Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nathan Explains Science Just Voted, and You Can Too.

I just voted. You should too. Well, if you're 18 or older, anyway.

Nathan Explains Science has spent a fair amount of time explaining why people don't vote — the hassle of getting to the polls, the difficulty of seeing the impact of electoral outcomes in our daily lives, the cost spent in time and effort on learning about the differences between different proposals. Today, November 6, 2012, forget all that. Go vote. Do a little homework first, please — for instance, know that the guy behind the auto insurance initiative on the California ballot (Prop 33) is in charge of Mercury Insurance — but get out and vote.

The argument against voting goes like this: your vote is like your place in the universe, that is, tiny. My vote here in San Francisco is profoundly unlikely to have any impact on anything, simply because lots of other people are voting. Elections rarely come down to a single vote, so what's the point, especially if you have to take a fifteen minute drive and then wait in line for an hour just to fill out a stupid form you might not even care about.

(Fortunately, my polling place is less than a block from Nathan Explains Science World Headquarters, and I do kinda care.)

Here's the problem. Suppose that nobody voted. Then you're automatically pivotal. All you'd have to do to get your way is to be the one person who showed up. Like Jill Stein for President? Or the Barr/Sheehan ticket? Like that option enough that you'll walk/bus/drive down to the polls? You got it. Yours for a song. In the language of political scientists, you're pivotal.

Or, if that keeps up long enough, you're a sort of de facto dictator.

In the short run, maybe that's okay. But in the long run, that's not exactly a healthy democracy. Hardly anyone cares, not a whole lot gets done, and we sort of fizzle out.

Voting today isn't just about the outcome of this election. It's about believing in the admittedly flawed, tenuous, and often dubious institutions that separate us from Lord of the Flies, or, say, Stalinism. The short run choice is obvious. The long run choice is, too.

Don't wait for things to get bad — or worse, as the case may be. Play the long game. Get out and vote.