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The fetish of voting: electoral illusions in democratic fanfare

“The greatest trick ever performed by the devil was to convince the world that he does not exist”, said the poet Charles Baudellaire. Or at least they say it said . It’s hard to think that a phrase like that only crossed someone’s mind in the 19th century. But the originality of the phrase is not the point here. I only mentioned it to have the pleasure of paraphrasing it: “the greatest trick ever performed by the State was to convince the citizen that his vote matters”.

I remembered this the other day, when the podcaster polemic Monark “threatened” to vote for Jair Bolsonaro if the press didn’t let go of him. That, paradoxically, is someone who needs the press to get on his feet so as not to lose the profitable spotlight. What is striking about the influencer’s statement is the totally uncalibrated notion of self-importance. As if, at the end of the day, the vote of the enlightened Monark wasn’t worth the same thing as the vote of Zé do Caximbó, a resident of Cracolândia.

Xi, here comes the guy defending the vote null! I’m sure you thought that, didn’t you? Sorry to disappoint you. I do not advocate abstention or blank voting. And, in the current circumstances, I would only defend the null vote if it were still possible to write something on the paper ballot. Needless to say, I don’t support voting for this or that either. Although it’s no use disguising it: just yesterday I said that anyone who votes for one is acting Tiao Galinha. Just connect the dots.

It will be the case of putting an asterisk here in the middle to say with all the letters that the intention of this text is only to make you question (not deny or affirm; question) the much-vaunted “power of vote”? I mean, we grew up hearing that voting is our moment to shine at the Feast of Democracy (the expression makes me cringe). And there’s even a diner spending small fortunes to encourage bad burger shoppers to vote. But what if this is just a lie that, instigated by a pesky democratic spirit, we tell ourselves, in order to convince ourselves of our relevance in the composition and functioning of the State?

The fact is that, statistically, your vote and mine are absolutely irrelevant, insignificant, even despicable. Brian Caplan deals with this well in “O Mito do Votor Racional” – a book that I have already commented on here and that, if before it explained why we will still have many leaders like Bolsonaro, today it explains why so many people are willing to use the economy as a justification to vote in Lula. As he was saying before being interrupted by myself, however, the chance of a single vote being decisive in an election like that of president is infinitesimal. And the chance that this deciding vote will be mine or yours can be even smaller.

And, however, we give our vote or the vote of the fellow next door too much importance, the point of deeming him an ally or an enemy. Based on this illusion, we either love or hate people. I repeat: as if our votes (mine and yours) were decisive. If you (yes, you yourself are reading me now) don’t vote for Bolsonaro, Lula will come back. If you (yes, you yourself are hating me now) don’t vote for Lula, Bolsonaro is reelected. In numerical terms, however (and put it in!), just stop for a second to realize that this makes no sense. Still, we insist on using the individual vote to signal virtue in victory and point out scapegoats in defeat.

Go! He confesses that you hear the little noise of the electronic voting machine and automatically believe the spiel that was heard by a supernatural being embodied by the state bureaucracy. Assume that you leave the polling room with an arrogant smile on your face, certain that you have contributed not only to your candidate’s victory, but also to building a country closer to a very particular ideal. Recognize that you spend the four or eight years following an election full of overt pride or shame disguised by the vote you cast. I’m like that, too. Or was it – before reading Brian Caplan and, in the past elections, realizing the astonishing size of my smallness.

Just don’t ask me what the solution to this problem is. If there is a problem looking for a solution. I’ve heard that there are people proposing such a “weighted vote”, according to the voter’s level of education. Others preach government by an aristocracy elected by an aristocracy. Be that as it may, if there is a problem, it may not be with democracy – which will always be imperfect. If there really is a problem, maybe it’s in the way each of us see ourselves in this messy, noisy, expensive and dirty democratic party that we call elections.

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