Midterm Elections: The Contemporary Social Contract?

If you’ve seen the countless commercials, endless news broadcasts, or been handed a flyer about voting in the diag, you should know that today, November 4th, is the day for midterm elections in America. As millions of people took to the poles today to vote for their senators and Governors, they chose people who best represented their personal views, and those who they believe will benefit and promote their interests. Once the majority elects these people, they will work to serve their constituents with the principles on which they were elected. The midterm elections are perfect examples, in my opinion, of the social contracts of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke that we have learned about over the past week.

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                                                                               To the Polls!

In America, we elect leaders to defend us against those who try to do us harm, protect us from invasion, and secure our personal liberties. As Hobbes put it, “if there be no power erected, or not great enough for our security; every man will, and may lawfully rely on his own strength and art, for caution against all other men.” Essentially, if we did not have a leader, none of us would be protected and we would live in something similar to a “survival of the fittest” society. So out we go on midterm election day to “confer all [our] power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men” in our case senators and the governor “and therein to submit [our] wills, every one to his will, and [our] judgments, to his judgment.”

Governor_Rick_Snyder

Will it be Big Rick?

The governor and senators that come to office will reflect the majority of the state in which they were elected. In Locke’s social contract, he states that “consenting with others to make one body politic under one government, puts [one] under an obligation, to every one of that society, to submit to the determination of the majority.” Essentially, when we elect these politicians, the majority will decide who is elected, thus directing and reflecting the will of the people. In the case of Michigan, the Governor elected will reflect the political affiliation of the majority of the state, so the one elected will most likely be a democrat, Mark Schauer, or a republican, Rick Snyder. Mark Schauer will work to promote democratic ideals such as marriage equality, greater access to education, and equal pay, and Rick Snyder will push for republican ideals such as budget cuts and lower taxes for businesses and the upper class. Whoever gains the majority will be able to direct the will and decisions made, and the minority will have to accept it or else its “impossible it should act or continue one body, one community, which the consent of every individual that united into it, agreed that it should.”

Mark_Schauer

Or Marky Mark?

So whether or not we are happy with the results of the midterm elections and the governor that is elected for our state, or the majority that ends up taking the senate, we will have to accept these results because we decided to put our faith and will in the hands of these people and it is only fair that they are elected by the majority, so as to better serve their state. The midterm elections are a reflection of these social contracts.

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5 comments

  1. dinaakhmetshina · November 5, 2014

    I think that this post does a good job of drawing a parallel between the Midterm Elections and the Social Contract Theories of Lock and Hobbes. However, this post ties them too closely, making the elections seem like a straightforward, perfect example of these theories. I disagree. The Midterms are more of a warped parody of the Social Contracts from the days of Locke and Hobbes, with crude mud-slinging and underhanded party feuds. Although the initial idea of representation and majority role in government is still in effect in the United States government, the representatives of today are very different from what the initial Social Contracts had in mind.

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  2. rconybeare · November 5, 2014

    I agree that Locke and Hobbes’s social contracts are shown through the midterm elections, but I also agree with the previous comment. Midterms are more complex than given credit for. They show what the people want, what the future may hold, and much more. And what about Rousseau? Could he have been tied into the midterm elections at all?

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  3. bkriegsm · November 6, 2014

    This post definitely does bring up interesting points about the midterm elections acting as social contracts. I think it would be interesting to look at elections in the context of making a contract with Hobbs’s fool. So often, elected politicians do not produce or fully act on the services or promises they advertise during their campaigns, which, in my opinion, could be a demonstration of modern day Fool’s dogma on contracts. Politicians often do break their promises made to the public because there is personal gain involved with minimal repercussion. Hobbes states that this is the reason why the fool would break a contract. I do recognize that there is generally a more complex framework to reasons why politicians may not fulfill promises, conceding to the comments above, however, there is a parallel to be drawn. If midterm elections demonstrate what people want, and elected officials do not fulfill these promises, they seem to be breaking a social contract made with those who elected them in to office.

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  4. ashdh · November 7, 2014

    I think that the midterm election process definitely highlights how the social contract in our society works. I disagree that our social contract draws any significant parallels to Hobbes’ social contract, though. In a Hobbesian society, there would be no election process at all, as a sovereign body would be making all of the political decisions. I think that Locke’s ideas on social contracts, as explained in the post, are definitely more applicable to our society, as our democracy functions mainly to protect the individual rights that Locke focuses on. There are differences though in how the process works, as politics today involves a lot more than simply voting for the politician that best represents one’s interests. This is a thought-provoking post that lets us think about the social contract that we are bound under as citizens of the U.S.

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  5. mollygrant41 · November 10, 2014

    This was a really interesting perspective. I am actively involved with politics and didn’t think of these parallels before. I like how you talk about how we elect people to protect us and keep us secure. Although I find national elections to be more for that purpose, the governor and Senators are responsible for this as well. It is really unfortunate that such a low percentage votes in the midterms. I think that by highlighting the points you made, perhaps more would be encouraged to vote. Imaging survival of the fittest is a very scary thought.

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