read the words on the top of my voter registration card one morning - "The Representation of The Peoples Act" - and knew it was a lie: representation is not what politicians are concerned with.

To vote, when politicians are free to fail to represent, free to fail to uphold their end of the social contract and free to represent those who pay them, bribe them, offer them consultancies (post-conflict-of-interest of course) and act as a ruling class instead of as our humble and loyal servants, is to participate in a sham, a facade and to be the patsies of a system that is essentially contemptuous of those who participate at the voter end.

When you vote, your voice is not being heard, you are simply writing a party a blank cheque. You're a fool that props up the present rotten system: ask yourself what would happen if everyone DIDN'T vote.

That would speak more loudly and clearly to the political class than any naive civil-minded voter's cross or punched chad. By voting, you're prolonging the crisis.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:31 PM on April 23, 2004


grumblebee - it would probably cast a whole new light on this conversation if you spoke to someone who never had the right to vote. You seem to be beset by people telling you it's your duty, but really, it's your opportunity. Thanks for your kind comments, but I don't really vote for the good of others around me. I vote because it's my right to advance my vision of the future, in my own measure, as I see fit. There are some decisions we have to make as a society, together. There are some things we can't all do our own way seperately. I want to participate in decisions like what should be illegal, how to spend public funds, who shall administer the government. This is way different from making a personal decision to give some money to a charity. That's a wholly optional choice on your part. But the issues on your ballot *must* be decided with or without you. Why not make it *with* you? Voting isn't an altruistic act of improving society. It's about making choices as you see fit.

I think the real issue here is that very few fundamental, immediate freedoms and privleges are at risk in any big election. The people who vote are the ones who care about the big picture and the long haul. They're the ones who care about principles as well as pork bellies. When you say you need to see X get better or worse in order to care, you're articulating this need to see results of your vote *now*. "What's democracy done for me - lately?"

We're lucky to have so few pressing concerns. Talk to some of my relatives from Syria and you'll see the flip side of the coin. Then it might not seem like such a duty and a chore, but more of an opportunity to participate in the direction your society is taking as a whole. Many groups in this country have all the freedom they need to just pursue their own happiness and forget about the direction of society overall. That's fine for them, I guess. But like I said, if you care about principles, eg: the freedom for ALL people to pursue their own happiness, you will still be invested and involved.
posted by scarabic at 2:37 PM on April 23, 2004


I'm still scared by all the people who say, "it's not that important to delve deeply into the issues." I totally disagree.

You're just plain wrong. Imagine there's the right candidate for you -- the one you would vote for if you were omniscient. Now imagine that you can spend time and effort increasing the probability that you will vote for that candidate.

If all you do is pick which party you have a better gut feeling for, you're probably at 65%. If you stop and think at all about the stuff that gets forced down your throat during election season, you'll up it to 90%.

If you go and do hours and hours of research figuring out what the various issues are, what your stands on them are, what weights you should apply to each issue, how your preferences across issues are correlated, where the various candidates stand on these issues, and what bands of uncertainty you should put around their claimed ideal points, you might get it up to 95%. A awful lot of work for something that's unlikely to affect your vote.

In any case, it's not important for you to go off and become uber-informed before you vote because your vote is not important.

I think it's better for society if I either abstain from voting or deeply educate myself and then vote.

Society isn't affected either way. Except in local races, the outcome of every election will be invariant across your vote. Unless your vote -- your single vote, not 55 or 650 or 12 votes -- makes or breaks a tie, it has had zero effect on society.

I bring all this up, because when I've had this argument before, I RARELY hear any practical reasons

There are none, in the sense you mean. The odds of your vote swinging an election are effectively nil, so your individual vote won't matter.

The closest you'll get to a practical reason is your own feelings and emotions. If you think you'd feel better having voted, go vote.

But voting because you sincerely believe it will affect who's going to be President is about as smart as playing the lottery to fund your retirement.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:42 PM on April 23, 2004


What about someone who votes every year but never gives to charity, etc?

