It cannot be stressed enough: voting matters. Voting matters a lot. It’s one of the most important and central acts of our government. Citizenship cannot exist without it. And yes, while it will take other, more consistent actions to bring your worldview to full fruition, almost nothing you can try to accomplish through politics will happen without casting a ballot.
Yet the myth persists among too many people that voting doesn’t matter.
And, from a certain perspective, that’s true. Politics is so big that our individual voices aren’t going to stand out from the crowd much. In a local election, upon entering the voting booth, the President’s vote and the vote of the guy who sells $1 kebabs will have the same weight.
From the perspective of exerting your individual will, it’s pretty useless. A single vote won’t change an election, even a close one. A single vote is secret (no matter how openly you campaign for a candidate, you can always choose differently in the voting booth), and it’s not very efficient. Unlike shopping or television preferences (also called “voting with dollars” or “voting with eyeballs”), our individual votes aren’t any kind of meaningful expression of our inner selves.
Let’s be honest: we’re not into voting because of how meaningless it appears. Who can even tell when you cast a ballot? What difference does it make? In the end, you’re not expressing an individual preference as much as tossing a quarter in a wishing well with a million other faceless, voiceless wishes, right? But let’s shift the picture here a little bit. What if voting wasn’t about us individually? What if it was about the result?
There is an old meeting hall in your neighborhood. It has had true glory days, shining and beautiful, but it has taken some beatings over the years and needs renovations. Everyone agrees that the renovations must be done, but a small minority insists that the lot must be razed and rebuilt. Knowing that this building serves an essential function to the community, a handful of people who know about what it takes to build come forward and offer plans for either renovation or complete rebuild. The plans are open to the public, visible for weeks or months ahead of the construction. People in the community need to choose one. Some have very elaborate new extensions, but you worry about how the neighborhood is supposed to afford all that. Some plans are more gradual, but will reinforce all the foundations and keep it going for years to come, even if it doesn’t have full bells and whistles. Some plans are for an entirely different building, once the old one is torn down, but doesn’t explain how the neighborhood will function without the meeting hall in the meantime, or what will happen to the historic artifacts it holds.
You might feel like no one is presenting a plan that really speaks to your heart. You might feel like you have some really good ideas about the building, but no one is listening to you. You might feel as though none of this back-and-forth matters. But there are things that will be true no matter what your feelings are: the meeting hall is definitely there; something will happen to it once a plan is decided upon, and the decision will impact how accessible the building is to you and people you care about.
To make a choice, every member of the community older than 18 is given a single brick. That’s it.
You can’t buy other bricks. You can’t harass anyone into giving you a second brick. You can’t steal the bricks. You can only secretly submit your brick with a number on it, for which plan you’d prefer. And then that brick will be used if your plan is picked. If someone else’s plan is picked, they can negotiate to have access to the other bricks.
The brick isn’t mortar. It isn’t electrical lines; it isn’t drywall; it isn’t load-bearing. It’s just a single brick that will go in a single wall that will be the new extension or building. But it’s what you’ve got. It’s how you’re going to affect or build something in your community. And this brick has the same size and weight as the single bricks belonging to the most prominent citizen, or the wealthiest, or the plan-makers themselves. You’re trusting them with making sure that the other things in their plan show up in real life. You can supply the bricks, but everything else depends on their talents and capabilities.
It’s not exciting to be a small part of something big…until it comes to fruition. Our America today is not the result of individual great men and women doing everything by themselves. It is not the result of vague floor plans and inspirational (though nonsensical) drafting. It is the result of a lot of bricks and a lot of votes. At the toughest times in our history, we looked at the plans in front of us, weighed the consequences and backed the person we had the most faith in to execute well. That is what voting is about.
So, think less about how useless your individual vote is, and more about what you’re willing to build with it. Every brick counts.