This election season, not unlike other election seasons I’ve had a number of friends forward me their voting guides. I’ve seen a number of publications and organizations publish their voting guides. I’ve had people ask me if I make a voting guide would I please send it to them so they can send out to their friends, families and assorted mailing lists. These people are all well meaning and trying to do what they think is the right thing.
I think voting guides are fucking disgusting.
I try to bite my tongue and try to be civil about it, but I just can’t. Voting guides encourage the worst and make a mockery of the entire system. Let me explain that.
Voting guides assume people can’t think for themselves
When someone gives me a voting guide it feels like they are telling me that they don’t think I’m competent enough to make these kinds of decisions on my own. It feels like they are telling me that they assuming I won’t do the research and won’t be able to come to a conclusion based on that research. It feels like they are telling me that my opinion doesn’t matter and I should just take their word for it. And while this is a repulsive position to take on any number of issues, it’s especially bad when we’re talking about voting and politics. This is the time when, more then ever, people should be encouraging others to educate themselves and make decisions on their own. The problem is most people don’t see it that way so these things are everywhere and no one thinks twice about the fact that someone else is telling them how to vote.
Voting guides encourage people not to think for themselves
I know it’s idealistic to hope that people will do research and make decisions on their own – and if you know me you know that I don’t have a problem being idealistic – but voting guides actively encourage people not to think for themselves. I wish I didn’t know anyone who had told me that they were waiting send in their mail-in ballot until they got someone’s voting guide, but unfortunately I lost count how many times that happened. Because they are so prevalent a huge percent of people no longer even look at the issues themselves, they just wait for a voting guide to show up from a trusted source and follow it to the letter. Like sheep.
Voting guides make people second guess their own research
Even worse, is when someone does the research on their own, comes to their own decisions and then gets a voting guide and assumes they were mistaken and changes their votes. I look at this as if it’s basically low level voter intimidation. I’m all for discussion, debate and people looking at all sides of the issues to find what makes sense to them. Hell there were several issues this election season that I was of one mind set on and once I read more and talked to people about I changed my mind about. But that’s a conversation. A voting guide is one way broadcast. It’s saying “vote this way” with no room for discussion about why. And it works. People have directly told me “I was leaning in favor of Prop ABC until I saw Timmy’s voting guide which was against it so I adjusted my position.” This is disgusting, and leads me to…
Voting guides discourage independence, and suggest everyone should agree on every issue
What’s worse than “Timmy’s Voting Guide” is “Timmy’s Progressive Voting Guide” or “The IAAL’s Conservative Voting Guide” because these not only suggest that some person knows better than you, but positions that person as the spokesperson for an entire ethos and suggests if you describe yourself in similar terms then you’d better get on board with these choices. If you thought there was pressure when a “trusted individual” sends you voting recommendations, it’s 100x more so when that individual is wearing the cape of an entire political viewpoint. If I consider myself a progressive and I’ve made my choices and then I get Timmy’s Progressive Voting Guide and he’s made 3 difference choices than I did what do I do? Do I question my own progressive-ness? Do I change my votes so that I don’t have to question that? Do I assume I was wrong, and next time just wait for Timmy so that I don’t have to feel bad about my own choices? Do stick to my guns and assume I’m not really a progressive? There’s no option or outcome here where I feel good about myself.
But that is bullshit because even if you are progressive or even if you are conservative I would hope that you come to your own decisions and don’t just agree across the board with anything anyone labels as such. Again, I know I’m being idealistic but if you can’t be idealistic when talking about how your world is shaped then when can you? I don’t want to live in a world where everyone agrees on every issue. I don’t want to live in a world where there is a line and everyone is either on one side or the other and then agrees with everyone else on their side of that line. I want to live in a world where people think for themselves and make their own decisions. That might be a lofty wish, but that’s no reason to abandon it.
I’ve received no less than 20 “voting guides” from various sources and not a single one did I agree with across the board. I’m glad I did my own homework and proud that I made my own decisions. How about you?