Since I live in the reddest of red states, I hear progressives here say variations of this: “Yeah, I lost my vote in that last election. My candidate lost.”
True? I don’t believe that. Every vote that is cast makes a point, in some way or another, and is “lost” only if it is never cast in the first place.
Your vote is significant on many levels, and should be guarded and exercised as often as possible. Here’s why:
Back in the day when everything was analog and statistics were done with huge stacks of paper by guys in white shirts/black ties using slide rules, that may have been the case. Sorting out who voted and why was a Herculean task. Not any more.
Today, campaigns have an amazing array of evaluative tools due to the digitizing of polls, surveys, voting records, etc. I still remember hearing in the late 1980s how marketers who set up mailing campaigns could tell what kind of toothpaste I used, and how to target me. Now if that was the case in the 1980s, imagine the tools now.
No, your vote is never “lost” to campaigns and candidates who pay extremely close attention to various statistical cuts in voting during an election, even if the candidate that you wanted to win does not. Even a candidate who loses, but turns in a larger opposition vote than the last election has an effect on the winner.
Case in point: The last Oklahoma City election for mayor was the most active and seriously contested in my memory. Oklahoma City is on a roll, but our 3-term mayor, Mick Cornett, who was going for a fourth, was spending way too much time in increasingly tighter circles of thinking. The crescendo of that process was Cornett’s speech to the Republican National Convention in 2012. It was a rousing speech of right-wing dog whistles and partisan grandstanding that Oklahoma City is not used to hearing from what is, by design, a non-partisan mayor. Those earlier non-partisan days of his leading the city to lose a million pounds were past. But, not quite….
One of our City Council members, Dr. Ed Shadid, mounted an energetic campaign that focused on giving neighborhoods a voice instead of only listening to interests that wanted downtown to grow at the expense of the rest of the city.
Shadid’s campaign effectively pointed out the contradiction of the recent growth of Oklahoma City: Wealthy corporate chieftains who lived in the suburbs were dictating how Oklahoma City would spend millions and give millions more in tax breaks to promote their new headquarters at the expense of neighborhood development.
This campaign pushed Mayor Cornett to reconsider his direction. We began to see him in more neighborhood meetings. Even though some thought it was a campaign stunt, his Twitter feed started using the word “neighborhood” more, which was a significant change from last elections. For the first time, I actually saw him actively engaging the crowd of the Martin Luther King Day Parade for a considerable length of time, not just shaking hands, but carrying on conversations.
Mayor Cornett won his fourth term, but not without the wakeup call of the results. This election resulted in a far larger turnout than before. Those who voted for Shadid actually turned in larger numbers for him than those who had voted for Cornett in the last election that was not seriously contested. Yes, Cornett won, but he would be stupid (he’s not) to ignore the fact of the number of voters who cast a vote for the other guy.
That other guy, Dr. Shadid, is still on the City Council and is still asking those questions that need to be asked.
Did those who voted for Shadid “lose” their vote. No way. Just yesterday I saw the mayor’s tweet that he had eaten at a popular locally owned neighborhood restaurant for the first time. By being there, he was meeting new people and learning once again about what common people thought. That’s progress. And it’s because people got out and voted.
The only votes that were “lost” in that election were those that were not cast. Plan to vote!