The Right to Rule

Have you ever been on a website and had one of those pop-up mini surveys appear, asking you to vote for your favourite car or food, most attractive celebrity or some other completely random thing?
We can vote about so many different things online and make our voices heard in the most obscure areas.

And yet a lot of people I know have chosen not to vote for actually really important things- such as who gets the power over our country. (Yep, that is what this is about.)

Their reason is: ‘Politicians have broken my trust so many times that I don’t feel I can vote for them anymore. Besides, politics doesn’t interest me.’

Now, I am not about to try and guilt-trip anybody into voting. Woe betides that. Free choice is free choice and besides, that would be unhelpful.

What I am going to do is explain why I think voting is the most awesome thing. I’m also going to try not to be boring about it. Let me remind you that I am only just of a voting age myself, and don’t really have the knowledge or the concentration to go all long-winded about things.

So what’s supposedly cool about voting?
Well, the alternative to having a voice, however small, in things is not having a voice in things.
That’s when dictators happen, when people get their rights and their freedoms taken away from them and can’t do anything about it because they have no power. The guys in charge choose how much you get paid, where you go when you’re sick, what you learn at school.

It’s a heck of a lot of power.

If you are lucky enough to live in a democracy, you as a citizen have that power. You also have, as a nation, a history that probably involves people fighting and dying to get that power. They probably knew the price of having somebody in charge that can’t be checked, because they have all the might.
I live in Europe. National Socialism and Hitler happened through many things, but ‘people failing to make use of their democratic rights’ was definitely one of the factors.

Not only do I know that my country and all other democratic nations had a long and difficult struggle until they were allowed to vote, I am also female. Women weren’t given the right to vote until very recently in many countries. The effort put into getting that right was huge and lives were quite literally lost. How ridiculous and disrespectful would it be if I did now not make use of that right when I have no reason not to?

Now, those guys I know say that they’ve lost their trust in politicians.

We all know that things don’t always work out the way we want them to. We know that politicians and governments can fail enormously and leave us with huge problems. They don’t mean to- of course not, they’re humans trying their best- but it happens. Power gets used wrong.

It seems to me a kind of counterintuitive reaction to that power being used badly to then give up your own piece of that power, i.e. your vote. So the guy in charge did a really bad job last time. Vote for the other guy this time. Vote for the least bad guy. Never forget that if everybody decides they no longer care, the really radical people- I’m remembering my European history again here- get all the votes, because they are the only ones voting.

On a similar note, there’s another thing, and this might seem strange if you take your system for granted. If democracy only works by people voting, and fewer and fewer people vote, we can no longer have that democracy. We would have to come up with an entirely different system, and, frankly, all the alternatives so far have tended to be Not Good and not very fair. Our countries need us to vote, or they will eventually fail.

And, if absolutely all else fails, if every single party seems like a terribly choice to you, there is always the wonderful maxim: ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ If you are unhappy with the ideas of the party you used to vote for, go join that party and change those ideas. You can, as they say, do it online these days. It’s quite literally never been easier.

There are awesome groups and institutions around that help use power wisely and bring it to the people who don’t have it. I belong to an organization which represents the voice of 12 to 18-year-olds, and I had the oh-so-awesome opportunity of speaking in Britain’s House of Commons on live TV through them. (Which was very terrifying- think shaking hands and squeaking voice- but also WHOAH.)

Voting means choosing, with thousands of like-minded people, who you think should hold power and make decisions. It also means thanking and respecting the long history which gave us the right, and the people who paved the way. Also- as a fun extra- it gives you the right to rant about the person you voted for if they get it all wrong. After all, it’s you they’re meant to represent.

So if you still aren’t convinced (and are perhaps more of the glass-half-empty type), at least look at it this way: Voting means the right to rant as much as you want to about somebody who is meant to be representing you, personally.

Finally, I looked through the internet at ideas people have come up with to get more people to vote, and I’ll put them below.

