Brock Willard editor in chief
You might have heard someone say here or there that voting is just a waste of time and that no real change can come about through simply voting. I’m here to tell you that’s simply not true.
Many people take issue with voting because of the way our political system in the United States is currently set up, namely the “two-party system.” They say that the two-party system makes it so things can never possibly change. While I have my own gripes with the system, we can see what happens in other multi-party systems in places such as Canada. In Canada, they have many political parties that run the gamut of the political spectrum. You might think this is a healthier option than what we have but it ends up becoming quite similar. It comes from the nature of voting at the federal level.
Say for an experiment, we wiped away the two-party system. All the politicians are independent of each other on paper. One politician wants to introduce a bill, but if you remember from civics class, a bill can’t just get one vote, so they must go around to colleagues and ask if they’ll support the bill or not. After a enough asks, you have the votes to support the bill and they have effectively created a political party from scratch. On most issues, there are only two options: yes and no and so they form naturally.
To say voting doesn’t matter because there’s a two-party system is like saying it doesn’t matter to take a shower today because it could rain. It’s usually people who don’t understand how the political process works in Congress and they want to sound smart. Of course, this is not across the board.
Voting absolutely matters. The ballot measure earlier this year is a great example of that. For those that lived under a rock, Kansas voted on a ballot measure that would either continue protecting abortion as a constitutional right or it would immediately make most abortions against the law. The voters of Kansas fought back by an extremely surprising margin to continue the constitutional protection of abortion in the state. Now, I’m not going to be naïve and say that ballot measures and voting for candidates is exactly the same but look at what voting can do. Look at what political organizing can do.
The matter of voting for political candidates is much more complicated. Most voters vote in presidential elections every four years, a smaller percentage votes in mid-term elections, and an even smaller percentage vote in special elections. This is most likely because politics has become a spectator sport. You cheer for your team and then you go home. That cannot continue.
The way we truly hold political candidates accountable is by way of primaries. The primary election is the election that decides who will actually be on the ballot between the two-party system we have. If more people cared, paid attention to, and voted in primary elections, I think our political system would look quite different. Incumbent politicians couldn’t hide behind the fact that they are simply going to be on the ballot regardless. The best way to keep stodgy and ineffective politicians on their toes is to support candidates to share your values even if you don’t think they have a chance in hell. The outcome might surprise you.
Once the primary has passed, voting is still important. You simply must weigh the two options that happened out. You need to analyze these two options in terms of harm reduction. Do this person’s policies end up harming certain groups of people? Would this person’s policy affect me negatively? These are the kinds of questions you should ask to make your decision. Centering these questions around people is ultimately re-centering the political process around people, it’s purpose being to help people.
Make sure you are registered to vote. Voting registration deadlines are fast approaching. Vote wisely.