T Nation

What Does One Vote Mean?

On the way home from work last Friday I was listening to NPR (ok before you blast my opinion before fully reading this tread, this is not a partisan opinion). The topic was a story about why people don’t vote. I used to believe the very same thing the people being interviewed believed–that being, one vote doesn’t matter.

The reporter interviewed many disillusioned people and all seemed to have the same opinion about how politicians make it so we cannot trust them and how it doesn’t matter how one person votes because nothing really changes, etc. I began to think about that and wondered if these people have been paying attention these last few years. No they are probably just like how I used to be.

During my 20’s I was the same as the people they were interviewing. Looking back I can give many reasons why–I was in the military and believed that politics wasn’t for a marine to worry about; I wanted to trust my leaders. I didn’t trust absentee ballots which was how I would have had to vote being away from my home of residence (this was before the 2000 vote).

Also, many people believe like me that politics is mostly local so being away from home makes it real hard to vote when you don’t really follow local issues. But it really only comes down to my apathy and the fact that status quo was good enough for me. So when did I decide that it was time to start paying attention?

After I got out of the USMC and went back to finish school I had many encounters with persons of the opposite opinion than myself. I had never considered myself a conservative person before but standing next to the picket carriers I sure as hell felt like it. They were protesting–always protesting every hippy issue you could possibly imagine.

In some ways I rather enjoyed being exposed to people who actually cared about a cause but soon came to the conclusion that these people were nothing more than political ‘scenesters’. They just liked being seen waving a picket sign like they were fulfilling some stereotype requirement of college liberal arts students.

Thankfully, I was able to escape to the ‘dungeon’ in the physics department that would become my home for the next six years while I concluded my studies. I further withdrew from public opinion and current events.

Fast forward 4 years to 2002 a very hard year for some Minnesotans–this was the year that Sen. Paul Wellstone (and wife and staff) bit it in a plane crash. This would be the first election I voted in…ever…I was 30.

Now, before you are quick to label me a liberal schmuck for not caring about politics until some poor, democrat, politician schlub dies in a plane crash–this was not my reason for voting. I am only giving the historical events to give you a frame of reference up to this point. It was more a philosophical awakening for me. Not in the idealistic sense but in the mathematical sense.

I had been spending the majority of my time reading data points off of optics sensors in northern MN and trying to figure out a way to confidently present results and I was listening to NPR coverage of Sen. Wellstone?s demise; they were talking about seeing record numbers of voters this election because of the feelings that were engendered by his death.

I remember feeling a little perturbed that I didn’t seem to have enough data to present confident results. I needed more. Forgive the cliche, but it hit me then like the proverbial ton of bricks.

Like data from scientific experimentation elections require as many data points as possible to ensure the utmost confidence in results. As one of my professors liked to often say (I don’t know if he was paraphrasing someone), “One data point does not prove anything, two points make a straight line and nature abhors straight lines.” So now you’ve read all of this and must be wondering what the hell my point is?

One vote doens’t much matter in the scheme of things but the collection of those votes are what the quailty of our life relies on. Democracy requires participation. We are only governed at our own consent and when we quit voicing our opinion we give up our power and allow the political minority to make our decisions for us.

Maybe you are happy with the status quo, maybe not–do something about it or reaffirm your solidarity with the status quo. Do what many people on this planet do not have a right to do. Tell your leaders what you think of them. Maximum participation now will result in maximum happiness in the end–or at the very least confidence that we still live in a democracy.

One vote means nothing, so long as no one else bothers to vote as well. Otherwise, every vote matters.

Though I don’t like the low voter turnout, I think one plausible exaplantion is that most people’s quality of life is pretty good. Call it the complacency of affluence, but I think it affects a fair amount of people.

But that said, it is no excuse. Part of the problem is that few politicians fear the voters they are responsible to. And I don’t mean fear in the heightened sense, I mean in the sense that few of them worry about losing their job if they stink. That goes for both parties. In a republic, we are supposed to have our best and brightest acting on our behalf, all the while subject to a civic audit of the electorate.

This fails for a number of reasons, but I blame the people themselves for not demanding more of their politicians.

Example - and I mean to analyze this in a non-partisan way - why does Ted Kennedy have a job? What has he done to prove that he deserves to sit in the greatest deliberative body in the world? He has done nothing but be born into privilege and serve as a Senator for his entire adult life. He is mediocre at best, doesn’t worry about term limits, and has a sketchy moral profile. How does he have a job? How does he get elected for 30 years?

And again, this could be applied across the aisle - I just think Kennedy is perhaps the best (and therefore worst) example out there.

