Today on Bad Arguments I wanted to touch on the recent election that came and went in the USA and the rhetoric that surrounded the entire affair. As with any election, there were tons of examples of bad arguments in play, but I thought I’d focus on the broader example of elections themselves. In my comparably short lifetime, there have been 2 dozen+ elections all of which were called “The most important election of our lives.” So in light of the recent mid-term elections, I figured I would take some time and break down exactly why this little rhetorical device is a bad argument to get people to vote.
Let’s begin at looking at the election process itself. In any election using either the Parliamentary or Electoral College systems, we need to first look at how much say the average voter truly has. When one votes for a party, they are in a rare minority if they agree with all aspects and platforms of the party and agree with the election of every single member of said party. This assumes that those voters are properly informed on the issues at all and aren’t simply throwing their weight behind their team and hoping for the best. Even in the latter case, the argument goes that those people still ought to vote because its the most important election and they want to score blind support for their parties to gain power.
Another issue regarding the actual power of the voter was best described by the relatively well known comic character Judge Dredd. In the storyline “America” he said the following:
When we run the direct result of a person’s vote against the machine that is the electoral process the chances of a person having anything truly resembling representation starts to enter margin of error territory. Even if the results were important, it’s an empty claim to say that the average person’s vote is needed. But are the results themselves important?
It’s hard to sell it as the most important election of our lives when it’s been a consistent theme that the candidates only care about the results as far as keeping their jobs are concerned, and the general public has cared less and less. There’s also the system structures post-election to look at. A lot of the most damaging moves a political party could possibly make are protected against via constitutions and pre-existing legal restraints, and realistically, aren’t issues that would surface during the elections themselves.
Even with all of the campaigning, the winners of the last election are likely to win the most important election now. In the US, the re-election rate of incumbent candidates has been as high as 98%, and no lower than 90% in recent history. The only times we really see fluctuations is when people step down from their positions, otherwise, the average voter will, sadly, just vote for the same candidate as before.
At best after the election, we find a minority of people representing a minority of their ideals. At worst, and most likely, nothing really changes and it’s business as usual afterward. Simply throwing bodies at the problem in the form of voters will not fix that, and it’s frankly foolish to think it would. Politically, outside of a few key areas, the primary parties in most countries tend to be very closely aligned as far as how operation and policy will form under them.
It should be noted that I am a supporter of people going out to vote as upsets and major shifts can take place, but let’s not ignore the reality of the situation. Telling people to vote simply because you think that this is the most important election isn’t a good move, and with the reality of the situation in clear view its a terrible argument for people to start.
You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.