Electionfilter: give him a reason to vote!
September 30, 2010 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Electionfilter: give him a reason to vote!

I am trying to convince a very skeptical friend of mine to vote in the upcoming elections in our country. I have tried every possible argument and he still thinks that there is no point in voting since all politicians are corrupt. Any ideas?
posted by heartofglass to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Tell him to write in the name of someone he thinks is not corrupt.
posted by The World Famous at 1:46 PM on September 30, 2010

It's possible to both be corrupt and effect positive change. The two are not mutually exclusive.
posted by mkultra at 1:53 PM on September 30, 2010 [7 favorites]

There is zero chance his vote will have an impact (see very, very, very long debates in social science about the irrationality of voting). If he feels strongly that none of the candidates meet his standards, he is already voting in his own way. Voting for voting's sake is not constructive, so making him vote for your own personal ideals (which are contradictory to his own) is a bit anti-democratic.
posted by proj at 1:54 PM on September 30, 2010 [8 favorites]

Good luck. I was very into the "convince them to vote" thing in the two years leading up to the 2000 election, and some people chose to stop speaking to me due to how unwilling I was to just accept that they wouldn't vote.

Having said that, try suggesting voting against all incumbents on the grounds that the new guys can't have become corrupt yet. Heck, he can vote for self-funded third party nobodies.
posted by SMPA at 1:54 PM on September 30, 2010

Your profile puts you in the UK, and my story is from the US, but maybe it will help.

Back in 2000 lots of people felt, in the run-up to the Presidential election, that there wasn't very much of a difference between George W Bush and Al Gore, so why bother voting? They were both privileged sons of political families, and a politician is a politician is a politician blah blah blah.

10 years later I don't think there is much doubt that there is indeed a very large difference between George W Bush and Al Gore, and if more of those skeptical/disaffected people had voted in 2000 things might be very different today.
posted by ambrosia at 1:54 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

What evidence do you have that your position is correct and your friend's is false? Perhaps you're better off leaving him to his opinion.

I vote for dead and foreign political figures, serial killers and Judd Nelson. If you were my friend and felt so little respect for my conviction that Emma Goldman was correct ("If voting changed anything they'd make it illegal"), we would no longer be friends.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:58 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whether or not all politicians are corrupt, there are non-marginal differences in the public policy outcomes of one party or another being in power, or one person or another being the chief executive. For instance -- to take an example from the United States -- it seems unlikely that Al Gore would have gone to war with Iraq or nominated Supreme Court justices who intend to take away a woman's right to chose abortion. Politics is about outcomes, and those outcomes are serious.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 1:58 PM on September 30, 2010

Tell him that a failure to vote is a vote in favor of maintaining the current (corrupt, according to him) system.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2010

I have tried every possible argument and he still thinks that there is no point in voting since all politicians are corrupt.

It's everyone's choice whether they vote or not, but this is a relatively goofy reason for not voting. Have him look at the voting record of [local candidate he might vote for] versus [local candidate he would never vote for]. Politicians, even corrupt ones, make decisions every day that affect this person and many others, and there are objective ways of figuring out how much those decisions represent their point of view.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sometimes sarcasm succeeds where earnest idealism fails: tell him if he doesn't vote, he can't complain. Then hold him to it.
posted by Quietgal at 2:22 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

The act of voting (or non-voting) is a tangible extension of one's personal beliefs, as long as they are rooted in conscious choice and not apathy. Respect your friend's opinion, though it may differ from yours. For some this is a moral position driven by conviction and conscience.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:22 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tell him that there's a difference between not voting and voting against all available candidates (none of the above or spoiling his ballot). It's worth actually voting even if he's voting against everyone because that, too, sends an actual message besides apathy, cynical or otherwise.
posted by fatbird at 2:23 PM on September 30, 2010

A counter-point: A friend of mine awhile back told me that he didn't really follow politics, didn't know much about what was going on, and didn't really care to learn because he had other stuff going on. He said it didn't make sense to him that his vote should (potentially) cancel out my vote, when I did care and did take the time to be informed and have opinions. I thought that to be a fairly enlightened, and honorable, opinion.