So what’s your opinion on voting? Any ideas on increasing voting and democracy? I’m always up for discussing, so please feel free to comment below with your thoughts.

A few online ideas
On Tumblr, dethoreign says: ‘Why can’t there be places to vote ON college campuses. Majority of students have no way of getting to town halls or other schools that are OFFICIAL places to vote. Put official voting areas on campus and watch the number of people who vote skyrocket.’
attndotcom suggests that ‘Election Day should be a public holiday so that everyone has the opportunity to vote’.
Ideas on Twitter include online voting, more control over public service and a ‘none of the above’ box.


2 thoughts on “The Right to Rule

  1. While I share the general exasperation at the modern tendency to ignore politics and believe it doesn’t matter or can’t be changed, I feel I need to correct a common myth about history. Hitler didn’t come to power because people weren’t expressing their opinions through voting. Quite the contrary! From 1919 through to 1933, only one reichstag election had less than 75% turnout (and that had 71% turnout). The penultimate free election had a turnout of 81%. After that, thugs intimidated socialist voters… but in the election that followed, turnout actually rose to 89%!

    Whatever else went wrong, it wasn’t that people didn’t care about voting. In fact, the opposite may be the case – when turnout rose from 81% to 89%, support for the Nazis increased… often, those who aren’ interested in voting are those who are more prone to being seduced by antidemocratic voices.

    That’s the issue I do have with ‘it’s your duty to vote’ arguments. You don’t have the right to vote – you have the right to decide whether or not to vote, and voting just because you feel you ought to is as much a sin against that right as not voting is. If you really don’t mind who wins, or don’t understand the alternatives, don’t vote – otherwise you’re just skewing the results away from those who do care (who are usually those with most to lose) and those who are informed.

    That said, people should try to be informed, and when they’re informed they often find they care. As the saying goes: those who don’t do politics will sooner or later be done in by politics.

    1. Hey there,
      first off, thank you very much for such a thought-out comment.
      I’d like to clarify the ‘Third Reich resulting from low democratic interest’ bit. I didn’t intend to imply that the voting numbers were particularly low during the Weimar Republic or the national socialist regime, although, having re-read the context of that part, I agree that that’s how it reads. I was concentrating more on the lack of actual democratic interest at the time. Nationalism (and military leaning!) in Germany had of course had a strong influence on the political landscape since the mid-nineteenth century at least, including a general tendency of wanting to be ruled rather than rule together, as it were. There was the failed attempt at introducing democracy during the revolution of 1889 and the fact that Prussian-style militant thinking very much lead the minds of the country’s elite. Yes, people voted during the Weimar Republic (and during the- basically fake- elections and decisions of Nazi Germany), but their hearts generally weren’t in their democracy. At least, they weren’t entirely- I know that in 1919, the socialist SPD got more than a third of votes, suggesting democratic interest, but public opinion swerved so very much later on. One of the best examples of this is of course von Hindenburg, who even as elected president of the Reich openly hated democracy and wanted the Kaiser back. And so when I say that the Germans of the time didn’t make use of their democratic rights, what I mean is that they were not, as a rule, entirely behind the idea of democracy and said rights. (And my knowledge on this comes from my grammar school in Germany, which incidentally shows how far they’ve come now!)
      Not that Weimar did it all wrong. Some of the basic rights afforded to the people were very forward-thinking. But, evidently, it failed in the end. (Of course, the uncertain democracy was only a small factor compared to the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles, the financial crisis and so on).

      As for the second part: I entirely agree with your point on voting without knowledge or interest being pointless and more of a hindrance than anything else (my post was a bit one-sided there). My intention was- and is- to reduce that lack of knowledge and interest. I am certain that politics is of importance to absolutely everybody and that if we only had better political education, much more people would care.

      I was interested, by the way, to see on your ‘Who am I?’ blog page that you went to Oxbridge. I have an Oxbridge offer for this coming year, so, grades allowing, that ought to be pretty amazing 🙂

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