Your vote’s not a sperm.
Your vote is not out there competing with all the other votes, swimming alongside tens or hundreds of millions of others, most of which do nothing more than get lost. First because the voting booth isn’t a cervix, but second, you’re usually picking between just 2 or 3 options — and so is everybody else. Yes or no. Democrat or Republican or Libertarian. This person or that person.
So all the votes end up in just a couple of piles, 1 of which is going to win. Your voice isn’t lost among the Great Forest of American Voters. There are millions of others who believe what you believe. Even if you believe things that are really out there, there are still probably many, many other people who’re with you. Maybe you only want to vote for a candidate who wears a boot on his head and carries a giant toothbrush and whose platform includes time travel research. Well, in 2016, almost 260 people voted for Vermin Supreme in the New Hampshire primary.
The point is that we should think differently about what it means to vote. If there are only a couple of options from which to choose, then your vote doesn’t need to “beat the odds” to mean something. It’s more like you’ve joined a team of bakers to make a huge pie. And if your team of bakers makes a bigger pie than the other team of bakers, then everybody eats your pie.
To illustrate: In the 2016 election, President Trump got 62,984,828 votes, and Hillary Clinton received 65,853,514. This means that 94% of people who voted picked 1 of these 2 options. Other candidates got votes too, including Libertarian Gary Johnson (4,489,341 votes) and Green Party candidate Jill Stein (1,457,218 votes). But for most (ahem: almost everybody) people, the election came down to 2 choices.
This was a presidential election, but the same thing’s true for elections that’re closer-to-home. There are all kinds of weird ballot questions whose only answers can be “yes” or “no.” In 2010, 82% of Denver voters said, “No! We should not create an agency that tracks aliens!” Which means 18% said, “Yes we should! A thousand times yes!” If you were an alien enthusiast during that election, you weren’t alone! More than 31,000 people voted the way you did.
When it comes to choosing candidates, some people think that only having 2 options sucks. But even if those folks got to make the rules, the number of total choices would probably still be no more than 5 or 6. Which is why I like the “team of bakers” metaphor better than the “spermatozoa” one. If voting means joining a team of bakers, then the first question is, which team do you want to join? The one making apple or the one making pumpkin? (Okay, your options are never that good, but you get the picture.)
And then second, can you convince other people, such as your friends and family, to join your team of bakers so that you can make a bigger pie? Should we build an elephant a house? Should we change our state’s name? Or, y’know, should more people be able to see a doctor.
Even if you don’t like convincing other people to join your team of bakers, it might be nice to know that you’re never alone in what you believe. You’re probably not even in an exclusive club. U.S. politics is a team sport, and you’re always on a team. The choice is really whether you help your team win, or you sit out and let others decide what kind of pie everybody has to eat — apple, pumpkin, or glass shard with raisinettes.