Quite a few people think voting is important, whether the system is perfect or floundering or completely corrupt. They think weighing in has an impact, and they often feel those who don’t vote are in no position to complain or wish things were different. A lot of people in the world don’t have the right to vote on much of anything, and some folks believe that opportunity should not be taken for granted in any circumstance.
Other people think participating in a corrupt or broken system is giving credit where it isn’t due, and that voting empowers a system that we should be focused on disempowering. They are waiting for good options to vote on, instead of resorting to choosing between the lesser of two evils. Or maybe they really just don’t care. We already know 49% of Americans don’t vote, and maybe this is one of the reasons why; but those people aren’t really part of this discussion.
Then there is everyone in between, who may have their political viewpoints but aren’t so adamant about others needing to think the way they do. These folks probably make up the majority of voters in America, and they take a few minutes from their otherwise busy lives to weigh in on matters of great importance when the booths open up.
Of all these people, and all the issues being voted on, you might start to wonder just how many of the voters understand what they are weighing in on. While they might get a summary of what a bill says or a glimpse of how a politician acts in public, it’s kind of hard to believe that anyone who votes is forming their opinion based on all the facts on hand. With those previously mentioned busy lives most of us have going on, very few people can really say they have a good grasp on politics.
Even the politicians often admit they spend most of their time raising money, whether to run their campaign or prepare for the next one or fund their office or line their own pockets. Once they get in there, they have to fight to stay in there; many of our elected officials can’t be bothered with reading every page of every bill or law they vote on. Maybe an aide reads the whole thing, but that doesn’t give the official a deep understanding of what direction society will be guided in by this action; more likely the vote will be swayed by the influence of someone they owe a favor to, or who they want to be indebted to them.
Speaking of bills and laws, have you ever tried to read one in its entirety? The issue was highlighted when the tax bill got voted on, because the people voting didn’t have time to read it; but who realistically has time to read that sort of thing? And how focused can you stay when you’re reading a document that drones on for dozens or hundreds of pages? Any writer knows you’ve got to keep things interesting for at least a few people, but that is a ridiculously small demographic to shoot for. I have yet to meet anyone who has read every word of every item they ever voted on, and I’m not sure I want to meet that rare person anyways.
It’s almost as though someone is deliberately making things too confusing to keep proper track of. Maybe I’m ridiculously naive, but shouldn’t people understand what they’re voting on? Also, shouldn’t we vote on these things one at a time? Many people vote on something not because of the main issue but because something has been tacked onto it that affects them directly. Others change their minds after finding out the thing they wanted to see pass means increased taxes for their particular group, or some other unfavorable consequence. Although we all want to see this nation get better, few of us want to be singled out as having to pay for all the improvements.
Rather than let proposed laws and bills run on for literally hundreds of pages, we might make a law that all proposals must be concise and make sense. We might even make a rule that they should each be separate items on the ballot, although it would have to be a separate ballot item. Voting on a hundred little issues instead of a few big ones might sound like a bit of a pain, and it might require a little more engaged reading; but it would at least create a scenario where people have an opportunity to understand what they’re voting on without needing someone to sum it up for them.
With all this talk of voting, I can’t help but be reminded of one of the biggest misconceptions about this country. Although we were founded on certain principles that theoretically allow everyone’s voice to be heard in the collective shout or moan or cheer that happens to be sweeping the country, we aren’t really a democracy. Some people may think that’s wrong, whether because they feel it should be otherwise or because they think I am mistaken; but it really isn’t, and neither am I. The truth is that democracy is not exactly the ideal system, especially in any situation where minorities of any kind exist.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll talk about all this next week, in a post called…
Thanks for reading!
All the best,
The Secret Society of Deeper Meaning