A Vote is Never Wasted
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“Dad, why did the school get torn down?”
“Because I didn’t vote.”
“Dad, why did those nice, tan people go away?”
“Because I didn’t vote.”
“Dad, why did they let that mean person in the big, white house?”
“Because we didn’t vote.”
While this might not be a typical conversation you might have with a child, the meaning of this conversation is still relevant. People often childishly complain that their government is cold and distant or that their local services have all but disappeared, yet these are the same people that often mumble at the words, “Voting is your responsibility as a citizen.” They counter darkly that their vote “doesn’t matter” or that their vote “won’t count because of the Electoral College.” I would wager that is a remarkably ignorant answer from anyone that has an inkling about how voting really works.
I will admit that sometimes voting does seem pointless, especially in national elections where your state’s leaning often dictates who the electoral delegates vote for. However, casting a vote that goes against the grain of your state’s political stance is still an avenue of activism that can be carried out peacefully. For instance, why do you think the Civil Rights Movement focused on not just ending discrimination but also for the right to vote for the oppressed minorities? Because as people in power have discovered to their eternal dismay, those oppressed minorities have power through the medium of the ballot box in this country. Yet, who could stop them from peacefully practicing their right without being a monstrosity? With such a monumental election ahead of us, how could the politically apathetic not stir and raise their ballots far above their heads?
In terms of the Electoral College, do not pretend that that particular infuriating, vestigial facet of our voting process is the main factor for our numbness toward this democratic act in our constitutional republic. Your vote does have an impact on this process, but not in the way that may have immediate results. To glimpse the long-term effects of voting, even if it may be against the grain, one needs a rare trait called “patience” for delayed gratification. If in this upcoming election, Texas is on the border of becoming Democratic, a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence to be sure, then that will send a message to the leaders of the Republican Party. While they may reject certain parts of the message on ideological (and constituency) grounds, their main ideology will morph ever so slightly. These changes build over time. In 30 years or so, both political parties may shift on the conservative-liberal spectrum and be completely unrecognizable to us. Some may point out that this snail’s pace of a political shift will not be quick enough to encourage potential voters who want instant gratification, but worry not. Since when was bureaucracy ever efficient in producing anything except in Max Weber’s theories? Change will come, and those apathetic voters will realize that their voices resonate to a more powerful pitch when they band together.
Now, let’s move away from the impending national election in a few days to the local elections. There is no excuse to avoid voting these crucial elections. National elections and Electoral College have demoralized the public, and that disease has now incorporated local elections in its vise. In local elections such as mayoral or even state elections such as state senatorial, every vote counts as goes the cliché. More importantly, these elections have far more immediate effect on its denizens than national elections. With Congress and the Supreme Court handicapping them, presidents are often limited in the scope of their power and do not have time to deal with local problems. However, the mayor wields more power in that arena and is more flexible with only city council and a possible petition barring their path. If voters want something done immediately in their city or town, dropping a ballot into a box is one of the few approaches to do so.
For once, let us leave the barren grounds of dejection for the fertile soil of dignity and plant the transformative seed of vitality in the souls of the American public. Let that seed sprout into the plant of ambition, and let that ambition change the world.