…by now your Facebook feed will be full of exhortations from your civic-minded friends demanding that you get out and vote, because it’s your civic duty to participate in today’s elections.
Those exhortations are the most tiresome part of the electoral process, and while they’ll certainly never stop one wishes they would.
Because getting out and voting is a bit like pulling the trigger on a loaded gun. There are times when to do so is a good and necessary thing – to protect your family, for example, or to kill something you and yours plan on eating, or even to practice so that your aim will be true should it be needed in the future.
There are other times when pulling that trigger is a terrifically bad idea.
Those people demanding that you get out and vote today don’t have the first clue whether you’ve studied the people and issues you’ll be voting on. That, not just pulling a few levers or pressing buttons in a booth down the street, is your real civic duty. If you haven’t done that, if you haven’t paid attention to the candidates and ballot issues you’re asked to decide on, then no – don’t vote.
And if you’re going to base your vote on whose tie looked best at the last debate or whether you’d most prefer to have a beer with one of the people running, then no – don’t vote.
If those are the kinds of criteria you’re going to vote on, then your vote is garbage, and it cancels out the vote of somebody who isn’t going to abuse the electoral process as you are.
And if you have survived this never-ending assault on civility and decency over the past 18 months without having an informed opinion on the direction of the country, your state or your city, then you aren’t going to fix that on the way to the voting precinct.
If you’re one of the people described above, you have already failed in your civic duty and voting will only make things worse. We’re all better off if you work through lunch, stay late at your job or take the dog for a walk and not bother cluttering up the lines at the precinct. Let the adults pull that trigger; you doing it is likely to hurt somebody.
Somewhere along the lines we’ve built a culture in which the simple act of voting – which is the colossally easy part; it’s the payoff – is revered as something special when it’s the preparation for voting which is what’s important.
The people who control that culture wanted it that way. They want to grow the electorate while at the same time degrading it.
The founders of the country had a different idea. Of course, they’re considered today as racist dead white guys whose opinions ought to be treated with disdain by the same people who would prefer you vote a certain way because high school dropouts Lady Gaga and Mark Ruffalo say so. But the founders of the country thought it was crucial that the folks voting had a clue what they were doing. They actually restricted the vote to property owners, and women didn’t vote.
Nobody is saying such restrictions are a good idea now, though one reason the founding fathers wanted them – which is caution over the concept that people who don’t pay taxes might vote themselves free swag from the people who do – is awfully valid today. We’re a society which values individual rights and freedoms more than we were back then, and that’s a good thing.
But the founding fathers had great fear of an uninformed rabble deciding the future of the country, and they were correct in expressing that fear.
If you’re an uninformed voter, you are part of that dangerous mob. And no, your vote isn’t needed today. Feel free to stay home.