The right accuses the left of winning votes by inciting populist interest in government handouts.
The left accuses the right of winning votes by inciting populist interest in tax reductions.
Ever notice that? Both sides accuse the other side of appealing to citizens’ self-centred interests. That is: they accuse the other side of abetting the selfishness of the masses to further their own political ends. Therefore, regardless of which ‘side’ one is on, the ‘other side’ appears to be populist, greedy, and selfish.
But wait… isn’t your political ideology inherently self-serving? Your politics serve your convictions, your conscience, your ethics, your beliefs, your instincts, your rationality, and factors that you believe affect your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your community. Like you, everyone else votes exactly for whatever makes the most sense to them, given what they know, who they trust, what they have been told, and how they perceive their situation.
In other words, they are exactly like you.
So if you think someone else is voting ‘selfishly’, rest assured that they probably think exactly the same thing about you. (Greedy conservatives just want a tax cut. Greedy liberals just want the government to build them stuff. Greed, greed, greed! Whoever’s not on our side is only in politics for some twisted egomaniacal payoff! Damn them and their appeals to the self-interested mob: they’ll say anything to get elected and their sheep will surely follow them.)
Let’s try a different perspective.
If you vote, you have already disclosed your conviction that it is better to participate than not to participate in your democracy: you are exercised to vote precisely because you perceive that it is in your interest to vote. If you honestly thought voting did not matter to you or relate to what you valued, you would not do it. There would be absolutely no reason to do so. Therefore, to fixate on the ‘selfishness’ and ‘self-serving’ agenda of your opponents is, if nothing else, kind of hypocritical.
I vote because I believe in something. That is, I vote because I have some extremely self-serving beliefs — you know, ideas about things like fairness and justice. But just because someone casts their ballot for a different candidate does not automatically mean they believe that cheating and corruption are principled values! No, it probably means we have some fundamentally different perspectives on the nature of fairness and justice. To accuse one another of rampant selfishness — to describe one another as the epitome of dishonesty and corruption — leads to nothing productive. A much more interesting conversation would be, say, to discuss how we define and perceive fairness and justice… and why we are so passionately interested in them to begin with.
What’s my point? To flippantly brush aside the beliefs of people who vote ‘against’ me in an election — to reduce their act of civic participation into nothing more an act of populist, self-serving greed — accomplishes nothing more than turning up the volume in my own self-righteous echo chamber.
But the reverb feels so good.
“Oh, how validating it is to know that I stand for truth and integrity amidst a population so easily swayed by little morsels to tempt their pitiful self-interest…”