In praise of cynical votes

image curtesy of BrainSpace

I had never cast a vote in an election in my whole life. But a slogan such as “Your voice matters” — which surfaces every few years during national elections in democratic or democratically-aspired nations had always fascinated me — as this statement comes at odds with how democracy works.

In 2016, you might have voted and wanted Hillary Clinton to win the presidential elections, but she did not. This is not a malfunction of Democracy though. Democracy assumes that there is a metaphysical entity that’s called “the will of the people” in which the will of the individual, such as yourself, gets annihilated. The “will of the people” certainly lies on a different level compared to the “will” of any particular individual. Then it is absolutely expected, from this limited angle, for people to lose interest in the “will of people” when an election outcome does not reflect or resonate with their individual voices. Despair and resignation commonly follow.

To add a layer of nuance to this approach, I will propose this: the common sentiment of “voting is a right,” which my friends and colleagues in America like to repeat — is misleading. I believe it’s most helpful to reframe it into “voting is a choice.” The personal sense of free choice(or the illusion thereof) is the pinnacle of what makes us human. It is the core assertion of the human free will. It is particularly empowering to choose to believe that your voice matters. This makes the act of going to cast a vote — a garish exercise of that choice. But to assume that it is your “right” to vote, will only add it to a laundry-list of presumed “rights” that we already take for granted. Hence, in the matter of voting, we focus on taking issues with the mechanics of electoral democracies — (electoral college versus popular vote, direct democracy versus representative, or presidential democracy versus parliamentary).

Regardless whether the party or candidate we vote for wins the elections or not — when the act of voting is seen through the prism of free will and free choice, it gives a sense of individual empowerment. And regardless whether you believe there’s a true value of individual voices; the empowering call to vote facing Americans today deserves its due attention.

If you, like me, have reached a point of cynicism of any meaningful change in the structure of current modern democracy in America, and if you are overwhelmed by the lightspeed changes in your community during the second decade of the new millennia, let me tell you a sobering insight — no drastic change to the political system in America is likely to occur between today and the November elections. It is unlikely that powerhouses will yield their power to the people, and unlikely that corporates and special interest groups will take your side. And it is equally unlikely for the tide of social change to cease in the foreseen future.

This is truly an era of historical aptitudes. When you stand at the voting booths in November — you are a point of contact where all ideologies clash, where all choices bear their full potentials and possibilities. But unlike centers of power and ideology, unlike lobbies and corporates, you possess the human choice to go down and vote. Resist the calculated part of yourself and go cast your voice, even if cynically. Whether you are anti-Trump or pro-Trump — go vote. Enjoy this rare glimpse of individual human empowerment that others like myself have had lived their lives deprived of.

Bahloul