No one ever died for the right to give their money away.
posted by haqspan at 2:57 PM on April 23, 2004


if i'm in a political arguement with someone and i find out they don't vote, the conversation is over....seriously. I'll laugh and change the subject.

because if you don't vote, what you think about the political arena doesn't matter.
posted by th3ph17 at 3:06 PM on April 23, 2004


I'm not clear on what voting or not has to do with giving to charity or not.
I vote because it's a way for me to affect my world.

I give to charity because it's a way for me to affect my world. All of those other noble endeavors grumblebee talked about affect the world too. Just because the whole world doesn't necessarily see the results of your effort (i.e. who gets elected president) doesn't mean you aren't affecting the world. I hate the fact that people only see the value in things if the results make the headlines in national newspapers.

I don't vote for a lot of the reasons grumblebee has stated, and especially for the reasons noted by Blue Stone. I think democracy is the best choice out there, but the whole political system just seems so dirty and dishonest that I'd rather not associate myself with it in any way. Someone above had argued that we support democracy by voting, and if we don't vote then we are freeriding. Voting doesn't support democracy, it supports the candidates and political parties you vote for. I don't like any of them, so I don't support them. What's wrong with that?

on preview: No one ever died for the right to give their money away.

I'm sure many many people have died that could have been saved had more money been given to charity. I've heard we have enough food/resources to feed anyone in the world, are you telling me no one's ever died of starvation. In fact, I bet several orders of magnitude more have died of preventable causes (starvation/lack of medical treatment/homelessness/etc.) than have died for our right to vote. Write a check, save a life. Vote, support some asshat who everyone is just going to complain about for four years anyways.
posted by rorycberger at 3:11 PM on April 23, 2004


if i'm in a political arguement with someone and i find out they don't vote, the conversation is over....seriously. I'll laugh and change the subject.

because if you don't vote, what you think about the political arena doesn't matte


This is why I (and it sounds like grumblebee too) don't get into political debates. Although I guess you could call this a political discussion, if you want to have a conversation about whether or not people should vote and you only talk to voters, that will be a pretty short conversation.
posted by rorycberger at 3:14 PM on April 23, 2004


ick, above i meant to say "are you telling me that no one's ever died of starvation?" I hate when people don't use question marks.
posted by rorycberger at 3:17 PM on April 23, 2004


When you vote, your voice is not being heard, you are simply writing a party a blank cheque. You're a fool that props up the present rotten system: ask yourself what would happen if everyone DIDN'T vote.

That would speak more loudly and clearly to the political class than any naive civil-minded voter's cross or punched chad. By voting, you're prolonging the crisis.
Amazingly, something like this actually worked in Poland: a majority basically voted No, and the Party had backed itself into a corner. Political reform followed.

In the USA, things don't work like that, and trying to make inaction into a political manifesto is a big, stinking pile of bullshit. Don't like the system? Well, duh. Do something to change it, and don't get high and mighty pretending that sitting on your thumbs is "doing something."
posted by adamrice at 3:24 PM on April 23, 2004


Don't like the system? Well, duh. Do something to change it, and don't get high and mighty pretending that sitting on your thumbs is "doing something."

I don't think that sitting on my thumbs is "doing something," but I don't think voting helps anything either. I have yet to hear a politician who says he's going to overhaul the whole system of politics in america, or at least one who i'd trust to do it once elected. Again, casting a vote is saying you support the person you are voting for, and in my opinion they are all douchebags. I understand the concept of picking the lesser of two evils and so forth, but why should I have to? just because i have the opportunity to do something doesn't mean i should. This is why I don't stick my hand in a blender everytime I pass by one. Or rather, this is why I don't stick my hand in a blender or the garbage disposal, just because I have a choice between the two and there might be a discernable difference.
posted by rorycberger at 3:44 PM on April 23, 2004


Voting is your right, it's your privilege, it's your option -- but it is NOT your "duty." And if you don't vote, then you DO still have the right to complain about government. The RIGHT to vote is all about your FREEDOM - to do so, or not.