Some of that, in my view, comes from districting and redistricting. I’d love to see reform in this area. But that clearly doesn’t explain a Kennedy’s support, as Senators don’t have districts carved out.

As is, nothing new there. But approaching 2008 and feeling dissatisfied with the current establishment of both parties, I’d love to think there would be a possibility of change.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
Example - and I mean to analyze this in a non-partisan way - why does Ted Kennedy have a job? [/quote]

Yeah, well you failed in a big way. Kennedy gets elected over and over because he is perceived as doing a good job by his constituents. See, that’s kind of like how the free market works. If you do a good job, and reflect the values of the people you represent, people will vote for you.

Your dumb comments merely reflect your basic ideological disagreement with the Massachussetts electorate. Big fucking deal, you have your own representatives in place to speak for your viewpoints, and if you don’t like them you can vote against them. Kennedy is wildly popular in his home state, and that gets sand in your diapers… boo fucking hoo.

Your post was utter crap, however the first post was excellent.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
One vote means nothing, so long as no one else bothers to vote as well. Otherwise, every vote matters.

Though I don’t like the low voter turnout, I think one plausible exaplantion is that most people’s quality of life is pretty good. Call it the complacency of affluence, but I think it affects a fair amount of people.

But that said, it is no excuse. Part of the problem is that few politicians fear the voters they are responsible to. And I don’t mean fear in the heightened sense, I mean in the sense that few of them worry about losing their job if they stink. That goes for both parties. In a republic, we are supposed to have our best and brightest acting on our behalf, all the while subject to a civic audit of the electorate.

This fails for a number of reasons, but I blame the people themselves for not demanding more of their politicians.

Example - and I mean to analyze this in a non-partisan way - why does Ted Kennedy have a job? What has he done to prove that he deserves to sit in the greatest deliberative body in the world? He has done nothing but be born into privilege and serve as a Senator for his entire adult life. He is mediocre at best, doesn’t worry about term limits, and has a sketchy moral profile. How does he have a job? How does he get elected for 30 years?

And again, this could be applied across the aisle - I just think Kennedy is perhaps the best (and therefore worst) example out there.

Some of that, in my view, comes from districting and redistricting. I’d love to see reform in this area. But that clearly doesn’t explain a Kennedy’s support, as Senators don’t have districts carved out.

As is, nothing new there. But approaching 2008 and feeling dissatisfied with the current establishment of both parties, I’d love to think there would be a possibility of change.[/quote]

Ted Kennedy is no scholar, but if you want to talk about guys who don’t belong, consider Jim Bunning. He’s possibly senile, generally disinterested in policy, and known for being an asshole and he’s on just about every list of worst senators and politicians. How did he get where he is? He was a hall of fame pitcher. Kentuckians may deserve him, but the rest of us don’t.

[quote]Brad61 wrote:

Yeah, well you failed in a big way. Kennedy gets elected over and over because he is perceived as doing a good job by his constituents. See, that’s kind of like how the free market works. If you do a good job, and reflect the values of the people you represent, people will vote for you. [/quote]

Thanks for the underwhelming post.

I am not talking about who voters can vote for. Massachusetts voters can vote for any snake or incompetent they want. Hell, Brad, they could even vote for you. My point was to talk about the ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’ of the current voting results - as in, if we don’t like the people in office and what they do, we should look into why they keep getting into office. That raises questions of redistricting reform, term limits - the usual stuff.

And thanks for the grade school lesson in politics. Beyond your mediocrity, I am fully aware of how it works - I am discussing why it works that way. And, despite your sniveling, I was clear that I thought this affected both political parties.

Fantastic. But again, you miss the point - Massachusetts can vote for whomever they want. What I want to know is why so many bad politicians keep getting into office. That inquiry begins with the people doing the voting. And, try and keep up - it has nothing to do with who can vote - it is about why they are voting that way.

[quote]Your post was utter crap, however the first post was excellent.
[/quote]

Yawn.

In regard to why we seem to have career politicians, I see it as a check against too swift change. While I believe it is important for our government to adapt to societal changes I don’t think it should change quickly. This is the affect that no term limits seem to generate. It would seem that the founders intended that the people in power remain in power until their constituency get fed up with them and vote them out–which if viewed in historical context is quite a radical notion.

One major downside I see is that this slow moving government also seems to create a ruling aristocracy not unlike the Roman Republic; however, we have the privilege of a federally elected centralized ruling official–post FDW when presidential term limits were enacted. So our government has both facets of stability and renewal. This is not a bad thing and quite possibly the best possible way to establish government.

One way I think we need to reform is not how long officials hold office, on the contrary, it would be how elections are held; however, this is subject matter for a different thread. I believe the idea of partisan politics is actually more responsible for the downfall of American government than term limits.