Magazine article Insight on the News

Suffrage Is Now Stepchild of Apathy

Magazine article Insight on the News

Suffrage Is Now Stepchild of Apathy

Article excerpt

As tediously predictable as that dogs get fleas in the summertime is the fuss every four years about the Electoral College. That a U.S. president be chosen by indirect vote is deeply offensive to the rabidly egalitarian. Never mind that this constitutional mechanism has served the nation quite well for more than 200 years and is likely to spare us the need to wrestle with the matter of who was elected president of the United States by calling to Palm Beach representatives of the United Nations or the European Union.

True enough, three times in our history (twice if you reckon the 1824 dustup between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams occurred before evolution of political parties as we know them) the winner of the electoral count was not the candidate with the most popular votes. And the nation has endured.

But now the temperature of the anti-Electoral College partisans is well into the red zone. With the instantaneous reactions of a crack wing shot, senator-elect Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., urged a constitutional amendment to trash the traditional procedure. The past ain't prologue to your modern politicians -- it's only detritus to be swept away.

The favored replacements are election of a president by nationwide popular vote or a proportional distribution of electoral ballots. Popular election has emotional appeal, but it may be that the Founders were not idiots. Any polity can veer off on dangerous tangents, and Alexis de Tocqueville's warning of a "tyranny of the majority" should give pause. Proportional representation could be as bad or worse, legitimizing instead of two principal political parties five or six or a dozen -- and turning Congress into a greater Tower of Babel than it is.

Before razing the Electoral College, however, there is a nagging aspect of America's elections of recent decades in which so many eligible voters didn't think it worth the time or trouble to exercise their franchise. Figures from this election indicate that only 51 percent of voters turned out, compared to the equally dismal 49 percent in 1996. And half is about as well as this country seems to be able to do any longer. This wretchedly low voter quotient can be attributed to three primary factors: ignorance, indifference (a form of sloth) and far-fringe ideology.

Awful, the talking heads proclaim -- got to do something to increase turnout. The wonks, especially the liberals of the tribe, hoot and holler that the thing to do is make voting "easier." It's a notion for our easy-riding time.

Unfortunately, there's a decided trend in that direction. …

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