Counterpoint: high voter turnout is not always good

Bob Weir writes, as he always does, movingly, about the debt we owe to the men and women who fight today, and who have fought for us in America's wars, throughout our two—plus centuries of political liberty. Our freedom has never been free, and the debt owed to the blood of our warriors is more than any of us can ever discharge. We have been given a gift of freedom and liberty that is precious beyond measure. I couldn't agree more with Bob on this point.

 

But Bob goes on to focus on one aspect our liberties, what he calls the freedom to vote. He makes the case that we should show our appreciation for the sacrifices our heroes have made, by being sure to vote. Don't get me wrong, I think voting is fine, especially if you've given some thought to it, learned about the candidates and issues, and generally been a good informed citizen. Bob recommends this, but he doesn't make it a prerequisite. That's where we differ.

 

If you haven't given a moment's thought to the issues, but you like one guy's hair, for goodness sake stay home in November. If you're going to vote for the guy whose TV commercials you like the best, ditto. It does no honor to our heroes' legacy to make an empty—headed choice based on the manipulations of the better image—makers. You will only introduce noise into the signal. You are static in the music of voting. Your vote counts as much as anyone else's, but you haven't paid very much for it, so it isn't worth very much to you. It is a second—rate vote with first—rate weight in the election

 

If we are talking about freedom, don't people also need the freedom to not vote? There are some places where voting is required. In Australia, it costs you money if you don't vote. In dictatorships, party officials or other goons make sure everyone votes, and Fidel or whoever gets almost all the votes every time. Often there is nobody else on the ballot.  In these countries you have the freedom to vote, but need more freedom to not vote.

 

I wish that everyone would be a good citizen, as Bob recommends. But the realist in me knows that, however noble or effective the exhortation, a good percentage of our fellow citizens don't care about politics, regard voting as too much trouble, or think it is for suckers, or that it's boring, or they are just too busy. Whatever the reasons, they aren't terribly inclined to vote. They won't bother to learn—up, but there's always a chance you can hector them into voting.

 

I prefer to leave them alone. If they don't care enough to do the homework, they should stay home from class.

 

I think voting is part of a larger concept of good citizenship. Voting and doing military duty are brother and sister in the good citizenship family. But voting without taking seriously the responsibility for choosing the government which will defend our liberties, for which so much blood has been shed, is a deformed offspring.

 

Besides, I think that in a lot of ways not voting is a 'yes' vote: 'I'm happy enough that I don't want to get up from the easy chair and go vote. Not really worth it, because things are not so bad as to get all bothered about. Maybe no enthusiasm, but also no serious dissatisfactions.  That's the meaning of people who don't bother to vote.

 

It is different in countries which are torn by strife and dissatisfaction. If they have the right to a meaningful vote, people in countries wracked by conflict vote at very high levels of turnout. Whether it is religious, class, ideological, or any other of the passions diving humans, extreme political divisions drive voter turnout, because people are so angry. We don't want that.

 

In a way, some peoples' satisfied assent to whoever wins the election is an off—handed tribute to the magnificence of the achievements of our forefathers. Americans are pretty happy with their government, even allowing for all the complaints, perceived threats, mistakes, waste, and all the other faults. We understand that our constitutional republic is the best form of government mankind has come up with yet. It was designed by the Founders to check—and—balance our system of government, so that serious damage from a bad choice is not as grave a matter as it would be in a situation of unchecked government. The fact that most people implicitly understand this is a very good thing, looked at from this perspective.

 

So, although it is nice when people interest themselves in politics (hint: as publisher of a political website, I really, really like it when people get so interested in politics that they actually read political websites), it isn't everyone's duty to vote.

 

If you don't pay attention, or don't really care, don't bother to vote.

Bob Weir writes, as he always does, movingly, about the debt we owe to the men and women who fight today, and who have fought for us in America's wars, throughout our two—plus centuries of political liberty. Our freedom has never been free, and the debt owed to the blood of our warriors is more than any of us can ever discharge. We have been given a gift of freedom and liberty that is precious beyond measure. I couldn't agree more with Bob on this point.

 

But Bob goes on to focus on one aspect our liberties, what he calls the freedom to vote. He makes the case that we should show our appreciation for the sacrifices our heroes have made, by being sure to vote. Don't get me wrong, I think voting is fine, especially if you've given some thought to it, learned about the candidates and issues, and generally been a good informed citizen. Bob recommends this, but he doesn't make it a prerequisite. That's where we differ.

 

If you haven't given a moment's thought to the issues, but you like one guy's hair, for goodness sake stay home in November. If you're going to vote for the guy whose TV commercials you like the best, ditto. It does no honor to our heroes' legacy to make an empty—headed choice based on the manipulations of the better image—makers. You will only introduce noise into the signal. You are static in the music of voting. Your vote counts as much as anyone else's, but you haven't paid very much for it, so it isn't worth very much to you. It is a second—rate vote with first—rate weight in the election

 

If we are talking about freedom, don't people also need the freedom to not vote? There are some places where voting is required. In Australia, it costs you money if you don't vote. In dictatorships, party officials or other goons make sure everyone votes, and Fidel or whoever gets almost all the votes every time. Often there is nobody else on the ballot.  In these countries you have the freedom to vote, but need more freedom to not vote.

 

I wish that everyone would be a good citizen, as Bob recommends. But the realist in me knows that, however noble or effective the exhortation, a good percentage of our fellow citizens don't care about politics, regard voting as too much trouble, or think it is for suckers, or that it's boring, or they are just too busy. Whatever the reasons, they aren't terribly inclined to vote. They won't bother to learn—up, but there's always a chance you can hector them into voting.

 

I prefer to leave them alone. If they don't care enough to do the homework, they should stay home from class.

 

I think voting is part of a larger concept of good citizenship. Voting and doing military duty are brother and sister in the good citizenship family. But voting without taking seriously the responsibility for choosing the government which will defend our liberties, for which so much blood has been shed, is a deformed offspring.

 

Besides, I think that in a lot of ways not voting is a 'yes' vote: 'I'm happy enough that I don't want to get up from the easy chair and go vote. Not really worth it, because things are not so bad as to get all bothered about. Maybe no enthusiasm, but also no serious dissatisfactions.  That's the meaning of people who don't bother to vote.

 

It is different in countries which are torn by strife and dissatisfaction. If they have the right to a meaningful vote, people in countries wracked by conflict vote at very high levels of turnout. Whether it is religious, class, ideological, or any other of the passions diving humans, extreme political divisions drive voter turnout, because people are so angry. We don't want that.

 

In a way, some peoples' satisfied assent to whoever wins the election is an off—handed tribute to the magnificence of the achievements of our forefathers. Americans are pretty happy with their government, even allowing for all the complaints, perceived threats, mistakes, waste, and all the other faults. We understand that our constitutional republic is the best form of government mankind has come up with yet. It was designed by the Founders to check—and—balance our system of government, so that serious damage from a bad choice is not as grave a matter as it would be in a situation of unchecked government. The fact that most people implicitly understand this is a very good thing, looked at from this perspective.

 

So, although it is nice when people interest themselves in politics (hint: as publisher of a political website, I really, really like it when people get so interested in politics that they actually read political websites), it isn't everyone's duty to vote.

 

If you don't pay attention, or don't really care, don't bother to vote.