No Vote is Ever Wasted (Part 2 of 2): Multiply Your Vote
In our January 30 post, we debunked the excuses people make for not voting. These excuses included: not agreeing 100% with any candidate, naïve expressions of cynicism, and thinking one’s vote doesn’t matter.
This week, we explore an easy way for citizens to increase their political power: by joining a voting coalition, sometimes called a special interest group.
The Politician’s Dilemma
Imagine you are a politician who has just lost an election by 5,000 votes. How could you win 5,000 more votes in your next attempt? On the other hand, which policy positions would lose even more votes?
The answers to these questions are not clear. Your friends and advisors have opinions, but these are not objective or concrete. Obtaining this information is the most important part of your next campaign.
Suddenly, a representative from a voting coalition steps into your office and states:
“I represent 30,000 single-issue voters who pay $50 a year to support my organization. If you are in favor of our issue, I will write that into our voter guide and direct thousands of votes your way, guaranteed.”
As an aspiring politician, what do you do?
The voting coalition has shared valuable information about how you could get elected:
- a) at least 30,000 votes hinging on a single issue.
- b) these voters are passionate enough about their cause to pay $50 per year to an advocacy organization. If they are willing to make that kind of sacrifice for their cause, most will certainly show up on Election Day and vote based on this one issue.
There is also a veiled threat! Those 30,000 votes could also go to the other candidate.
Of course, you plan to win, so you tell the representative that you support their issue 100%.
This scenario shows how ordinary voters can multiply their influence by banding together. In a world where polls fail to accurately predict elections, voting coalitions provide both politicians and voters with credible information about each other. Politicians learn that many thousands, or millions, of people vote based on an issue. Voters, in turn, make politicians commit to supporting their values.
This is also perfectly democratic. Voters in the coalition are exercising their freedoms of expression and association to participate in politics. They are also counteracting the influence of campaign contributions from corporations and billionaires.
Let’s look at some of the most successful voting coalitions from history and the present.
Examples of Successful Coalitions
American Anti-Slavery Society
At a time when racial equality was a radical heresy, the promoters of justice and human rights organized themselves. The American Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1833. Within a few years, its membership had grown to between 150,000 and 200,000, and there were over a thousand auxiliary societies.
Through public speaking events, petitions, and printed materials, they changed the culture of the Northern United States, paving the way for the founding of the Free Soil and then Republican parties. When the Civil War started, they ensured that abolition became an objective of the war.
National American Woman Suffrage Association
In 1887, the Senate rejected a women’s suffrage amendment.
Then, the National American Woman Suffrage Association grew from 7,000 members in 1893 to 2 million members in 1916.
In 1918, the House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. However, the amendment was defeated in the Senate by just two votes. The NAWSA targeted four Senators who voted against the amendment. They formed a coalition with labor unions and prohibitionists and two of those four senators lost re-election.
Literally eight months later, the Nineteenth Amendment was passed by Congress. However, approval of 2/3 of the states seemed impossible, because opposition to the amendment was entrenched in the South. Yet, the amendment was ratified by the last required state, Tennessee, by just one vote in 1920.
National Rifle Association
NRA ConventionWhether you love them or hate them, you must agreethe NRA is effective. No national laws have been passed restricting gun ownership since the mid-1990’s. The NRA obtains its power by representing 5 million members who pay $40 per year or less. With those resources, the NRA produces publications, social media, recruitment campaigns, lawsuits, lobbyists, and campaign donations.
They add up to less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, but NRA members essentially control legislative action on gun regulation. The simple reason for this is that they are organized. Remarkably, the NRA requires little from its members besides the payment of dues, although many are politically active. The NRA’s opponents, which probably outnumber the organization, are not nearly as well organized.
Banding Together Works
The American Abolition Society peaked at about 250,000 members. The National American Woman Suffrage Association reached 2 million. The modern bar for political invincibility is the NRA, with 5 million people.
We should keep these numbers in mind as we observe that “nones” are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S, with atheists and agnostics comprising 7% of the population in 2014 (over 22 million ) and the unaffiliated comprising almost 23% (over 55 million).
If only a fifth or even a tenth of freethinkers organized as a voting coalition, history proves they could change the cultural and legal course of the nation.
Time For Action!
What are your values? Do you actually do enough to support them?
If you hesitated when answering these questions, consider joining at least some of the following voter coalitions that support the rights of freethinkers: