Monday, November 10, 2008

Why I Didn't Vote

As I mentioned in a prior post, I've only voted once. Generally when people ask me if I voted, I tell them the truth, and I get basically the same response an atheist would get from a churchgoer. ("You didn't vote!? Why not!?" vs. "You don't believe in God!? Why not!?") To that I usually say something about the probability of my one vote deciding the election is almost as high as my chances of winning the lottery. "But what if everyone did that?" I used to say that I don't decide for everyone, just myself; I now realize that answer doesn't cut it, for a very important reason. The question itself is a version of the Categorical Imperative, and it's important because in the course of my research I've discovered that the state of mind in which one performs an action can have an effect on others, so the Categorical Imperative is probably a good idea.

With that in mind, I have a new personal policy toward elections: I will only vote for a candidate if I know the candidate's philosophy and agree with it. This policy satisfies the Categorical Imperative because I would highly encourage everyone else to follow the same policy.

First reason: it would send a more accurate message to the candidates. CNN says that 53% of the population voted for Obama. I'm pretty sure that at least some portion of that 53% voted for Obama because they didn't want McCain to win, or for the opportunity to make history. How many? We have no way of knowing. If everyone followed my policy, we would know, and people wouldn't claim mandates that weren't really there.

Second reason: everyone following this policy would create a space for third parties. Obama and McCain together got 99% of the popular vote. At least some of that 99% actually would prefer a third party candidate. A third party winning, or getting enough votes to cost of the the two major parties the election, is a good thing. More competition would give the major parties incentive to improve, and provide an influx of new ideas.

Third reason: the people who followed this policy would have the personal benefit of knowing that they voted for what they wanted instead of against what they didn't want.

So, anyway, that's my new policy, and I would encourage the rest of you to follow it as well.

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