aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Qui tacet consentiret

I attended a cookout yesterday on a hill overlooking the fairgrounds. After the meal, we sat around and waited for the fireworks. Our hosts were Deanne's sister and brother-in-law. The crowd consisted of some of their family, plus many of their local friends.

This being Bloomington, the drift of casual conversation was generally leftward. That doesn't bother me. I don't have to argue every point of every controversy. I can be polite and platitudinous as required. But someone mentioned early on his belief that election day should be either on a Sunday (as they often hold it in Europe) or at least a mandatory day off for all workers. Only 47% of eligible voters actually voted in the last election, he said. He assumed that changing the way we hold the election would bring more people to the polls. He also assumed, I think, that those missing electors would, in the exercise of their civic duty, provide us with better government -- according to his notions of what "better government" would be.

Keep in mind that we hold the polls open for 12 hours. Very few persons absolutely can't get there, who want to. Keep in mind also that "absentee voting" has morphed into "early voting," and that in some localities, nearly half the ballots are cast before election day, at the convenience of the individual voters. Without going into quite all that, I said that the 53% of voters who didn't vote were rendering an opinion, even if one couldn't quite interpret it clearly. They were either saying that they liked the status quo, or that they were indifferent to it. And I said I imagined that if you gave everybody a day off on election day, you might see all those absent voters just go to the beach instead of head to the polls. My interlocutor said that they were unlikely to go to the beach in November, which is a point to him, but I stand by my thought.

Why do voters not vote? Nobody really knows. How do we encourage them to vote? Well, we can either so inspire them that they are excited to be voting, or we can stoke anger or fear so high that they feel they must defend themselves with their votes. Now, it's hard -- really hard -- to inspire people that way. Most politicians are pretty mediocre, and most government business is dull. It would be easier, I suppose, to make people angry or afraid (either by demagoguery or by truly awful performance of one's duties) -- but do we really want to try to make people more angry or more afraid?

Maybe 47%, anemic as it seems to many of us, is pretty good. And maybe, if everyone voted, some people would find that not nearly as many people shared their definition of better government. In any case, I remain skeptical that there are legions of good citizens out there just panting to cast a vote for my interlocutor's political preferences, if only they weren't prevented by our rigged system.

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