Why we vote

Electoralist dogma accords voting with significant ethical importance. If elections are the centerpiece of democracy, a legitimization of government, an expression of the “consent of the governed” then seeing voting as anything less than a pledge of allegiance would be cynical. By casting a vote for a candidate the voter makes a declaration of support for the record and agenda of the candidate and to some extent takes on responsibility for policy the candidate implements if elected. The more extreme versions of this romanticized view apply these implications of support and responsibility to each and every act or position of the candidate. Other versions apply them only to the record and policy in total.

An alternative, less exalted view would be that voting in a mass election is a specific act with specific practical implications. It is no more than a political expedient. According to this view, when considering who to vote for – and indeed whether to vote at all – citizens simply need to consider which alternative can be expected to yield better policy. Voting is then not an assertion about the record or agenda of the candidate in isolation but the expression of a comparison between the anticipated outcomes of the available courses of action.
Continue reading