Vote! … if you want.

I’ve been reading this LJ post and its comments for a while, and I now have a lot to say.
The gist of it seems to be: There are people who hate the current political system so much that they refuse to vote. Bully for them. I think that is stupid and short-sighted, but I am also a firm believer that if you don’t want to vote, you don’t have to.
Here’s where I stand on voting.
I would love it if everyone in the country took the time and effort to really learn about measures on the ballot, the candidates, and so on, and then thought about where they stood on each issue and voted. That would be awesome.
However, it is also not at all a practical ideal. People are busy. People are apathetic. People are idiots. Not all people, certainly, but enough. I prefer that the the idiots not vote. I prefer that the uninformed not vote. That’s not a way to choose good people and good laws. But here’s the thing: the apathetic need to vote. I read recently, though I have not done the research to back it up, that had the moderate middle-class voters who stayed home in Germany when Hitler ran for Chancellor actually voted, he would not have been elected. But they didn’t think their vote was important, so they stayed home.
Even if that’s not true, imagine this:
Imagine for a moment that every disaffected 18-30 year old took the trouble to vote. I know there are a lot of us out there. We could swing the vote.
Voting is really an act of faith, when it comes down to it. There’s no way to know if enough of your like-minded fellows will vote with you for your cause/candidate to be victorious. You have to hope that they will. You have to have faith, or at least feel that it’s worth trying.
Some people say that voting supports the system. I say, maybe so, but that isn’t necessarily bad. The system does lots of good things. It builds roads for us to drive on. It funds schools for children to attend. It builds levies and bridges, it funds museums and observatories. Now, like all powerful things, the system can be misused. If we vote people into power who will misuse it, they can do a lot of damage (for example: President Bush has effectively hamstrung the checks and balances system we learned about in high school so that he has near unlimited power in some areas). Lots of damage has been done, is being done right now by the system because we keep electing people who misuse it.
The guys who are most likely to misuse the system are not idealists. They will do anything, anything to get elected. Bush made nice with the evangelicals to get them to the poles, then turned around and ignored them. He is not really a conservative, but he snowed over the conservatives into voting him into office.
Those who are least likely to abuse the system are idealists. They talk about issues, they don’t oversimplify things, and they do their best to be honest. This is a hard sell. Nobody wants to vote for the smartypants who says “well, yes, I will raise taxes a little because we are so far in debt that I will have to.” People want to vote for “No new taxes!” That’s a much catchier rallying cry, isn’t it? It’s really, really hard to be a good person and a politician at the same time. Especially when people keep voting against you.
A lie can be crafted to sound more appealing than the truth can.
But I will tell you this: I vote because I have hope. I vote because I believe that if enough people like me voted, we could change this country and make it better. I’m lazy (and don’t completely trust electronic voting machines), so I vote absentee, but I vote, and I do a lot of thinking and research and discussion before I vote.
If you don’t want to, fine. But if you are sick of the way this country is going and want a change, I hope you vote. If enough of us do it, we can make a difference. I’m willing to try. Are you?

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