I’m going to say it a lot, but I thought I might as well get it out of the way early. Voting is the most important form of accountability we have. It’s probably also the thing you haven’t done recently.
And I get it: it doesn’t seem like very much. Just as a grain of sand on a beach or a drop of water in a lake doesn’t seem very important. But if you remove all the grains of sand (or even half of them) or you evaporate a million drops, you’re going to find that it’s not much of a beach or a lake. A worldview of one is going to find shortcomings pretty darn quick.
So why do we vote?
Voting is the core of accountability. It is the currency of power. Why do politicians seek donors? For the money? Nope. It’s for the ability to affect votes. Why do politicians care about crowd size and rallies? Because they love the attention? Maybe. But rally size is shorthand for approval, and approval is shorthand for votes.
What they don’t tell you about democracy is that politicians are uncomplicated. I know! It seems like they are very complicated. Their thoughts are pretty straightforward. Their motives are opaque. Are they doing this for themselves? Are they genuine? Are they monstrous? That’s all in their hearts. But their minds are as easy to read as a picture book: I want more votes.
They are like vote vampires. They want to get your vote. Votes are power. They are consent. They are approval. They are happy stamps. They are everything that your leader craves. In other countries, in other times, the only way to know whether the public approves of what the leaders are doing is violence or protest. Passive silence is assumed to be consent. But here, we have the ability to stand up and say, “Yes, I want you to have power.” Or: “No, please GTFO.”
When we don’t vote, politicians have no idea what to do. But because they love votes, they just assume that whoever came out to vote is who really matters. They can’t bother to try to understand non-voters, except to think that they’ve been given a blank check. After all, with so much power in a vote, why would people stay home if it really mattered to them? They had the chance to shape the world, and they shrugged.
Don’t shrug. Politicians and elected leaders will see the inch and take a mile. Every vote left unspoken is a chance for them to do whatever they want. And if they think more voters will leave them with less power, they will try to keep you from holding them to account. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
Accountability through voting is essential. But it starts with yourself. Are you going to use the power you have to advocate for your worldview? Or are you going to let someone else do it for you?