how important is it for you to vote? aww ditch the cult: you can more or less work out mathematically how important your vote is. millionths. it's like flipping a penny into a fountain and wishing, except there you could wish for something you actually want. the two-party system channels your wish, interprets your wish as it likes. your vote for obama, for example, is an expression of your real participation insofar as obama's actions do reflect your beliefs. indeed, these parties comandeer virtually everyone's vote and channel them into...oh you know, policies that are designed to help trial lawyers, or goldman sachs, or the next generation of predator drones. really to draw collectivist-type conclusions, you need to drop the one person-one vote model, surely a hangover from the individualist era, now long past. because if the question is to what extent barack obama or mitt romney might represent me, the answer is: not very much even if they had my ecstatic endorsement, which would be incomprehensible. but really maybe there should be only one vote, cast by the collective consciousness.
here's one response i often get when i just say, look you can see roughly how infinitesimally significant your vote actually is by counting: what if everyone thought like that? democracy would be impossible, etc. now, one might explore the limitations of this 'what if everybody' approach. but more directly: i think after that you still have to show that i'm mathematically or in some other clear way wrong. because otherwise the argument runs like this: what if everyone believed the truth? then my political vision would be impossible. my political vision requires people to believe that their vote is extremely important or is an exercise of sovereignty. that is false, but its falsity doesn't bother me for a moment; it's irrelevant. or the proposal surely cannot be that whatever people would need to believe in order to make a certain political vision make sense is true. my god man is that backasswards, especially when i'm sitting here demonstrating to you in the most direct fashion that the claim that you're inculcating is false. we can do better than merely wish or hallucinate. advocates of any position that proceeds in this way at a minimum have relieved anyone of the obligation to believe anything they're saying, because to believe something is to take it to be true. perhaps after you say something like that you'll pardon me if i don't even believe that you believe what you're saying. this is exactly the way most political positions work, in fact, and the articulation of a vision where the question doesn't focus on individual opinions, decisions, and so on - but rather collective action - virtually always just depends almost-explicitly on precisely a total indifference to speaking the truth (or explicitly, see plato's noble lie; or hobbes' fiction that the sovereign is all of us, which is still exactly what is being asserted): how can we induce everyone to act like they believed something false? we make collective decisions insofar as we can all be made to accept the same obviously false things. now if there is a real world and our lives depend on responding to it successfully, this is a formula for extinction.
on the other hand, i am really no more opposed to voting than i am to flipping pennies into fountains. ok it has no efficacy, but the costs are so small that i don't care really: let's pretend for a moment that flipping coins into fountains might help you find true love: that is harmless fun.
thoreau's famous treatment:
All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves.