I whole-heartedly disagree with Judith Shklar’s opinion that the ability to vote matters more than the physical act of voting. Voting is worthless unless you actually vote.
Some will say that one individual’s vote is not going to affect an election. Few can argue against that logic. The current U. S. population is over three hundred one million, and admittedly if one person decided to stay home on Election Day, it is hardly going to change the election results. However if an entire demographic chooses to stay home on election day or even does not come out it full force, it can make a difference.
For instance polling information on the 2008 presidential election suggests that “had Blacks and Hispanics voted Democratic in 2008 at the rates they had in 2004, McCain would have won.” It did not matter that people of all races have the ability to vote, it mattered that people of all races decided to exercise that right. Additionally, election results suggest that Obama gained votes not merely by gaining a larger percentage of minority votes, but also by bringing new voters into the electorate. The fact that more people decided to get off of their couches and vote made a difference. People can make a difference.
Listen to one of the best presidents ever at 1:46 (If you never watched the West Wing you are missing out, one of the greatest shows of all time!)
I am drawing my conclusions about Shklar’s opinions on voting in part from the quote that “when women finally went to the polls, it turned out to be the biggest non-event in our electoral history” (Shklar p. 60). Shklar states that gaining the right to vote only removed the stigma of not being full citizens. What good is a right if you have no intention of using it? If all women decided not to vote, what incentive would their representatives have to look after their interests?
I extrapolate from Shklar’s opinions about women gaining the right to vote and estimate that she does not consider when non-property owning males and those of other races gained the right to mark big changes in our electoral history either. After minorities gain the right to vote, they gain other rights as well. Would the Civil Rights Act of 1964 really been passed if African Americans were not voting? Would the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission been created if women and minorities were not voting, but had the option of voting? I seriously doubt it.
People have been force-fed, beaten and killed to gain the right to vote. I doubt any of those individuals would say that they were willing to do those things only because they felt bad that they were not being considered full citizens. People have died for the right to vote because they wanted to use their rights as full citizens. Voting is about more than simply having standing . It is about having the ability to have a say in government as all citizens should.