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Why Voting Works


I voted this morning, and as I delivered my ballot to the little machine, I thought – this works. This is one of the triangles of how you (I) shape society by our daily personal and collective actions. How I treat myself and others, how I spend my money, and how I vote form the three corners of the triangle that allow me to participate in society and also give that society shape.

If I treat others and myself with respect and a clear head and a basic understand of love and interdependence; if I spend my money as mindfully as possible, aware of the systems I support (or don’t support) with each dollar; and if I vote for the government officials who I think will create the most free and supportive spiderweb of laws and regulations, then I’m doing everything I can to take action to manifest the society I aspire to live in.

Here’s what I see in the political landscape I live in. On one side, a party that believes in limiting personal freedoms that don’t fall into a fairly narrow definition of their “approved lifestyles” while simultaneously supporting unregulated freedom for any business activity of any kind. On the other side, a party that is more liberal in advocating for any personal freedoms that don’t harm other people, while also advocating for some regulation to keep big business from literally gutting the country.

Since businesses aren’t people, and are run by people who actually – by law – cannot be held responsible for the actions of their companies (i.e. a corporation), unregulated companies run by people who aren’t responsible for them is actually another way of saying: let your greed run rampant, consolidate money and power, destroy jobs and communities, shut down factories, business is good. Except for when it crashes the entire economy, leading to suffering for many people who had nothing to do with the business and no chance to profit from it.

So me personally, I’m always going to vote for the party or person who is more likely to advocate for personal responsibility combined with some reasonable level of business regulation and freedom to live whatever life you want to, as long as it doesn’t harm others. Right now in America, that happens to be the Democrats, though historically that hasn’t always been the case.

But it’s clear to me that the Democrats right now represent at least something closer to the real America, the values of freedom, belief in personal liberty and personal responsibility, taking care of your neighbors, being mindful of our power on the international stage, a belief in the meaning of the Constitution, protection of our physical environment from unregulated business-generated toxins, and responsible growth of business.

If Republicans stood for those things, I’d vote for them instead – but right now I see a Republican party that proudly represents almost nothing of the America I grew up in, the America I was told was the dream of the Founding Fathers, or the America I aspire to live in. I see a Republican party thrilled to be in love with business dollars, a specific religion, and the power of fear. Not at all what they used to stand for – and the Democrats aren’t perfect on all of these points, not by a long shot – but at least the Dems are closer to a model of growth and interdependence, rather than insularity and contraction and fear.

So when I cast my vote, I of course hope that enough other people who think like me also vote – and that they vote for the same people I voted for. I hope that the candidates I vote for win – by as much as possible – and that they don’t get seduced by the siren calls of “compromise” and “centrism” no matter how slim their margin. I hope they recognize that they aren’t elected to sort of stand for what they said they’d stand for. Listen winners: you stand for what you said you said you would, and we’ll either elect you again or not. The system of checks and balances built in to the process more than take care of making sure that no one is over-empowered in America – you don’t also need to lean in the other party’s direction before they check-and-balance you. Ya hear?

So, voting works. It’s imperfect, it’s messy, and it’s the only way you can participate in the point of the triangle that defines the fine web of laws and regulations that you wander through every day. So get off ya ass and vote whether you agree with me or not – the beauty of the vote is that our votes count the same no matter which little ovals we fill in.

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Voting works?

Hmmm... do you remember the 2000 presidential election? That one really didn't work. Some peoples' votes didn't count the same as others. In fact, it was a coup.

look closer

look closer at the track record of recent Republicans and by contrast, the Democrats all look they must be meditating 2 hours a day and studying the dharma.

context is everything and dont' get caught up in that Buddhisty "let's eliminate reference points" misunderstanding of what Buddhism actually teaches.

yeah the Dems aren't perfect but jesus - the Republican Tea Party is literally the party of division, fear, isolationism, separatenss - there are elements of that in Dems too but at least as they are oriented towards inclusion, care, and connection.

bottom line - don't idenitfy with a party - don't disidentify with a party - but choose candidates who at least aim for the goals you care about as a Buddhist, and I defy you to show me one Republican candidate who even comes close, esp. now that it is the Republcian Tea Party.

I don't think the Democrats

I don't think the Democrats have, as a whole, been any more mindful of the use of power on an international scale than the Republicans. And really, the influence of corporate money and power has taken over both major parties. My ballot today had selections from three different parties, two of them minor party candidates, because frankly I believe neither major party really reflects the values I hold. I think it would really be helpful if more convert Buddhist practitioners broke free from this Republican-Democrat dichotomy, and advocated for issues in a way that transcends party lines, even if our particular voting decisions end up being mostly within one party. My point here being that too many convert American Buddhists seem to align themselves with the Democrats, and then speak of their policies as somehow being more in-line with Buddhist teachings than the Republicans. This is just divisive in my opinion, and isn't terribly accurate when you look at the actual track records of recent Democratic leaders.

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