instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's a vote?

Camassia suggests that:
Elections are a stylized and domesticated form of war; and even if you could take the violence out of them, they still draw their energy from that essential fact.
Which would make the act of voting a stylized and domesticated form of shooting into the ranks of your opponents. Whichever side has more bullets wins.

Amy Welborn endorses a comment left at And Sometimes Tea:
A vote is not your stamp of approval for any one person. It is not a marriage, or a contract, or a vow to a particular individual. It is a tool for a result.
Whichever group turns the most bolts in the same direction sets the course of the ship of state.

Zippy, meanwhile, goes old time:
Elections are a substantive civic ritual. Voting is a concrete act of participation in that ritual, with many implications.
Just sign in at the desk and take your pinch of incense into the next available voting booth.

Personally, I consider voting an act of speech (and I learn from Camassia's post that it was only in 1888 that secret ballots were instituted; prior to that voting was a visible act of speech). My vote for a candidate is my official, formal answer to the question, "Who do you want to serve in this office?"

Like many (all?) speech acts, voting can use rhetoric. My vote can be ironic, metaphorical, even insulting.
"Very good," I said coldly. "In that case, tinkerty tonk."
And I meant it to sting.
But the grammar of a vote is very limited, and whatever else I may intend it will be understood in an official, formal manner, as a tally mark next to a name. We might call that official, formal understanding the literal meaning of my vote, and as with Scripture (if the comparison isn't impious) other meanings must always come from, and after, the literal meaning.

In these terms, what the Church is just beginning to do is to work out how to answer the question, "Who do you want to serve in this office?," given the formal grammar of voting. That's not easy to do, for a lot of reasons, not least that everyone doesn't agree what kind of act a vote is to begin with.