I voted today. I took advantage of Ohio’s early voting availability, avoided long lines and a potential trial conflict on November 6th and cast my ballot this morning. I ask every Amercan voter reading this to follow my lead and vote.
It doesn’t matter to me whether you vote for the same candidates I did, as much as it matters that you show the politicians, talking heads and cynical predators on our political economy that you are paying attention and are willing to make the minimal effort required to actually vote. America is a democracy and, as is tritely oft-repeated, in a democracy we get the government we deserve. I’d say we’ve been pretty bad lately to deserve the government, and especially the political ecology we’ve got. It’s time we went about taking responsibility for re-making that climate, raising expectations for performance and candor, taking back the role of the electorate in whole, rather than the sliced and diced demographic mosaic that we have allowed the Political Class to divide us into.. The first step is to vote.
In 2008, a presidential election year, barely over 60% of American voters bothered to vote. That means that the election was a contest between groups of people who were highly motivated, but not necessarily people whose motivations were for the general welfare of the nation. Union members turned out to support pro-union candidates. Defense workers turned out to vote for politicians who promised to protect expensive defense contract, whether necessary for national security or not. Health insurance investors voted to protect commercial insurance markets. This kind of narrow, single-issue voting is actually rational only if we believe that the great majority of American voters, who may not have an important single-issue voting stake, will not bother turning out to vote. And as long as so many Americans just throw up our hands and opt-out of the democratic process, the narrow-issue voters will have the attention of the narrow-issue politicians, and the narrow-issue money spreaders will spread their narrow-issue money onto the all-too-happy-to-oblige Talktococrats on the ocean of money-sucking political media.
Low turnout is a cause of a whole syndrome of political ills. It leads to voter suppression. If everybody shares the foregone conclusion that they will vote, the idea of discouraging certain voters becomes a vain hope. It would be like trying to discourage people from breathing. Low turnout encourages financial perversion of the legislative process. If only a few people bother voting in something like a congressional race, the winner will certainly know who his/her financial supporters are, and will feel no compunction about serving their narrow financial and legislative interest. After all, who’s going to bother to object? If they didn’t make the effort to vote against him/her last time, what makes anybody think they’ll bother next time? And, as we all understand, the dearest thing in every incumbent’s heart is not sterling public service but re-election. Low turnout also discourages the advancement of ideas championed by minority parties. Libertarians, Greens, Constitutionalists all struggle every election cycle to get their candidates on the ballot, to get their candidates recognized for debates, and to get their issues discussed in the news. But if the disaffected voters who now cynically (I won’t say “lazily”) abstain from voting went to the polls, found candidates from smaller parties whose ideas attracted them, and VOTED, the political landscape in America would change.
It goes without saying that over centuries Americans have served, suffered and sometimes died so that we can hold and enjoy the freedom and responsibility of our democracy. We are the inheritors of their sacrifices. We are the beneficiaries of their service. We are, in turn, the living link to our childrens’ collective futures. When we ignore our responsibilities as citizens, we cheapen that heritage and jeopardize the political health of those who will follow us. We owe our predecessors; we owe our children, we owe each other; we owe ourselves the short time it takes to participate in our elections.