The so-called “paradox of voting” is that since there is (just about) no way that any of us will ever, ever, ever be the deciding vote in an election, that it is a little bit weird that we vote at all. Voting produces government office-holders, but our own personal, individual vote could be subtracted out of every election we have voted in or ever will vote in in the future, and nothing would change. We really don’t need to be involved, and when we are involved, it doesn’t change anything.
So, why vote? Well, just asking around, there are lots of reasons why we do. Most of them boil down to “it feels good.” It feels good to express yourself. It feels good to brag about having voted. It feels good to know that you performed your “civic duty.” But these are all descriptive. They explain why we happen to want to vote. Sort of like why we happen to like eating pizza or watching football. It isn’t as clear why we should vote, beyond whether it feels good or not.
Maybe the answer is related to civic duty, but not understood in the typical sense. The idea that I have to vote simply because I am a part of the political system, and need to perform my civic function as a citizen, is silly and wrong. You can’t be dutiful to a system that, to the extent your vote even matters, you support candidates that are harmful to that system. So if I have a civic duty to vote, it is strictly to vote for the best candidate.
Obviously, few of us are prophets, and none of us know, 100% for certain, that we’re judging correctly when we support one candidate over another. But if we have any duty in voting, it is to give this task our best shot. Still, why bother?
I think when you really love something, you love everything related to it. When kids love a television show, they want the t-shirt, the lunch box, the stickers, the everything related to that show. When teenagers love a music band, they get the poster, all the albums, go to the concert (and save the ticket), get the bobble head, set their favorite album cover as their computer’s desktop. Love as an adult can be more complicated. You have to force yourself to love the things that are good for you — and you can, and many of us do. The more we can love the good in our jobs, love what we can understand of our God, love what is good in our country, the better off we are. Because this is what we have. It’s ours, and it could be worse. Political freedom is something only an adult could love, and we have to force ourselves to love it. Voting is sort of the “lunch box” or the “album cover art” of political freedom, and forcing ourselves to value it is part of the deliberate, intentional work of keeping the flame of our matured love for freedom burning.