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Don’t Be Discouraged. Voting Will Make You Powerful

Though your single vote will not likely tip any election, you must vote. Because it is your civic duty? No — because it is the only tool you have to wrest back control from those classes that would rather see you disenfranchised.
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Large group of people seen from above gathered together in the shape of a strong man © Arthimedes /

October 05, 2023 02:11 EDT

Why do we vote?

We are told that it is our civic duty. We are supposed to vote because it is a celebration of our freedom and liberty. We are told that it is a patriotic act.

I suppose all of these things are true, but these are not the reasons that people have fought and died to win their right to vote. Suffragettes didn’t face the threat of having their children taken from them simply because they were feeling patriotic. African Americans didn’t withstand firebombs and lynching because they wanted to celebrate liberty. Voting is much more than this.  

If voting is simply a civic duty, then it is a duty that is very easily shirked. Patriotism and celebrating liberty are great and all, but not really sufficient reason to miss work waiting on line for hours and hours at a polling place. If voting were only a patriotic gesture, then you could be forgiven for not bothering with it.

By the same token, if you don’t happen to feel very patriotic, then not voting is its own political act. It is a self-defeating one to be sure, but it is a way that you can register your dissatisfaction with a political system that has left you behind. Non-voting can be a quiet middle finger extended to a greedy and corrupt political class.

These reasons for voting are shallow.

Voting is power

The real reason to vote is that voting is a way to take control of our destiny. Voting is the only way people like you and I have to restrain the power of wealth.

Voting is the most efficient way to make institutions listen to our demands. It’s sometimes possible for these institutions to ignore angry people out in the street. It is much harder to ignore those angry people when they seize the levers of power. We can do that.

Voting is economic power. Consider the suffragettes. Women won a great deal more than just the right to vote with the 19th Amendment. Before women got the vote in 1920, they could not serve on juries in most states. Many universities, medical schools and law schools barred women. Married women did not have legal custody of their own children. Women only gradually gained the right to control their own property throughout the 19th century. Before this, a married woman’s earnings, inheritance and any other property were all effectively her husband’s property in the eyes of the law.

No one understands the economic power of the vote better than the rich. A look at voting rates among the wealthy class is proof., According to the US Census Bureau, the wealthy vote at much higher rates than everyone else. In 2008, 81.6% of Americans making over $150,000 a year said they voted, the highest of all income brackets. Compare that to Americans making less than $15,000 a year, who had only a  50.1% chance of voting.

In their study entitled “How the Dominance of Politics by the Affluent & Business Undermines Economic Mobility in America,” David Callahan and J. Mijin Cha noted that the rich are more likely to take part in every political activity.

They vote at higher rates, contribute more to campaigns, are more likely to contact an elected representative, join an organized interest group, work for a political candidate, discuss politics with friends, and so on.

We should learn from the rich, even if it’s much easier for them to justify voting because the major parties are much more sensitive to their needs than the needs of the non-rich. The rich vote because they see it makes a material difference in their lives. But there are a lot more of us than them. If we all started voting in our own self-interest, we could make the government more attuned to our needs than theirs. It is not impossible to get the government to listen to us and what we want, even though it might feel that way. We can do it. But first, we must get organized.

[Let’s Make Them Pay first published this piece.]

[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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