It’s that wonderful day of the year when the endless stream of room-temperature IQ political ads that has been ruining my enjoyment of televised sports for months will finally, mercifully, stop. There is also an election today.
In the name of transparency, the folks at Reason recently disclosed who many of their staffers and contributors are voting for. It’s a good idea that all media outlets should adopt. So far though, only Slate has followed suit. And it seems like theirs must be one boring office. 29 of their employees are voting for Obama, and two each are voting for Romney, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein. One staffer is not voting. Not much diversity there.
Are other media outlets similarly bland? We’ll likely never know, because most newspapers pretend they are objective. They argue that disclosing reporters’ voting preferences undermines that perception of objectivity. The trouble with this perception is that it is inaccurate. Everyone is biased — and that’s fine! News coverage would greatly improve if more outlets dropped the objectivity charade. Transparency is a good thing.
That’s why this blogger is disclosing that I chose not to vote this year. I gave it long and careful thought, and came to that decision a couple weeks ago. The House will likely stay Republican, which is an argument in favor of voting for Obama, since I prefer divided government. And I find I often agree with Gary Johnson. But in the end, I just couldn’t find it in me to vote for either of them.
This despite living in Virginia, a swing state. It’s looking to be a close election, and Virginia’s margin could well be just a few thousand votes. I have one vote.
More to the point, I make my living advocating for policies I believe in, and that has far more impact than one vote. I am hardly a non-participant in the political process. Lines at many local polling places are more than an hour long. All that time spent in line is time not spent publicly advocating for regulatory reform, and trying to win over policymakers and the public. If I had voted today, I would almost certainly have less impact, not more.
While math and opportunity costs argue against voting, there is a very strong argument in favor of it. It’s called expressive voting. When people pull the lever, they are expressing themselves. They are participating in democracy, and affirming their beliefs. This is a wonderful thing. For all intents and purposes, your vote may not count. But for many people, expressive voting trumps that. It just feels good.
Everyone is different, which is one of the things I like about the human race. Some people place a high value on expressive voting; hence all those little stickers people are wearing today. Other people, like this writer, place a lower value on expressive voting, or have other outlets for the same impulse. And we’re all correct.
This 2012 non-voter does not look down people who did vote. I made a careful and informed decision that I believe is the right one for me. If you did the same, then you have my respect, no matter what that decision was. All I ask is that same respect in return.
Sadly, that basic respect is a rare commodity. Contrary to what many people are saying today, I have not forfeited my right to complain. I am not unpatriotic. I am not, in the words of at least one Facebooker, a “shitty American.” I have decided what I think is right for me. Let everyone do the same. And leave it at that, please.
All that said, I am looking forward to seeing the results tonight. It really could go either way. The only sure thing about this election is that George W. Bush’s policies will win a fourth term. And in that sense, everyone will lose today.