Monday, November 5, 2012

Don't Blame Me

Democracy is a dispiriting spectacle. Elections ought to showcase a democratic society at its best, with an interested and informed citizenry flocking to the polls to reward the candidate who has run the most honest and informative campaign with the opportunity to govern in accordance with firm principle and sage counsel. Instead, with record levels of cash fueling record levels of partisan hysteria, this election is making the Bud Lite ad campaign look like the Oxford Debating Society. Election Eve 2012 finds a weary electorate, as numb as a stalker victim after two years of relentless courtship, thinking, “Whatever happens, at least tomorrow night it will be over.”

Let’s hope. The very real possibility that a narrow margin in the popular vote could lead to another 2000-style smoke-filled-room slugfest is too depressing to contemplate. Only the lawyers win in that scenario. But then they always win. Keep your fingers crossed.

I don’t know that I have anything more intelligent to say than any of the other thousands of commentators who are delivering authoritative views on this election. We’re all commentated out at this point. I’m not going to try to tell you who to vote for. Instead I’m going to give you my two cents’ worth on your duties as a citizen.

I’m a bit of a contrarian on this point, so steel yourself. Here’s my Rule Number One for voters in a democracy: If you’re not sure who to vote for, don’t vote. That’s right. If you can’t make up your mind, stay home. Let those of us who have put some effort into figuring out who’s less likely to screw things up determine the outcome. The more uninformed voters who skip the election, the more the informed votes count. Thank you for sitting this one out.

If you don’t think your vote makes any difference anyway, so why bother, I encourage you not to bother. If voting is too much trouble, please forget it. I’m not going to get in your face about it. I’m not even going to feel superior for voting, believe me. You’re probably right in saying that my little vote doesn’t make any difference. But my one little vote is all I’ve got, and the fewer people who vote, the more my one little vote counts. It’s the aggregate of votes that makes the difference, and I’d like to think it’s an aggregate of as many quality voters as possible, meaning voters who are paying attention.

It’s a mistake to say that voting is a patriotic duty. Informed and intelligent voting may be a patriotic duty, but not many people are up to that. I really wish the others would stay home.

I’ll get roasted for saying this, of course. I’ll be accused of having a partisan agenda because high turnout tends to favor one party over the other. There’s a fight raging now about attempts to depress voter turnout; that’s another matter and I’m against it. If you want to vote, you should get the chance. I’m not talking to you. But if you just weren't paying any attention until that nice college kid collared you on the way into the bar and signed you up to vote, I encourage you not to work too hard to find the polling place tomorrow. Go to the bar instead. I mean it. Unless you have strong feelings, or at least a reasonably educated guess, about who is more likely to govern wisely, don’t vote tomorrow. I’m the last guy who’s going to give you any grief about it.

And whatever happens, you will be able to say, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for the guy.” Those of us who did will have to take the rap.

Sam Reaves

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