Monday, December 1, 2008

Voter Psychology

I spent four years studying political science. The end result was less interest in politics--the more I learned the sillier it became.

For a long time people thought voting behavior could be explained in rational terms. Person X votes for candidate Y because it yields desirable result Z. So, as the theory goes, the rich will vote for the capitalistic republican, the poor will vote for the giving democrat, etc.

Seems to make sense, but I don't think it's true. It assumes that we believe candidates, think candidates will have power to change the status quo, that information about our interest can be distributed, and that we can assess what interests are more valuable to us. And if we're so rational, why would we vote at all since the odds are astronomical that our vote will actually be the difference?

And, if we're all so rational, then why does anyone wast time and resources voting for an American Idol candidate?

I think we vote because it offers us an opportunity to define and validate ourselves. To me, that is the beauty and danger of the process.

If we as a society are looking to define ourselves in meaningful terms, then we should be alright. But, as I worry is the trend, if we define ourselves by things that are largely superficial, self-aggrandizing, and polarizing, then the future looks bleak.

Vote as you will, but think about what you're really looking for the next time you put on a political t-shirt, or cleverly update your status message on facebook, or attach a provacative bumper sticker on your car. Do you really think you're making a difference in a meaningful way, or are you just trying to get some attention and an external sense of identity? Are you looking for high-fives from your NRA or Darwin-Fish buddies, or do you think you're making a meaningful statement?

It might be a tough call.

No comments: