To Vote Or Not To Vote – An Easy Question

I always vote and plan to keep voting until the Republicans find a way to stop me. It’s not that I think my single vote will make a difference. It’s almost guaranteed not to. But voting is a ritual of democracy – something we do to participate in and demonstrate our support for our (ailing) system of government. Even though it’s very likely a waste of time.

From Wikipedia:

A ritual “is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence”. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized by formalism, traditionalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral symbolism and performance….

The field of ritual studies has seen a number of conflicting definitions of the term. One given by Kyriakidis is that a ritual is an outsider’s … category for a set activity (or set of actions) that, to the outsider, seems irrational, non-contiguous, or illogical.

Nevertheless, it would be nice if we practiced more majority rule in this country. Here Ezra Klein answers the question: “How can Republicans be less popular than Democrats yet headed for a landslide?”.

A reasonable person might stay home after reading that, but Mr. Klein believes “There are 9 damn good reasons to go vote today”.

Plus there’s that other important reason he doesn’t mention: It’s a ritual of democracy!

3 thoughts on “To Vote Or Not To Vote – An Easy Question

  1. SelfAwarePatterns

    I definitely agree with your voting tenacity.

    On whether or not it makes a difference, it often doesn’t. At least, until it does. And we rarely know when that might be. I sometimes wonder what Floridians who didn’t vote in the Bush v Gore election were thinking in the weeks that followed.

    Reply
    1. Larry Post author

      Hey, don’t get me started on the 2000 election! (Just kidding.)

      Of course, I don’t deny that there are close elections and even the possibility for a single vote to be crucial. But it took me a while to stop wondering why I bothered to vote, given the philosophical issue it presents: why perform an action as an individual that is extremely unlikely to have a positive effect unless it’s performed by many other individuals? For example, I could say I vote and encourage other people to vote but not actually do it. So it helped when I started to think of it as a ritual — something we do for non-utilitarian reasons, because we think it’s the right thing to do or because it’s how we participate in a community practice that we believe is extremely important.

      Reply
      1. SelfAwarePatterns

        Ah, ok. If that works for you, then no worries.

        For me, it remains a game strategy thing. I’ll admit that voting for only the outside chance it might make a difference to the election outcome could be demotivating. But there’s another factor to consider. How much someone wins by often determines the degree of mandate they’re interpreted to have. So, every vote against a winning opponent still weakens them politically, if only minutely.

        Reply

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