Americans are among the worst voters in the democratic world. The vast majority are either apathetic and do not vote, or they vote based upon one issue.
Both of these phenomena are problematic, and frankly shocking, especially when you compare Americans to voters in other democratic countries.
There are about 325 million people in the US, 235 million of which are eligible to vote. In 2012 54.9% voted. During midterm elections the voting rate is even lower at about 40%. The US ranks 26th in voter turnout among countries that have democratic elections. The first five are Belgium (87%), Sweden (82%), Denmark (80%), Australia (78%) and South Korea (77%). Also, Germany has 69%; France has 63%; and the UK has 63%.
Apathy arises for several different reasons, all of which are unacceptable. Beginning in elementary school, children are taught that voting is a privilege and a civic duty. So, why do so many voters shun their responsibility, which incidentally should take away their right to complain about government?
The most common excuse for not voting is “I’m only one of so many people, so it doesn’t matter if I vote.” This perspective is illogical as every citizen has one vote, so each is equally important. It’s true that in some states, like California and New York, Democrats campaigning for national offices, including the presidency, senate seats and congressional spots, will likely win in this day and age.
Yet, for the House in particular, votes are greatly influenced by local issues where Republicans have a strong following. Even a few victories in these places could have a significant impact on the majority in the House. Even though Democrats hold most of the positions in California and New York, Republicans have had (and currently hold) gubernatorial seats, mayoral offices and scattered House seats. Further, if Republicans do not contest these positions, Democrats will reign in them in perpetuity.
But the real rub is that in America, a country with very high educational standards and extremely comprehensive political reporting, most people vote for candidates because of one issue. The implications of this are significant.
For instance, a person who is passionate about more gun control, accessible abortions, greater woman’s rights and influential unions would likely vote for Democrats. Conversely anyone who is fervent about gun ownership and the right to life would likely vote for Republicans.
This suggests that most elections are greatly affected by social issues, and not on a broad-based assessment of the candidates intellect, government experience, foreign policy background, military service, integrity, etc.
What is the result of this? It means that a candidate who is a National Rifle Association member will not receive many votes from liberals even if he or she is socially liberal on other issues and is highly qualified. This could be one reason why our nation and elected officials are so partisan and unable to compromise for the benefit of good government.
A final point relates to the insular education of our young people. It comes as no surprise that children of liberal parents usually are liberal. The same holds true for the other persuasion. A child that constantly hears from his or her father that gun ownership is the most important right of an American will probably be a loyal Republican.
Hampering efforts to give our children broad exposure to political issues is the vast majority of educational institutions and teachers that tilt towards the left. Some of the reasons why teachers are liberal as indicated by “The Educator’s Room”**** are that: they pursue happiness, not money- they are more tolerant than conservatives- they are frustrated about the number of prison inmates in the country- they are unionized- they want to sustain democracy- they are concerned that conservatives want to dismantle the public school system. [Note: the author does not subscribe to this assessment.]
Teachers have a great impact on their students’ political beliefs, if not quite to the extent of their parents. Sometimes, in their zeal to impose liberal ideals, teachers knowingly refuse to expose their students to both sides of important issues. This is tantamount to an attack on free speech. Berkeley most notably exhibited this last year. The students and faculty rioted and destroyed property to prevent a conservative speaker from expressing personal opinions in a speech.
The chasm that has grown between political opponents has never been greater. And it’s spread to Washington where government has been in a constant state of atrophy in recent years.
Disagreement with other’s political perspectives is healthy so long as both sides have an opportunity to express their views without fear of violence. Free speech is not one side being given a platform while the other side has no chance to respond.
The political process is the method by which we elect leaders. All Americans should be part of the process. At this point in time our participation has been unsatisfactory. Yet more people who do not vote have the audacity to complain about government.
It’s time for all Americans to consider more than their most immediate needs when they pick a candidate. There is ample opportunity to do so with so much media attention being directed at politics. Of course you must recognize that this information is sometimes tainted and “fake.”