And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
posted by davidmsc at 4:14 PM on April 23, 2004


You know, the ancient greeks had a word for people who didn't vote in local elections.

They called them idiotas.

It was so incomprehensible to the Greeks that a citizen wouldn't want to be involved in the decision-making process that they refered to them in the same way they refered to the stupid or mentally disabled.
the
(This story could be bunk, but it works when you're on a GOTV canvas.)

Let me explain one of the reasons I vote.

I'm twenty years old, and a student. Something like fifteen percent of people my age vote in national elections, and a lower percentage vote in local ones.

My college tuition will be increasing by twelve percent next fall.

Because students don't vote, politicians in my state don't care about them, and there is no incentive for them to work to keep tuition low. Health care, education, employee pensions? Those people care, and because they vote, politicians (who really do influence your life, especially locally) care about keeping them happy. If the tens of thousands of college students in my state voted consistently, politicians would probably be representing our interests a little better.

Students make up fully one seventh of the people in my city, which coincidentally is the largest on the west coast without a housing code. If all the students (many of whom are renters) stood up an voted, we'd get a housing code and whatever else we wanted. But we don't, so the companies that own the housing (and donate heavily to political campaigns) get what they want.

If you really do hate politics and politicians, then think of it as simply as that. If you don't vote, politicians have no incentive to represent you, and they're perfectly willing to fuck you in the ass if it'll please someone who has given them that incentive.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 4:25 PM on April 23, 2004


No one ever died for the right to give their money away.

I don't see how whether people died or not changes anything. If I vote, they won't come back to life. If you feel that voting would make their sacrifice meaningful, fine. I don't share your belief. I don't believe that events have any objective meaning. An event might be meaningful to one person and not meaningful to another.

Scarabic, I disagree with a couple of things you said: it's NOT important to me that voting have immediate payoff. If you could show me that it's LIKELY that voting for A will create positive impact in 50 years, I'd consider that significant. Time frame is not so important to me. Physical-world is. In other words, I don't much care about abstractions like "duty to those who died." (This is an abstraction to me, because I don't believe in an afterlife. After I'm dead, people can feel free to jump up and down on my corpse and spit on it. Who cares? I won't exist anymore. Those people who died so that I can vote also no longer exist. I can't honor or dishonor them.)

I also disagree that I would change my feelings if I talked to someone who doesn't have the right to vote. (Though let me go on the record and say that I think it's horrible that many people don't have this right!) I don't like the taste of ham. Now, I know that there are starving people out there who would be grateful for a small slice of ham. But that doesn't make me more inclined to eat it.

I also don't mind that people won't take my political opinions seriously if I admit I don't vote. I don't mind, because I don't talk politics.

Finally, I'm interested in hearing from those who insist that it's important to vote about the following thought-experiment: imagine there are only two candidates and one is an admitted fascist and the other is a total idiot who will make all kinds of horrible, stupid policy decisions. Is it okay not to vote under these circumstances, or must one somehow get an opinion of who is the lessor of those two evils?
posted by grumblebee at 4:29 PM on April 23, 2004


I'm a bit late on this one, but while Gore may have been boring, a poor campaigner, and had a million other deficiencies, he and Bush had quite a few differences. I've concluded that anyone who says they're essentially the same just didn't do any research on their own.

As for your question, you shouldn't feel guilty for not voting. It absolutely is your right to vote or not. That said, if your best friend is gay, there's only one major party that doesn't want to give them equal rights -- the Republicans. So maybe a vote against them would help your friend.
posted by jragon at 4:30 PM on April 23, 2004


Yelling At Nothing, why should tuition be lower? Because that would make your life easier? Have you really thought deeply of the impact of this on society at large or the tradeoffs that would have to happen if there WEREN'T a raise in tuition?
posted by grumblebee at 4:32 PM on April 23, 2004


imagine there are only two candidates and one is an admitted fascist and the other is a total idiot who will make all kinds of horrible, stupid policy decisions. Is it okay not to vote under these circumstances, or must one somehow get an opinion of who is the lessor of those two evils?

