Why your vote matters even when it doesn’t count

When I was 18, off to college for my first year, I was quite excited to vote for Bill Clinton in my first election over George HW Bush. In hindsight, Bush was almost a liberal as Clinton (by today’s standards anyway). And while Bush looks better in the lens of history, the choice at the time the choice seemed stark.

I was having a busy day though, and decided it just not worth the effort to make it to the polls. After all, was one vote really going to sway the outcome? Of course it did not. And while I could make all the very true arguments about how if everyone thought that way that elections could (and do) actually change the outcome, that’s not what this post is about.

It’s also not necessarily about how the majority is often ruled by the minority, particularly in mid-term elections. I am mad as hell that presidential candidates don’t give two hoots about California’s electoral votes, only our fundraising dollars (though I can do without the attack ads). About 5 states decide the outcome for all of us. Sad as these things are, they are not likely to change any time soon because someone on a blog pointed it out.

This post is about how my vote today is an entirely different thing than my vote (or lack of one) 20-some years ago. It’s about why your vote matters ESPECIALLY when it does NOT influence the outcome.

That’s because of something Clinton started, Obama mastered and the republicans are paying serious attention to. Polling. You may think we govern by elections, but more and more we are governed by what pollsters say is going to influence elections. Just listen to Republicans debate immigration reform even though the hispanic vote has really only impacted one election (Florida 2000).

You can’t change the country’s view on any issue. But you can make a pollster say that people who are like you vote, and that they’d better take your issues seriously.

IT DOES NOT MATTER WHO YOU VOTE FOR!!! It only matters that you vote. Seriously. They don’t even see who you voted for.

But when those pollsters go back to their candidates again in 2 years, they’re going to say that single white men earning less than $50,000 vote. That young black males in urban centers almost never vote. That more non-immigrant minority married women more in this election than the last one.

Sound like a mouthful? That’s the tip of the iceberg. You wouldn’t believe how fine they cut this stuff, and this is regularly done at the state and even local level, much less for congress or the president.

There’s a political party in this country that thinks making all of us feel apathetic about politics is good for them (I’ll give you two guesses which one). In fact, they count on it. That only works when people actually are apathetic. But you only have to look at candidate talking points to see that it’s guided directly by polls. They hide the things they think people don’t want to hear and talk up the points that are popular. And over time, even if the same candidates were elected, that changes outcomes.

If you’re pissed and think we should change things: VOTE! If you think we should just throw all the bums out: VOTE! If you just can’t even tell which candidates are good or bad through all the attack ads: VOTE! Why???? Because you will have showed up and the politicans DO take note. It says “take me seriously” even if they have no idea what it is you want. Or even if you don’t know for that matter.

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