Your Vote Isn’t Just About You

I was planning on writing this post for a while now, but since we’re only a week away from Election Day and NY Mag decided to go ahead and post this headache-inducing piece, I figured I’d take care of it now.

You can see from this piece, there are 12 young people who seem to think their vote is about them. It’s about their beliefs, their ailments, their motivations, and on the one hand, I can understand why they responded this way. They were asked, “Why aren’t you voting?” and so they took an individualistic approach to explain their personal motivations. But what’s revealing is that they think their personal motivations are what matters, and that’s the problem.

There seems to be an issue where people think their vote is solely about them. To some extent, that is true. You are a political actor, and a vote is a political choice. Your choices typically reflect your values, so your values are the ones that matter here. But that’s an extremely myopic way to view a vote, because a vote isn’t really just about you. You may vote to accomplish certain ends—voting for a candidate who opposes abortion because you oppose abortion, or voting for a candidate because they support gun control and you support gun control.

But these actions take place in a larger society, and at the end of the day, your vote is really about society, not your individual place within that society. If you’re a typical voter—i.e., not a big-money donor who can call up a politician because they have to take your call—then your vote should really be about doing the most amount of good for the most amount of people. When you take yourself out of that process, you create a harmful act by omission. You leave the responsibility to others because for whatever reason you won’t carry it yourself.

And that’s why these 12 young voters are so infuriating. They’re not thinking about the consequences of a vote; they’re thinking only about themselves. They can only see as far as their own place in society and not society as whole. I don’t know if they haven’t read a news story in the last two years, but voting clearly has consequences. I don’t know how a Hillary Clinton presidency would have turned out, but I can say with reasonable certainty that there wouldn’t be babies in cages and plans to strip trans citizens of their identity.

If your big takeaway from these things is, “I’m not a baby in a cage or a trans citizen,” then you have failed as a citizen. Go to the voting booth and think about how your vote affects others, not just yourself.

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 politics

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