By Wyatt Bush
This election, I voted for Darth Vader, Darth Sidious and Aqua Team Hunger Force’s Master Shake, among others who I view equally as fit to rule over me.
As I illegally captured the above photograph of my ballot moments before handing it in and receiving a celebratory “I voted” sticker, I reminded myself what a futile exercise voting is.
Voting does not matter.
I honestly cannot remember the last time my vote changed an election, even at a classroom level. In fact, aside from the instances when a handful of friends and I quickly vote on whether we want to eat Taco Bell or Little Caesars, I do not believe my vote has ever had an impact in any sort of democratic process.
Even if my vote somehow managed to have the one-in-a-million chance to actually sway an election from Republicans to Democrats or vice versa, as many frustrated voters have wished, it still really would not change much of anything.
Even as politicians engage in rhetoric seemingly antithetical to their across-the-aisle counterparts, much like Peyton Manning’s brilliance, when there actually is a switch from one group of buffoons ruling to another, nothing much changes.
There is an excellent explanation for why this is the case, and it is lies in what is known as public choice theory.
Public choice theory is a field of economics that treats politicians, bureaucrats and voters as self-interested agents. In other words, it examines the behaviors of politicians and voters the same as it would any other person. One of the main pioneers of public choice theory is the recently-deceased James Buchanan, who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1986 for his insights into political decision-making.
Public choice theory teaches that a “problem” with general elections is that almost everyone who votes are what economists call “rationally ignorant.” That is, the costs of going through the process of educating oneself on an issue often outweighs any potential benefit said individual may receive from the decision. Obviously, there are some exceptions, especially among one or two issue voters. But on most issues, most people are rationally ignorant.
After all, pretty much everyone has better things to do than learning how to properly dictate the lives of others. That’s probably a good thing, too.
With this thinking in mind, public choice theory also states politicians are typically not good at governing. For example, being good at one’s job is not the most effective way of climbing the corporate ladder. However, being a brownnoser who avoids any potentially daring or innovative activity that could cause trouble and who successfully pins the blame of the company’s failures upon others is. The same is true in politics.
Politicians might not be good governors, but they are excellent at winning elections. After all, it is not effective governorship that results in reelection. Rather, it is being able to convince the largest plurality of mainly rationally ignorant voters that one was an effective governor. That can be awfully easy to do.
Most people also do not realize most politicians are Republicans. The problem is most are Democrats, socialists, and even British loyalists as well.
The reason is that even if a politician is among the rare few who hold strong ideological convictions, the only way to ever successfully get others to vote upon the legislation he/she may care about is by engaging in logrolling, otherwise known as vote trading.
In logrolling, Joe goes up to Anne and pledges to vote on her bill to fund corn subsidies due to the large number of farmers in her district. This is on the condition that Anne in return votes for strict occupational licensing of florists, because Joe is bought and sold by Big Flora. Anne agrees to this proposal, because she knows her district does not care about licensing florists and will tolerate such a bill. The trade occurs and both parties are ultimately better off after they help their respective interests.
If politicians don’t engage in this sort of quid pro quo behavior, they become the resident kook who nobody bothers with because they are in the back shouting about civil liberties, how wrong it is to murder American citizens overseas without a criminal trial or something else stupid like that.
Overall, politics is an exceedingly dull affair of placing unqualified people in charge, who then proceed to pat each other on the back and care not so much about representing their district, but ensuring whatever behavior they engage in while in office will be tolerated.
Therefore, voting does not matter.
Nevertheless, there is still hope.
I can truly think of no meaningful event in life where my lone vote mattered. However, that does not mean I have not had an impact in elections.
It is persuasion — ideas and their communication to others — that truly results in change. Arguments shift what voters are willing to tolerate and in turn, shift what platforms politicians may campaign on to remain in power.
Two-hundred years ago, legal slavery was commonplace in the United States. Now, a politician who advocated for such a thing would be laughed out of the country.
As recently as 1996, just 27 percent of Americans believed in marriage equality for homosexuals. Now, 55 percent are in support. Yet, even though a decisive margin of Americans support such an activity, 18 states, Michigan included, still prohibit it.
National opinion shifts much faster than legislation. And why would it not? Politicians are far less in touch with reality and only take notice if voters will no longer tolerate certain positions. Their main concerns once in power quickly becomes remaining in such elevated station and they only change opinions if not doing so would threaten this desire.
Democrats and Republicans spend the majority of their efforts attempting to prove the other party is unfit to rule. In that regard, both frequently succeed and are correct.
If I am left in a position at the polling booth where I am inadequately able to vote my conscious and must choose between one of two evils, I refuse to tolerate some shortsighted evil.
Instead, I will take the unmentioned third route and vote for an intergalactic evil empire and a giant, talking cartoon milkshake with super powers. At least that’s an ambitious idea.