Tuesday, November 6, 2007



Traditionally, the presidential election season would be starting about now, with the first few candidates putting out feelers and testing the waters, trying to decide whether to set up shop in Iowa and New Hampshire. With the “new and improved” professional politics of the last few elections, and especially of the upcoming race, we have been at it for at least a year now. Political junkies exult; normal people with lives to lead grow tired. I digress.

With the expedited Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary upon us, and the very high probability that the nominations will be decided by early February, we will soon be hit with the incessant pleas to “Get out and vote!” We should do our “patriotic duty,” our bit for self-government, we are told. But I am telling people not to vote.

Most of the American electorate, or potential electorate, is pathetically ill-equipped to vote intelligently. Most Americans of voting age should not vote. People who spend hours anesthisizing their brains with network prime time television, even network news, which is little more than a treacly amalgam of puff pieces, should stay home on election day. Those who never pick up a newspaper, or never read beyond the sport or “living” sections, should not vote. Those who consider being informed keeping abreast of Brittany Spears’ latest child custody battles should not vote. Those who can’t be bothered to know the names of their U.S. senators, let alone their Congressperson, should not vote. Those who select their candidates based on the likeability of their spouses should not vote.

I liken self-government (not “democracy;” those who think we live in a democracy should not vote) to a household job, say cutting one’s lawn. One can hire someone to do it for him and leave it at that. Or one can elect to do it one’s self, to tune up the mower each year and go out at least weekly and keep the lawn looking good. The former is easy, the latter is hard. The same can be said of self-government. The Founding Fathers decided, and the electorate at the time agreed, that government should be a do-it-yourself proposition. Like any do-it-yourself proposition, self-government involved some work. What was that work? Keeping informed. Following the issues. Knowing something about history and civics. Knowing something about the structure of our government and society and the struggles involved in bringing it about. Self-government involves a lot more than the seemingly backbreaking task of spending fifteen minutes at the voting booth on election day casting one’s ballots for candidates based on the mellifluousness of their names. We could have someone else do it for us; throughout most of history, that is how it has been done, with decidedly mixed results. Our founding fathers, however, thought self-government would be better. Modern Americans have decided that self-government, sans the effort involved, would be the best.

If you are a regular reader of the Insightful Pontificator, you are by definition better informed than at least 90% of the electorate. Even your desire to read such blogs indicates the kind of curiosity that self-government demands. You should vote. But please don’t get caught up in these banausic efforts to get those whose idea of news is Paris Hilton’s efforts to adopt blonde babies in Nigeria or some such vacuous nonsense to vote. Tell those hebetudinous types in your circle of acquaintances to do their bit for the country they take for granted and stay home on election day. Their doing otherwise merely dilutes the votes of those of us who care.

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