You don’t need to do the math, but let’s squint at it anyway.
There are 325 million people in the U.S. and 235 million are old enough to vote. Your 1 vote makes up 0.000000004% of the voting population. You might point out that only 57.6 million people voted in the 2016 presidential election. Which, great. 1 is definitely a higher % of 57.6 million than 325 million. It’s 0.000000017%. I’m bad at math, but that is still a very small number. If you had 0.000000017% chance to live out the month, you would make some decisions.
But the thing is, the size of the % is not the point. You are not actually voting to decide what should happen. Expecting a direct relationship between your vote and what happens is the path to disillusionment and resignation. Politicians are never going to be exactly who you want them to be, do exactly what you want them to do.
Here’s a more sustainable way to think about it. Voting is just saying what you think. An election is nothing more than one of the various governments that make the rules asking you, “Hey, which of these people should make the rules?”
And you say, “Well, what do they think the rules should be?”
Then they say what they think the rules should be, and we vote. “That lady! This guy! And definitely not that dude, I do not like his hair or his policy on all-payer rate setting.” Some states also include more questions on on the ballot about what they should do. This feels like a more direct form of democracy, but it’s still about saying what you think. Voting for them is like saying, “Nah bro, that money’s for schools,” or, “Yes actually I would like to take a leisurely stroll around a new public park. Please use my tax dollars to build it, thank you.”
You say what you think. That’s what makes democracy different than monarchy (other than the crowns and palaces and stuff): more people say what they think before a decision’s made. People saying what they think through voting is the air that democracy breathes. When lots of people say what they think, the air’s rich and thick and keeps the blood flowing and the heart beating. When not that many people say what they think, democracy can’t get enough air and develops this grim, hacking cough, and eventually hunches over and spits up blood, which we know from movies is a sign that the writers have killed you.
Don’t get me wrong. If saying what you think isn’t enough for you, you can volunteer for a campaign, donate money, run for office yourself. Find a soapbox and a corner and read aloud your manifesto on why the unicorn should be the national mythological creature.
But saying what you think at the polls is at the heart of everything. It’s not so hard. Stand in a line, color in some circles! Don’t forget to get registered first. You did it—you CPRed democracy. (I wish you could save this metaphor too, but it’s beyond hope.)