Elections, Choices yet Again?
In this season the press is inundated with election stories, polls, and opinion pieces. In the main, the Israel press covers international news in a more comprehensive way than does the national press of the rest of the world. International as well as local election reports and stories are of interest to a wide spectrum of people with differing preconceived notions and political agendas.
The United States is gearing up to a national election – the most contested election in recent history for the US. The Palestinian High Court of Justice decided to freeze the local elections that were scheduled for October 8. Israel (due to the nature of a coalition government) frequently faces the threat of new elections.
What recourse do we, as citizens of any country, have to effect change in our governments? Do we have a voice? Do our views, do our voices, do our votes matter? Can they make a difference? I find myself asking these questions with increasing regularity as the clamor from the world around me rises with the defeatist lament that whatever we do will not make a difference. The bastions of power remain powerful and the little person in the midst is left feeling ever smaller and increasingly insignificant.
A democratic government is meant to execute the will of the majority. This system only works if the minority is willing to support the system. Israel, with its multi-party system, is commonly referred to as the only democratic country in the Middle East. Although democratic in that all citizens over the age of eighteen have the legal right to vote, the multi-party system leads to a government made up of a coalition of parties that are willing to work together. This frequently results in a disproportionate amount of control or power being given to smaller factions that represent a small minority of the public. A vote for a candidate or a party does not necessarily bring about the implementation of the will of the majority. Very often this is the sad reality of Israeli coalitions. In such a system, does my, or anyone’s insignificant vote matter at all?
I have to answer my own question with a resounding “yes,” since the other choice, a “no,” would be to give way to apathy or even hopelessness. Actually, the question is much larger than “does a single vote matter?” Underlying this question is the larger one of “is there any meaning in an individual life, or in individual choices?” A negative response to that question can easily lead to despair, depression, helplessness and a paralysis of the will.
Regarding elections, I cannot allow myself to focus on the smallness of one vote since in the larger picture, all elections are determined by the adding together of a multitude of single votes. If even one desists, outcomes are affected. In any election, regardless of the candidates’ positions, I would cast a vote, even if it were a blank page with no apparent choice. To dissent in this way is still a choice – in this case the choice to make a statement to intentionally disassociate from the current unpalatable choices.
In the bigger picture, every choice, no matter how small is significant. Choice always matters. To choose is to be human. Freedom of choice is an astonishing gift and one that’s meant to be enjoyed. It is a double edged sword that can either save or destroy. Always the words of Israel’s prophets called the people to choose – life or death, repentance or judgement. None of the choices offered in election times are perfect.