I'll bite: If this is our US system you're talking about, and those 2 are the Republican and Democratic candidates, then i'd vote for the total idiot, and hope that our system of checks and balances (which has been lacking these past 3 years) would curb the idiocy. Fascism would be worse than stupidity. Lesser of 2 evils is what happens in a 2-party system. Usually one or both of the people running aren't evil.
posted by amberglow at 4:44 PM on April 23, 2004


I don't think that sitting on my thumbs is "doing something," but I don't think voting helps anything either
There are options other than voting. You could, say, run for office yourself. Join the local Communist Party cell, or Objectivist discussion group, or whatever floats your boat.
posted by adamrice at 4:48 PM on April 23, 2004


I'm not saying one way or another, necessarily; just that I'm part of a demographic that's being underrepresented.

Politics is essentially a battle between interests; side A and side B argue, and eventually arrive at some compromise. My point is that when you don't vote, you yield the decision to the other side. Your interests aren't being served, and society as a whole is possibly worse off, because of the failure to have the debate.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 4:50 PM on April 23, 2004


Yelling, are you saying that if you should vote for candidate A if he'll help YOU in some way, even if you realize that he'll hurt many other people?
posted by grumblebee at 5:04 PM on April 23, 2004


Voting is your right, it's your privilege, it's your option -- but it is NOT your "duty." And if you don't vote, then you DO still have the right to complain about government. The RIGHT to vote is all about your FREEDOM - to do so, or not.

I think it's worth noting that here in Canada, voting is a responsibility.
posted by Jairus at 5:05 PM on April 23, 2004


If you could show me that it's LIKELY that voting for A will create positive impact in 50 years, I'd consider that significant.

Okay, that's good. It's a start. But it's riddled with laziness. You have to drive this process yourself a little bit. You need to get away from the whole if *you* show me thing, because things are happening now that *will* have a major impact in 50 years. It's not a hypothetical discussion. It's an irrefutable reality. And whether or not someone else makes it easy for you, spoon-feeds you what you need to know, it's happening.

I can't boil it all down to this for you here:
"Vote for X, which has a probability of Y to make Z happen in N years."

I wish I could. But you can't deny that current elections, and the policy action of those we elect, will have a long-ranging impact. You just don't know exactly what that will be. Instead of looking to find out, you throw up your hands. It's sad, really. The very definition of apathy. In everything you say, I hear this tiny little voice struggling to do right, but it's ultimately suffocated by laziness, defeatism, and self-effacement.

If *you* were starving on an icy mountaintop, you *would* eat ham. My point is that you're not starving for personal freedoms right now, so you don't bother to vote. But the whole analogy is invalid, because you have other things to eat. What's taking the place of voting for you? Is it charitable giving and volunteer work? Well, I hope the organizations you give to still exist after the government pulls their funding - DOH!

Anyway, the ultimate point is that I am going to go into a poll and contribute to decisions that will affect your life, and you're cool with that. I am actually cool with it as well, so let's lay it to rest. I applaud you for exploring the topic, and I hope for your sake and that of future generations that you and others like you find the inspiration you need to get up to speed and get involved. After all, if you really don't care to participate in a democracy, the rents are really much cheaper in Damascus.
posted by scarabic at 5:20 PM on April 23, 2004


Other candidates running (with links to their pages)

[this is good]
posted by mr.marx at 5:23 PM on April 23, 2004


I've been involved in the past with trying to get Latinos in the US to vote. There's a ton of them and they tend not to vote.

The argument we make in this case is simple. If they want politicians that address their concerns then they have to make their impact felt. Voting is the simplest way to achieve this.

If you don't vote you make yourself invisible. If others in your "class" don't vote then you as a class make yourself invisible. You'll end up at the mercy of classes of people who do vote - whether that be older, retired people or whatever. Voting is a way of saying "I am here. I count. These are my views"

If you are saying that you don't have any views or that politicians are all the same then fine - don't vote or go vote for one of the third-party candidates.

