This isn’t really a political post. No, seriously. I express my own political opinions largely in a Google+ post collection to keep them easy to see or opt out of. Rather, this post is about freedom — specifically, whether or not you are going to help ensure that we keep it.
Not long ago, one of the pundits at FiveThirtyEight, “Whiz Kid” Harry Enten, declared that he would not vote in this year’s U.S. election. He is correct that all citizens have the right not to vote. In response, I wrote a short rant saying that he was hypocritical for being a political analyst, who is voluntarily not voting at all.
I also believe that it’s hypocritical to choose not to vote, and still complain about the outcome. As far as I’m concerned, if you choose to remove yourself from the equation, rather than participate in one of the most responsible acts of a citizen, you don’t get to complain about elected officials or their actions. (Conversely, if you do vote, you can complain all you want, whether your choice was elected or not. Hopefully, of course, using rational discussion and mutual education, rather than flamewars.)
The U.S. exists as it does because We the People have been granted the fundamental right to choose our government. Those who represent us, on various levels, are elected by us, by tallying up one vote at a time per seat. You, me, and all other citizens form the HR department of this country’s governments. It’s our responsibility to choose whom we hire, and ideally to choose wisely.
I’ve always felt very strongly about this civic duty because basically everything else depends on it. People are required to keep the wheels turning, to handle the issues of over 310 million people: that’s the role of government. My single vote might not change the world, but it does declare that I have a voice in the direction of the nation’s future. So do you — but only if you choose to make use of it.
At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily care for whom you vote, as long as you do vote. Our freedoms depend on exercising them; squander your rights at all our peril.
So last night on FiveThirtyEight’s post-debate podcast (at 4:13), Harry Enten described how he finally came to realize the importance of participation in our civic institutions. If you listen to no other explanation of why voting is important, listen to this one:
(discussing Trump’s declaration that he would keep people in suspense about whether he would accept the election’s results)
Jody Avirgan: “…we’re three weeks out and we’re having these arguments about fundamental elements of our democracy. So, Harry, what did you make of that moment, or any other moments that stood out for you?”
Harry Enten: “Well, to me that was the moment. You know, I think we’ve had discussions before on this podcast, and I said that we have a right in this country to vote or not to vote, and that’s been a right that has been afforded to at least some Americans now for over 200 years. Obviously, we were slow in adopting that right to all Americans, but I believe we’ve come very close to that.
“But what I heard on that stage this evening, at least for me, was a candidate arguing that[…] it doesn’t necessarily matter what those results are Election Day; I might not necessarily say that those results are legitimate. And that’s very scary. And so understanding that, and understanding that he has some chance of winning, and this by his own words is — I don’t think it’s too crazy to say that if he were to win, there could be something that goes [away] in this country, and this may be the last time that we actually have votes in this country that matter.
“And so I just can’t personally stand by and accept that. And so I, myself, have been playing this back in forth in my own mind, whether or not to vote. I had come down previously as saying I was not going to, with the belief that we have the right to, or not to. But now knowing that perhaps we may not have that right in four years, I have no choice, but I am gonna vote.”