Why We Didn’t Vote: Fatalism Explained

have been kicking around the idea of writing this for a while. here she is (an indirect rebuttal to fitz):

Voter turnout at this year’s municipal elections was pretty low—4% among students and 14% for everyone else. Assuming someone carried a simple majority, this means 7.1% of the population put our officials into power. Pathetic by any measure.

Everyone’s playing the blame game as to why people don’t care, but it’s really not that simple. People do care; it’s just that rational people don’t vote. You know why? Because voting is not a rational act.

I’m sure there’s probably a lot more complicated math involved, but to the layperson his or her chances of tipping the outcome can be calculated simply by taking a percentage of “1 / x” where “x” is the number of voters in a given election. With just a thousand participants, the likelihood of changing the outcome is a tenth of a percent. Even a four-year old can discern that them odds ain’t good.

Because of this, all rational people reach the same conclusion, which is, “my vote doesn’t count.” I myself did not vote for the reasons listed above, and one should not confuse or misconstrue that as “he must not have cared.” The system still works, and assuming “I don’t care” implies an indifference to the world impossible, even for me, to justify.

“But David, if everyone thinks like you, then just one person can elect someone.”

Duh. Didn’t you read what I just wrote? 7.1% of the population elected the people that will be governing all 100% of it. We’re quickly approaching that hypothetical “one person elects everyone” situation. This begs the question: if rational people don’t vote, who does?

It’s like one of my professors used to explain. Native Americans probably knew that a rain dance wasn’t likely to make it rain. However, when faced with a drought, the social structures are strained, and the dance does more than “bring rain.” It brings everyone together, pools resources, and reminds them that they’re all there to help each other through this thing, whatever it is.

So you see, voting isn’t about actively changing the government with a concrete purpose in mind. Rather, voting is a symbolic process whose main importance is to perform a social catharsis. No one actually believes that voting itself is going to change the world, let alone change it for the better. It’s merely a reshuffling of the deck—same cards, new hands.

Let’s use another hypothetical for a moment. Candidate X, the incumbent, and candidate Y, the challenger, in any given election, are ten times out of ten, negligibly different from one another.

In high school all of us could agree that the election for class president was just one big popularity contest. We each knew that nothing about the school or its running was going to change no matter who won. However, the biggest mistake we’ve made thus far is our belief that this somehow changed between then and now, because it hasn’t.

There’s a power structure currently in place so heavily dogmatized that anyone, no matter what their intelligence or claims to morality, when placed into a political position, will almost always make the same exact decisions. I say almost always because exceptions, of course, must be made. That’s the human element, because some people aren’t rational (like the people who still vote), and there are always potential “x-factors.” This is why politics and social sciences aren’t formulaic like math. Because simplifying life into symbols and algebra is like trying to divide by zero.

The system I’m talking about is the threat of losing power. Politicians are all afraid to lose elections, so elected officials will always act with constituents interests in mind, to a greater or lesser extent.

So yes, we do care, but no, we don’t vote because it doesn’t matter who wins. The system has established the decision-maker’s interests, and thus it follows that all decisions will reasonably be the same no matter who makes them. Everyone is fallible, and anyone in power is just as likely to make mistakes or to be great as anyone else. None of us are so smart as to know who will be better or worse beforehand, so all we do is make guesses by voting in elections. And guessing, my friends, well, that’s democracy.

5 comments

  1. Your mathematical results are right, even if it clearly isn’t from your own doing — because your math on this post is incorrect…But that’s beside the point. In response:1) There are people who enjoy voting.2) There are people who can’t do the incorrect math you just did, or the correct logic that (I’m assuming) Professor Byrns does.3) It’s your duty as a citizen to vote.4) You don’t have a right to complain if you don’t vote.5) The big issue was people being hypocrits about telling others to vote but not doing it themselves.6) You fail to take into account strategic voting via voting blocs (read political parties and special interest groups).Feel free to take your next whack at us. It’d be kinda fun to have a good-natured blog war.-Cameron

  2. I just think you went wrong in that you base people’s decision not to vote on reason as oppossed to the true reason; that being a combination of ignorance and laziness. While a small minority of the electorate may attempt to rationalize their basis for not voting in this manner, I think you will find that a majority of such people’s reasoning are based on a flawed and ignorant premise, rather then a truly reasonable point of view.

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