Would it have been better, in theory, if he had informed himself enough to vote and then voted? Sure (even though he might have, indeed, come down opposite to me). But that wasn't gonna happen. And knowing how little my single vote counts as it is, I saw no reason to insist on diluting it further.

Of course, if your friend theoretically would want to vote, but for the corrupt politicians, maybe that's a different story. But maybe it isn't. I've certainly had races where I thought both/all candidates pretty terrible, and just voted for the guy in the party that I tend to think does less damage. If I wasn't sitting on a particular side of the aisle, or I thought both parties pretty much irreparable in current form regardless, I can see how I might not have wanted to bother with it at all. And I think there is a principled way to say, "The lesser of two (or three) evils is still evil, dammit!"

Long story short: I'd let it lie. He's made a choice not to choose.
posted by SuperNova at 2:27 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

How small do elections get where you are? I won an election with 4,278 votes out of 7,725 cast. One vote can matter a lot. I know an awful lot of those people personally. And so far, as far as I know, I am not corrupt. A lot of the day-to-day work of democracy, at least in the US, is done by average people who run for crappy, unpaid political office to oversee and run all the various civic institutions that need overseeing and running.

I'm sympathetic when people say they don't want to vote in the Congressional election because everyone running is corrupt, money-hungry, party apparatchiks, etc. There's a certain amount of truth to that. But for local office? Damn it pisses me off when people don't vote for those. Not only does a single vote matter a LOT in local elections, but your day-to-day life is probably a lot more affected by a local city council voting to change a road to be one-way than by your Congresscritter (or in your case, MP) predictably voting with his party on issue X.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:32 PM on September 30, 2010 [9 favorites]

I'd favorite Eyebrow's post 1000 times if I could. Most politicians at the crucial local level are not corrupt, and not apparatchiks, just sincere people who are trying to make things better and ran for the office out of idealism. And in small elections, one vote CAN matter.

Second, as the saying goes, "if you don't vote, you can't bitch." Not everyone can be a full-time activist or even a part-time one - but voting is something every citizen can do. People who complain without taking action are the most tedious people in the world. (Of course, scratch this if your friend IS an activist type.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:50 PM on September 30, 2010

Social science suggests that people are more likely to vote if other people they know also vote. So an indirect approach may be to find friends in common that will also be voting, having them talk about voting around him, and letting him know that they will be voting.
posted by jasonhong at 3:06 PM on September 30, 2010

Not only does a single vote matter a LOT in local elections

Not really. The chances of any one person's vote being decisive are extremely tiny, even in an election with roughly a thousand voters.

Ask your friend to multiply the chance of his vote being decisive by the total benefit he feels his candidate of choice would create. Maybe that benefit will be large enough to make him reconsider his choices, but probably not.
posted by ripley_ at 3:07 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not voting is a vote for the status quo
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:43 PM on September 30, 2010

No fringe candidates? I generally vote for the most insane and/or least offensive of those, not because I want them to win but in order to send a message that I care enough to vote but that I hold the majors in utter contempt.

Of course, the majors probably interpret it as just my being nuts, but at least I earn the right to bitch and moan.

That said, there is a school of thought that holds that if you get a truly tiny minority bothering to vote, it might finally make someone outside the system think they have a real chance and therefore jump into action. Whether that would be good or bad is a bit of a crap shoot. But do admit, winning a major election with well under ten percent has to be deflating to even the heartiest of vainglorious politicos.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:51 PM on September 30, 2010

The world over, thousands of people have died, starved, been tortured and jailed, or just faced plain old intimidation in the name of achieving universal franchise. I can't think of a country in the world where at least one of those has not occured.

In my opinion, to not turn up at the polling booth on election day is to disrespect those sacrifices. If your friend feels strongly that there is no-one worth voting for, he should submit a blank ballot paper. But he should still turn up and participate.
posted by girlgenius at 6:32 PM on September 30, 2010

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