Consciously "not voting" is itself a way of voting and thats fine with me. I think most people's ire is really directed towards people who whine about government policies but never voted, never made themselves "present" in the voting process.
posted by vacapinta at 5:40 PM on April 23, 2004


this may help, grumble (funny, but honest)

or this (gives instances where one solitary vote really mattered)
posted by amberglow at 5:48 PM on April 23, 2004


I can't boil it all down to this for you here:
"Vote for X, which has a probability of Y to make Z happen in N years."

I wish I could. But you can't deny that current elections, and the policy action of those we elect, will have a long-ranging impact. You just don't know exactly what that will be. Instead of looking to find out, you throw up your hands. It's sad, really.


It sounds like you're saying there's no way to predict the future. (I agree) But that you should try anyway. Huh?

I would NEVER deny that current elections and policy have longterm effects. The problem is that no one is in a good position to say what those effects will be.
posted by grumblebee at 5:51 PM on April 23, 2004


The makeup of the Supreme Court is one of the big ones--with short- and longterm effects for many years to come, grumble. Are you happy with Bush picking at least 2 justices? Do you think Kerry would pick better?
posted by amberglow at 6:09 PM on April 23, 2004


Well, I'm probably wrong about this, but haven't there been many cases of Supreme Court justices who have surprised everyone with their votes -- who didn't support laws that seemed to gell with their former ideologies?
posted by grumblebee at 6:22 PM on April 23, 2004


It sounds like you're saying there's no way to predict the future. (I agree) But that you should try anyway.

"Huh?"

Finally, you articulate your political platform.

(just kidding)

But there you go being lazy and self-effacing again. Come on, fer chrissake, you're not being asked to tell where a leaf in a hurricane is going to land. Nor does every political opinion boil down to this:

"It might work but we just don't know. Time will tell."

In reality, most political issues are a matter of what style you want to approach them in. People have opinions about what will work best. Sometimes, they're extrapolating from their own personal experience solving problems. I don't know why you're so hesitant to believe that you, too, can have an opinion. Who are these people that you believe can sort it out, if not you and me? Who are these super-smart folk who are going to solve problems like "what to do with sewage" while you sit at home thining "gee, I don't know" ??? Who are they???

I think, in fact, perhaps the best thing for you to do would be to read Lord of the Rings. In that book, you begin with a bunch of small-minded pastoral folk who think that they are beneath the movings of the Greater World, and follow them on a journey of discovery to the heights of their civilization, the heart of major warfare, and beyond. In the end, they learn that no one is going to manage their world for them, that even the smallest person has to stand and be counted if the final reckoning is to turn out well, and that they, too, have something to offer the grand plan of how the world evolves.

I realize that recommending this makes me look like an increible geek, but I seriously think that in your position, you may find the book inspiring. You're hiding behind self-effacement. Join the world (if you dare). It's worth it.

As for the inability to predict the future, welcome to Life. I am guessing, by your attitude, that you take few risks and have travelled few paths in life. Is this true?
posted by scarabic at 6:27 PM on April 23, 2004


There are, grumble, but in recent history most judges appointed have followed the party line (i think Kennedy is the only disappointment for the Republicans in the past few decades, and it really depends on the case--i can't recall a judge appointed by a Democratic president that's consistently ruled against standard Democratic principles, at least in my lifetime.)
posted by amberglow at 6:33 PM on April 23, 2004


I think, in fact, perhaps the best thing for you to do would be to read Lord of the Rings.

This is why I love MetaFilter.
posted by Jairus at 6:48 PM on April 23, 2004


After reading this thread, I don't know how you get *anything* done, grumblebee. There's no guarantee you're not going to get hit by a Mack truck when you leave your home in the morning. There's no guarantee that the job you choose will bring you satisfaction or that your nice boss this year won't get transferred out next year, leaving you with Psycho Boss from Hell. Don't turn on the tv, because the next episode of your favorite tv show isn't guaranteed to be a good one, don't ever make a meal because there's no guarantee it won't burn, or the asparagus will be tender instead of grainy.

