Why I Bother Voting in a Very Red State

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I voted today. My precinct is way out in the middle of nowhere in northern Alabama. It’s a state with a reputation for many things, most of it pejorative. While the reputation isn’t always earned or even accurate, one place it does earn it is in conservative politics. So far it’s looking like this election isn’t going to be any different.

I still voted, though. This was in spite of conservative candidates talking about rigged elections and fighting for a deposed tyrant. It was in spite of a lack of conservative leadership standing against petulant election deniers and their conspiracy theories. Above all else, it was in spite of knowing that many of the people I voted for wouldn’t win.

So why even bother?

Because winning an election requires votes, typically more votes than the other candidate. In order to do that, votes have to get cast. And in order to do that, one has to show up and cast a vote. It’s pretty simple. Don’t show up at all, and a loss is guaranteed.

I think people tend to focus, though, on the lack of a winning guarantee. It’s hard to remain committed to a course of action when it might not even work out in the end. Nobody’s going to work hard for maybe a paycheck, or perhaps some cake. Everyone wants the quid for their quid pro quo.

Still, maybe losing is better than definitely losing, right? Well, even that gets made fuzzy in election reporting and politics in my country. It’s not likely that nobody is going to fail to show up to the polls in an election. It’s also not likely that everyone’s going to forget to vote for the candidate for governor. So people can be reasonable in assuming other people might vote their way. In that case, it helps ease a guilty conscience, or maybe helps out with a fatalistic outlook.

This fatalism and apathy and misery regarding political participation in my country has gotten worse over the years. I can’t blame people for it. When relatives who do talk about politics tend to shout about it, it’s understandable that finding a quiet place to relax becomes more of a priority. And yeah, the world’s a pretty messed up place. But turning everything into a crusade gets old after a while.

Really. Why bother?

Conventional answers might involve appeals to logic (like the above, don’t participate, don’t win argument). Or maybe it’ll be an appeal to personal conscience – voting is a responsibility that should be undertaken by people willing to govern themselves. The most common arguments involve emotional blackmail – don’t vote, and you’re responsible for someone dying! Feel bad!

I guess enough of it works to get some people to vote every couple of years. But it doesn’t get the same people to vote every couple of years. Government isn’t sexy. Candidates aren’t sexy. And often a common reaction to an election is, “Shit, I thought I just voted a week ago! Again?!”

None of this accurately describes voting, or what it does. It’s not a magical process that will spawn the parting of clouds and the renewal of the land. Instead, it’s about as glamorous as taking a dump and then having people constantly talk about it.

I didn’t vote today to change my country, perform a political duty, or because I felt guilty that people elsewhere don’t have the same voting rights as I do. Instead, I voted out of partial anxiety (there are people in my country who are flirting with overt election manipulation). Even then, I put off voting until the afternoon because I didn’t want to wait in a long line.

Most of all, I voted because it’s a process that works better with my participation than without it.

It’s a complicated answer, for a complicated system.

To fully justify it, I’d have to get into some really boring stuff. Stuff like how human perception gets more accurate in the aggregate. Or how the most important elections in my country happen every 2 years (and do NOT INVOLVE THE OVAL OFFICE IN ANY PART WHATSOEVER). I might even have to do some math, which I’m bad at, and shouldn’t be discussed in polite company.

Suffice it to say that right now, if elections in my country were a video game, we’ve got a lot of people who are really bad at playing it. Don’t worry, I’m also one of those people – I’m writing about a reason to vote just after an election has taken place. Nonetheless, people playing this game either forget the rules, never knew them, or are trying to find ways to cheat the whole process.

And if nobody has a great idea of what’s going on, how can anyone expect reasonable people to agree on anything?

So yeah, vote in the next election. It gets more participation because people ARE CONSTANTLY DISTRACTED BY THAT GODDAMN EXECUTIVE-er, people like picking presidents, I guess.

Or don’t vote. Maybe another season of Stranger Things dropped. People need to have some priorities in life.

Or, you can have the best of both worlds. Vote, but tell people you didn’t. Tell them you really had to clip all your toenails in order of size and distance to your nose. Tell them that politics is how they get you, and that birds aren’t even real anyways. Then, just smugly drink your tea and contemplate your next shitty writing project.

I promise. You’ll feel better about it in the long run.