“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” — John Quincy Adams
The following are facts. America is a democratic republic. Being a democratic republic, the votes of the people are what determine who is placed into office, thus influencing what policies are made. America fought more than one war to preserve this right. People died so that you could vote. If you agree that these are indeed facts, then to claim, as Keith Yost does, that voting has no moral significance is a disgrace to those who died to give us that right and a disgrace to everything that America stands for.
Around the world, there are dictatorships where people would love nothing more than to, as Yost would say, waste their time voting. There are citizens in countries such as Iran who vote despite knowing that the elections are rigged because they want to believe so desperately that democracy is possible, that they could experience it. Yet in America, the golden standard of democracy, we have a student attending one of the best schools in the world telling people not to vote.
Allow me to do the opposite. VOTE! The importance of voting goes far beyond whether or not your individual vote is going to swing an entire Congressional race. As Yost points out, that is mathematically improbable. However, I can only imagine how different American history would be if every eligible citizen had voted. That is a powerful consideration; if more Gore voters had turned out in Florida, it is extremely possible that the Iraq War would not have happened. Whether or not that is something you would have wanted is beside the point. This is a testament to the power of the voting public.
It is true that the extreme of every individual deciding their vote doesn’t count is unlikely to happen: Americans are not going to stop voting completely. But it is also likely that a significant number of Americans who stay home on election day (42 percent in 2008) did so because they followed Yost’s logic and did not believe that their vote would matter. A majority is nothing more than a group of individuals who decided that their votes did count.
But if you are unmotivated by the huge potential that simply casting a ballot has, then I challenge you to do more than that. Get involved in a campaign, donate money, or find a cause that is important to you and dedicate yourself to its success.
There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you helped to make a difference by uniting a group of individuals in support of a common cause and then made that goal happen. But a word of warning: typically making that goal happen does involve a vote of some sort. But, if it’s not worth your time, as Yost claims, then feel free to watch your vision crash and burn. After all, you’re an MIT student, and psets are clearly more important than the future of the country.
As citizens of America, it is our civic duty to vote. To not do so because you think you have better things to do with your time is unbelievably egotistical. There is nothing more important for you to do with your time than taking part in the political system that men have died to ensure. A final point. Yes, it’s unlikely. Sure, it’s never happened before. But what if this was the election to end up in a tie? Do you really want to be the one who left the future of the country to a coin flip?