The Contrarian View Happens To Be Correct: No, Don’t Go Vote Just For The Sake Of Voting!
“Go ride a motorcycle.”
“Go discharge a firearm.”
“Go climb the Annapurna mountains.”
“Go run a prison.”
“Go do brain surgery.”
“Go run a nuclear reactor.”
The previous six statements have something in common. Can you guess what it is?
Just like “Go Vote”, they are all imperative statements that are extremely incorrect. No, you shouldn’t do any of those things unless you believe you are competent to do them. Failure to heed what is normally considered common sense will result in the despair, dismemberment, and death of not only you, but others too.
There are few things more obnoxious than feel-good, pat-yourself-on-the-back ads telling people to vote, regardless of whether they feel competent to vote or not. Competency doesn’t imply any particular economic status, nor any other demographic alignment. It means you believe you are making an informed, competent decision; that it makes sense for you to vote.
Furthermore, just because you have the right to do something, it doesn’t mean that doing it is correct, intelligent, beneficial, or that you should do it. In the U.S., everyone has the right to either vote or not vote. Not voting has historically been a sign that the individual is content with the overall system.
But even if the system were in desperate need of repair, sending in random people to do the repairs is hardly an improvement. I certainly wouldn’t call random people to come fix the plumbing in my house. Nor would I take out cheery ads that read “Go Fix The Plumbing In My House!”.
We should take voting at least as seriously as the plumbing in our homes.
If an election has twice the voter turnout, but the other half of the voters have absolutely no idea what they’re doing, then how has the system improved? I’ve voted exactly twice in my lifetime, and the last time I voted, I left all but five of the choices blank – intentionally. I’ve never once felt sheepish or unpatriotic for only voting when I believed it made sense for me to vote.
Showing up haphazardly to vote because you were encouraged to is a form of civic decay. It’s a lazy, toxic, feel-good simulation and substitute for actually showing up prepared and competent to vote.
In fully succinct terms, an incompetent action is worse than not acting. An incompetent vote is worse than a non-vote. In most cases, arguably much, much worse.
On the eve of another U.S. election, we see ads everywhere commanding people to go vote, regardless of whether they believe they are competent to vote in this particular election. I can respect ads telling people to vote for a particular candidate. I would certainly respect ads encouraging people to become competent to vote. I will never respect ads telling people to vote just for the sake of voting, and neither should you.