Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Thought of the Day: Would we be better off with lower voter turnout?
The conventional wisdom is that the public is increasingly cynical, detached, disengaged, uninformed, overentertained, and downright disrespectfully neglectful of its privilege to vote. All of which is true, as I've ranted before. But what is the alternative? The utopian vision is that the masses would embrace enlightenment, crave information about politicians and policies, and make wise choices with high standards that would force our leaders to be more principled, clear, intellectual, and substantive.

The more realistic vision is this: the public would benefit little from consuming more news (case made beautifully in this article), which, in TV's case, oversimplifies, cheesifies, and ignores issues in favor of images, and which, in newspapers' case, are mostly about political strategy and not public policy. So if driftwood apathetic moderates did glance over at the news more often and/or vote, it would mean an influx of people who are ill-informed to make good decisions, fueling the current problem of making politics a glamor-and-sound-bite contest. And we saw in 2000 the problem of candidates paying attention to the middle--a watered-down contest that was so stale it turned everybody off. If fewer people voted, only the die-hards would be left and candidates would feel free to be more ideological and worry more about coming up with useful ideas than selling platitudes as though at a shopping mall.

Besides, if more people voted, it would only make politicians feel more powerful, and their Macy-balloon-sized egos are big enough already, thank you.

This is all a little tongue-in-cheek, I hope you realize, prompted by reading this sentence in the Detroit News this morning about yesterday's Michigan primary: "Turnout was sluggish in some locations, despite -- or because of -- sunny and cool conditions through Metro Detroit." If the democratic future of our country depends on the weather, we are worse off than I feared.
What do you think?
Yesterday's Thought

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