Selwyn Duke
If you're not reading this, please don't vote
By Selwyn Duke
November 5, 2012

"I'm guessing that as soon as I walk into the voting booth, I'll probably make up my mind then." So said undecided voter Kerry Ladka, appearing on Greta Van Susteren's program after the second presidential debate. He had just compared and contrasted the candidates, giving Mitt Romney the edge on the economy, Barack Obama the nod on "social issues," and saying that the choice was, at least then, a 50/50 proposition for him. So it's clear Mr. Ladka isn't exactly two whiskers from politics-wonk status. Yet there's something else that can be said about him. He also misunderstands his civic duty.

Imagine you went to a doctor and he said, "You know, you either need an appendectomy or a triple-bypass — I'm not sure. I'm guessing that as soon as I walk into the operating room, I'll probably make up my mind then."

Would you think this practitioner had any business wielding a scalpel?

Or might you recommend he refrain in deference to the Hippocratic principle, "First, do no harm"?

What's forgotten in a political zeal manifesting itself in get-out-the-vote drives and appeals to political engagement is that the same principle applies during elections. For it is not our civic duty to vote.

It is our civic duty to become informed so we're qualified to vote.

Of course, we all know about political operatives — such as those doing the Ohio Somali vote-steal — who encourage uninformed voting because, were it not for the ignorant, they'd have no constituency at all. They are enemies of America. But it's also true that there's a common belief that greater voter participation yields a healthier republic. We'll hear lamentations such as, "Isn't it terrible that, with all our rights and freedoms, last election's turnout was only 50 percent?" One of the most important rights, however, is the right not to make a stupid decision. And, frankly, the ideal turnout would be about five percent.

Why? Because low electoral participation indicates low voter interest, and this is when only the interested go to the polls. This yields better government because interest is a prerequisite for competence. After all, did you ever hear someone say, "Man, golf was so boring to me that I hit the links once every decade and won the Masters"? Has disinterest ever bred excellence in anything, from science to sports to music to marriage? Politics is no exception.

Nonetheless, we will still hear talk about getting people "engaged in the process." And this would be fine, except that's not what those aspiring to turn out the tuned out actually do. A process, writes, is "a systematic series of actions directed to some end," and, in the case of elections, the end is casting a wise vote. But what is ignored is the preceding series of actions, which amount to a period during which a person learns to care and then cares to learn. Then voting takes care of itself, becoming a reaction catalyzed by the individual's passion and knowledge.

So even good people will consistently confuse "one man, one vote" with "one man, one obligation to vote." In fact, nations such as Belgium, Argentina, and Australia have actually made voting compulsory, reflecting the notion that quantity begets quality. But would we apply this to anything else? Would air travel be improved if everyone got a chance at the helm of a 747? Would it comfort you if your neurosurgeon, prostrate before the god of democracy, gave every orderly and kitchen worker a chance to poke around inside your cranium (hey, with ObamaCare....)? Enough treatment like that and you might emerge from the operating room a left-leaning voter — maybe of the Chicago variety.

Returning to an earlier point, none of the above matters if your desired end is not health, but power. Then your "process" is different, beginning with propaganda and ending at the polls, a transformation of the visceral into votes. You then just want warm bodies (cold ones suffice, too). This is what breeds laws such as the one lowering the voting age in Argentina to 16, signed by the nation's leftist president with aging-soap-opera-star looks, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner; and the "Training Wheels for Citizenship" proposal in California, which would have extended voting rights to 14-year-olds (can you guess which party conjured up that little gem?). Children, felons, foreigners, the foolish; they're all good to go. Hey, give us your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning for free rides.

Speaking of masses, it's well known that lower turnouts favor Republicans while higher ones benefit Democrats. So what does it say about you liberals when you have to rally the idiot vote to win? And, no, I don't have to worry about offending anyone with that characterization; they are the idiot vote because there isn't a chance they could read this article.

The real minority vote is that portion of the electorate that actually knows what it's doing. As for the undecided as represented by the Van Susteren interviewee, if you're making "up your mind" upon entering the polling station, you're not making up your mind at all. You're making up your vote. If a person hasn't learned enough to make an intellectual decision during an interminable election cycle with 24/7 news coverage, the gray matter won't suddenly boot up in the voting booth. He'll simply be making an emotion-based decision and may as well just go, eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

So with an election coming up, remember to do your civic duty. If you're not reading this article, please don't vote.

© Selwyn Duke


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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