Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Complacent Voters Undermine Democracy

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Complacent Voters Undermine Democracy

Article excerpt

There's a reason our politicians are among the most craven, ethically challenged and morally bankrupt in the world - they represent an electorate that literally doesn't give a damn about good governance.

What other explanation could there possibly be for the shabbiness and bad faith of modern American politics? Would citizens who took democracy seriously ever allow congressional gridlock in Washington to hold them hostage? If we cared even a smidgen, the everyday shenanigans that passes for politics would be considered an insult to our dignity as a sovereign people. It would fill us with rage so that every election day would find the polls swelling with voters eager for retribution.

What we have instead is indifference, complacency and a sheep- like reluctance to participate in one of the most impressive experiments in self-governance in human history. I wish I had a dollar for every time some seemingly intelligent person said that the dearth of "good candidates" makes it difficult to vote, as if the conscientiousness of an informed electorate wouldn't change that state of affairs fairly quickly.

This year, Republicans are expected to consolidate their control over the U.S. House and possibly capture the Democrat-controlled Senate. This isn't because Americans are yearning for Republican control of both houses of Congress. It will be because those who tend to vote Democratic don't turn out for mid-term elections. It is more a matter of laziness than any sort of conviction that these elections don't matter.

Meanwhile, those whose interests are diametrically opposed to those who stay home will turn out in sufficient numbers to elect officials who will execute their will, more or less.

That's why a tiny minority of voters enjoy a disproportionate say in who represents their fellow citizens in state capitals and in Washington. That's why a blue state such as Pennsylvania currently has a Republican governor and Republican control of the Legislature. If Democrats hadn't stayed home in 2010, the GOP wouldn't have been able to gerrymander voting districts in its favor for a decade.

Say what one will about Tea Party voters, at least they're invested enough in the democratic process to show up in greater than average numbers at election time. …

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