If there's one thing I'm terrible at, it's golf. If there's one thing I'm terrible at that is relevant to my life in the slightest, it's giving inspirational Hooray for Democracy speeches. Being a negative bastard in general and holding deeply cynical views (to put it mildly) about the political process makes it nearly impossible for me to give a convincing "Come on, let's all get out there and vote! It'll really change things!" speech. To do so now because it is Election Day would be inauthentic and frankly insulting to your intelligence as readers.
We all know that as individuals our vote is mathematically insignificant, especially in the context of the statewide races (including the Electoral College) that get the most attention. You have better odds of drowning in your bathtub than of casting the decisive vote in an American election (seriously – you have a 1:670,000 chance of meeting your end that way). Most people derive next to no benefits from the act of voting, and it's terribly easy to avoid doing it in our society.
So why bother? Here's what I can tell you.
First, it might not be much but it's what we have. In a country of 310 million people, the amount of political change that an individual can affect on his or her own is bound to be extremely small. Unless you happen to have a billion dollars lying around to start your own SuperPAC or you're willing to devote your entire life to working tirelessly as a volunteer for some party or campaign, voting is your only direct link to the system. That so many Americans feel that the process of voting is being manipulated is especially troubling in this light. If we don't have that, then we don't have anything.
Second, there is something you can do with your ballot that will make your life and/or the world around you incrementally better. We focus on the biggest races where our votes matter least, but the ballot is long. You can vote to keep some Bible-thumping moron off the local school board so hundreds of kids aren't taught that cavemen rode dinosaurs. You can vote for a local bond issue or proposition that funds basic social services. You can vote to retain an honest judge. You can vote for someone with half a brain to sit on your city or town council. In all of these cases, the math working against your one vote is not nearly as daunting.
It may not be anything exciting. You aren't going to pick the next president on your own. Nonetheless, there's something out there worth voting for and there's only one thing you can do about it.