Fact is, the people who fought for your right to vote, also fought for your right to do absolutely nothing, so exercise that. You will never, ever vote in a election where the results are guaranteed to have a specific effect on anything. Well, except maybe this year, but hey, who needs civil liberties anyway?
posted by headspace at 6:49 PM on April 23, 2004


Well, I thought I made it clear that I have a special problem with politics that I don't have with other issues.

That wrapped up with the fact that I believe I can't just skim politics. I need to study it if I'm going to make an intelligent decision.
posted by grumblebee at 8:03 PM on April 23, 2004


see, grumble--your passivity makes people cranky.

The fact is, this is a pretty good country, and many of us want it to be even better, and feel that voting is one of the important ways to do that, by voting for candidates that--if they don't end up actually helping--at least won't make things worse. That's enough for many of us, especially lately when we've seen friends and family members lose jobs, and others shipped overseas to Iraq, and others losing health insurance, etc.
posted by amberglow at 8:04 PM on April 23, 2004


Well, I thought I made it clear that I have a special problem with politics that I don't have with other issues.

That wrapped up with the fact that I believe I can't just skim politics. I need to study it if I'm going to make an intelligent decision.


Personally, I think the question you should have asked (because for all appearances, based on your responses today, it's what you meant) is:

Won't someone please take the time out to make me feel better because I don't want to vote?

If you don't want to do it, don't. You've been provided with all the tools necessary to educate yourself to make an intelligent decision in this thread alone, and been provided with multiple examples of ways that your vote would matter, which you dissect down to the fact that no one can guarantee any particular result. And no one can, because politics is people, and there's not so queer as folk.

What it boils down to is you don't want to. So don't. I really did mean it when I said that the people who fought for the right to vote also fought for the right not to vote. It's not compulsory, so excercize your free will and quit navel gazing about it. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: the forefathers wrote it right into our national documentation that you can go find your bliss, and if your bliss isn't in a voting booth, don't go there. You don't want to vote; own that. I'm pretty sure a couple of people in this thread gave you permission to feel that way; that's the most you're gonna get from this crowd.
posted by headspace at 9:05 PM on April 23, 2004


Yelling, are you saying that if you should vote for candidate A if he'll help YOU in some way, even if you realize that he'll hurt many other people?

Sure, why not. If everyone cast an educated vote for what's best for themselves, we'd wind up with most people getting what's pretty good for them.

I'm aware of any number of historical examples that contradict this, yes. Morality certainly plays a role in how you vote. But in general, the system works when people representing all interests meet in the middle and hammer something out.

I can't make an argument that will absolutely convince you to vote. But if you can't, through the things that I and others have written, see that voting is at least a good idea, then fine.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 9:17 PM on April 23, 2004


You know, the ancient greeks had a word for people who didn't vote in local elections.

Slaves?
posted by bingo at 9:41 PM on April 23, 2004


You enjoy certain rights as a citizen. With those rights come certain duties. One of those duties is to inform yourself and to participate in the democratic process, by, at a bare minimum, voting. It's quite simple.

Some hardline types would suggest that if you do not meet the responsibilities of a citizen that the rights you enjoy as a citizen should be forfeit. I do not go that far, but I have little argument with the logic.

Disclaimer : Although I am a Canadian citizen, I have not voted in Canada in about 20 years. Nor have I lived there for most of that time, however.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:19 PM on April 23, 2004


I'll make this easy:

Vote for Kerry, and don't worry about it.
posted by abcde at 11:53 PM on April 23, 2004


headspace, it sounds like you think I walk around moaning and wailing all the time about this issue. Actually, I don't think about it all that much, unless someone brings it up. But this is Ask Metafilter, so I asked... If I ask a question here about what king of coffee to drink, that doesn't mean I spend my entire life drinking coffee.

I'm actually getting a little bored by this thread now, which is fine, because I think it's starting to fade anyway.

