Opinion: The selfishness and selflessness of voting
It is October 2019, and if you are like most people in the country, you are confused about the Democratic field.
Perhaps you are googling “impeachment,” or scrolling past political advertisements on social media, half of which are generated by bots … or at least that is what you have been told. It is the definition of political sensory overload. You are either a person who walks on eggshells at a family dinner to avoid the conversation of politics, or you are screaming to the clerk at city hall because your neighbor has a “Trump 2020” sign up and you are offended when you look out your kitchen window. Can’t I enjoy a cup of coffee without someone asking me which candidate I would rather enjoy that coffee with?
I am a political science and public policy major, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t days that I related to all of those things. I think we go through periods where we question why it all matters and why we should still actively participate, especially if we are utterly confused and turned off by politics and this so-called government “for the people.”
Why should we vote?
The university has recently registered a large number of students to vote, and that is something that should be celebrated! Voting is arguably the only time that Americans are allowed to be selfish and selfless at the same moment, with one click of a button.
When you are sitting with that cup of coffee and scrolling through the 10 news alerts on your phone that you never actually read, something is turning in your mind. You start to think about what matters to you, maybe as a voter, but more so as an individual. Some of the top things that come to mind are student loans, the job market and health care (along with dreading the day you turn 26 and have to be on your own). Then, when Twitter is blowing up about the previous Democratic debate or something the president said, you think to yourself, “Who would I vote for? Who is going to help me?”
In that moment, you get to decide for yourself who will benefit you and your interests most by being in office. Who will protect and support your identity, who will see you for who you are and fight to make sure you are never outcast? Once you have followed them on Instagram and donated $3 to get a “free” laptop sticker five months later, you will show up on election day and cast the most selfish ballot: the one that will benefit you the most, which is okay.
Voting gives the other part of our person a chance to speak. This is the side of you that hopefully votes selflessly. It is not lost on many of us that the right to vote is codified in our democratic institutions of government, preserved as the cornerstone of our democracy. Actions by the government would not be qualified as legitimate without the promise of free and fair elections; however, that does not mean our system is flawless, for it certainly is not.
That being said, our democracy has functioned as a beacon for all other democratic governments across the globe. It is the manifestation of the hope held by those who have lost their lives in the fight to protect their voice. It is a right that should never be taken for granted, never cast aside as unimportant. It is the one thing that preserves this nation as a leader in hope. We vote for all of those who cannot vote. It is our duty to exercise this right.
For those of us privileged enough to live without impediments towards our success, we may find ourselves voting for the interests of our neighbors, friends or family members. America is ideally a nation of equal opportunity and chance but in practice that rarely holds true. You may cast your ballot for the candidate who will protect LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace as a straight person. You may cast your ballot for the candidate who will construct fairer immigration policies as a citizen born and raised in the United States.
This level of voting pulls to the moral fiber of our being. The same morality that built and rebuilt this nation time and time again. It is that morality that is singularly American.
So while politics can be the biggest pain to plague our society, voting is the necessary antidote to tame the beast. WE have that power individually and collectively. It is a selfish power and a selfless power. It impacts not only the individual but the community and the moral projection of our country for years to come.
Kelly Read is a junior at the university studying political science and public policy. She is the Vice President of the university’s College Democrats. Read’s opinions expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect the majority views of the College Democrats. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.