I asked the question because I was (a) curious as to why (many) people thought not-voting was such a sin. Before asking it, the reasons I was getting were all quasi-religious, abstract or nonsensical. I got some similar answers here, but also some more grounded ones. (b) I also asked it because, believe it or not, I was willing to be talked into voting. I'm a hard nut to crack on this issue, but not impossible, because I DO have some negative feelings about not-voting.

Since my problem is that (a) politics ruins my day, and (b) I think voting responsibly requires some serious study, the best sort of response would be, "actually, Grumblebee, there's a great website/magazine/etc. that you can read in a couple of hours that will give you really clear insight into the candidates and the issues.

Mathowie wrote such a response and I thanked him.

Finally, I'd like to say that political decisions are, I think, more complex than most decisions we make. I AM able to get things done in life, because buying a blender doesn't involve nearly as many factors and the results of making a bad choice aren't all that serious.

The are other major decisions in life, like "should I have a child." I wish people would "navel gaze" for a long time on that one.

Most of the people I know who find politics easy are able to (or like to) ignore a lot of stuff. The just have a gut feeling that they are a democrat or a republican, and that's enough for them. Or they are really gung-ho about some issue -- the environment or abortion rights -- and that completely controls their thinking. I often wish I could be like that, but I can't. My mind naturally zips to many different factors. And, yes, that does make it harder for me to make SOME important decisions. As it should.

Stavros, my problem with your response is that you say I have certain duties. This is an example of the quasi-religious/abstract thinking that I mention above, and it's what I'm usually told in these discussions.

You say I have a duty to vote. What does that mean, exactly? Who SAYS I have a duty to vote? It's not a law. The law says I have a duty not to litter, but it says nothing about voting.

Anything else that you might mean comes down to an opinion (although the loaded word "duty" makes it sound like it's something more than that): a duty to society? How do you know? A duty to myself? You're not me. A duty to the democratic process? Do you speak for the democratic process? You have a duty to vote if you want the democratic process to run smoothly? How do you know I want the democratic process to run smoothly and how do you know me-voting makes a significant impact on it?

I may be wrong, but the only way I can translate "You have a duty to..." Is "I really want you to..." You have a duty to vote, because I really want you to vote.

It's like if a child asks you why stealing is wrong and you say, "because it is" or "because you have a duty not to steal." The child is no more enlightened than when he started.

I've long suspected that, though there ARE practical reasons why it's a good idea to vote, voting (or not-voting) is hugely symbolic for many people. They see voting behavior as a form of communication that means "I care about this country" or "I don't care" or "I care/don't about the democratic process." I'm not against symbolism, but the problem with symbols is that they aren't universal. If someone doesn't stand for the pledge of allegiance, that doesn't necessarily mean he's not patriotic. Maybe he just doesn't like public displays...

I've also noted that (many) smart people seem to feel that smart people vote and smart people enjoy politics. So they have a smart-person's disdain for people who don't, just as they have disdain for people who don't like Shakespeare, or whatever. Voting and political discourse become symbolic of intelligence.
posted by grumblebee at 9:12 AM on April 24, 2004


Stavros, my problem with your response is that you say I have certain duties. This is an example of the quasi-religious/abstract thinking that I mention above, and it's what I'm usually told in these discussions.

With all due respect, grumblebee, bullshit. Even a child should understand what what your duties are as a citizen. That it would appear that you willfully do not is worrisome, but hardly unusual in this day and age.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:33 PM on April 24, 2004


Here's a simple Googlesearch should you require more reference on the concept.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:35 PM on April 24, 2004


Grumble, you act as if politics was just another station on TV, another product to be consumed, another genre of entertainment that you can choose to be interested in or not. You seem to think it's something you can opt out of. But the reality is that politics is already happening to you whether you pay attention or not. Your money is being spent, your environment is being decimated around you, your ass lands in prison if you break any of the laws enacted by your government, and people are being killed in your name every single day. You are already participating, and there really is no way out. Sure, remain passive, and other people will continue making important decisions that affect your life without you.
posted by muckster at 4:16 PM on April 25, 2004


« Older Can anyone recommend time trac...   |  My Boss's husband is going to ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.