It all begins in middle school. Your first election year. “I want you to become an active member of our society,” our enthusiastic 20-something English teacher will say passionately. “Go out there and learn about the candidates! Make your voices heard! You kids are the future!” Que the mock school presidential elections, the ‘researching’ on Wikipedia of the issues. Que the ‘research essays’ on how bad the media is. Then fast forward a bit, it’s high school and the same story gets told, “it’s your duty as a citizen of this country, get out there and vote!”
Then it’s college. Then it’s your work place. Give it a rest. To be frank, they were all full of it and can shut up now. For those people who actually have to be encouraged to vote, they shouldn’t. Here’s why.
These voters are uninformed and are more likely to reward candidates based on pointless factors such as their ad campaigns, good looks, or oratory. People who decide one of the most important political leaders on the planet shouldn’t be encouraged to make such a serious decision based on the idealistic and, frankly, foolish notion that everyone’s opinion is equally important. The less they vote the more power informed ideologues have over the political discussion and forcing those ideologues to interact with each other is beneficial to society as it moves the dialogue forward. You don’t get that with populist rhetoric.
The interaction between ideological groups is essential in the development of political discussion in society. The more people who participate in the discussion who are not informed ideologues (our populist common voters) the more that both sides of the story have to ‘water down’ their message to compensate for that elusive middle ground. Remove this middle ground and parties have to then actually debate and argue, or risk not capturing a majority. So, rather than give each other side-stepping platitudes in order to engage a lazy and dis-interested voter group, they actually have to convince an informed group that their message is better or more logical than the other group.
The fact is that most people pay little attention to the government on any scale beyond local. This is probably for the best. People’s energies are best served in their specialty (i.e. focusing on their productive labor) than contributing to the political discourse. This isn’t Europe, your vote isn’t proportional and you don’t get a seat after winning 5% of the total votes. You either win the electoral college or you lose. Our parties are lazy because they only have one competitor to deal contend with. We need every incentive to get them to toughen up and take a stand.
Here’s the Rub
Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should have the right to vote, should be freely able to do so. Let’s be clear, in no way should citizens be hindered in this endeavor of voting. However, I also think that we shouldn’t be pushing people to behave in the political sphere if they otherwise would not. I think this leads to rewarding politicians via election through selecting those who promise short-term gains over long term cost (putting it on the credit card, essentially). Having these people vote is just asking a majority whose money you get to steal this cycle and to whom you give that money to (republicans -> military, wealthy capitalists: democrats the elderly and supposedly the poor). But the fact is the majority of the tax dollar comes from the middle class. So essentially the choice they are making is, “who do you want to subsidize?” The middle class certainly don’t have the power to do it for themselves.
Populism is bad. Politicians need to make tough decisions and populism keeps politicians from getting to make them. Only an informed educated electorate will be willing to stomach short term cost. Only a hardened ideologue will accept a pay cut today for a brighter future tomorrow. Populist voters will not accept short term cost in any form, they want money from another group, today, at the expense of tomorrow.
For those who are skeptical, take a case via the ‘true’ electoral (college) split based on five groups. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Reluctant Voters, and Never Voters. Let’s see what the optimum strategy is for our Republican/democratic friends; then look at the alternative I propose
- Republican: 25
- Democrat: 20
- Independent: 15
- Reluctant Voters: 10
- Never Voters: 30
From a democratic perspective they are out of luck. Most of the electorate is republican, but there’s 25% up for grabs here. All democrats need to do here is do a “get out to vote” campaign targeting likely democrats, and to convince a small % of independents. Their focus is on convincing non-political types, or to accurately predict the ‘single issues’ that would sway independents.
The perspective from the republican side; sway independents and ensure that all prior republicans get out to vote again. A “get out to vote” campaign likely wouldn’t be that effective because most non-voters are poor, Hispanic (or a minority), and young. Historically those votes go to the democrats.
But, due to the percentages up for grabs here, the focus is on independents and ensuring prior republicans vote again. We focus on singular issues to convince independents to sway. Republicans don’t have much reason to target democrats (and vice versa) for the most part.
What happens to this picture when we remove our reluctant voters completely? The incentive changes dramatically for the minority party.
- Republican: 28
- Democrat: 22
- Independent: 17
- Never Voters: 33
Now the battle is much more intense. Independents are crucial, and attempting to sway the other party loyal voters becomes a more likely avenue for success. Targeting a single issue would no longer be as fruitful because you’d reach diminishing returns for air time and can only propose the same message so much. The conversation would need to evolve or change throughout the campaign, a static message would only be effective toward independent or reluctant voters, ideologues will not be swayed this way.
The real change would come from the party without the prior majority, the democrats. Each cycle they would have to pitch their case in a real way to convince republicans to switch. This may result in more negative advertising (extolling the evils of the other candidate), but I argue that, for more educated voters, negative ads are far less effective. Negative ads primarily target voters who skim the political scene rather than those who delve into it. Therefore, the result is more intelligent and targeted campaigns which are forced to delve into more detailed policy provisions.
The argument being pitched from these negative ads (to independents/reluctants) is, “How can you possibly sit back as the reincarnation of Satan gets so close to power???”
What removing those reluctant voters did was throw away an entire avenue of support for our minority party. Now they have to fight harder to get in power, they will have to claw their way back to the top rather than using cheap stunts to swing college kids to vote. This is great news.
Just stop voting. I don’t want you to even be considered as a potential voter. Just tune out entirely. If you are weak enough to let this post sway you to not vote then you aren’t strong enough to be a member of our political world. If you are so insecure that cool parties, celebrity faces, and a nice rock concert convince you to vote then you are exactly the type of person I don’t want politicians wasting money on.
I want people with the will to stand up and say, “I believe in a future for this country and I’ll fight for it no matter the short term cost.” There is too much “we’ll pay for it later,” and “well the other guy looks really bad,” and it’s all allowed for by cowards. The type of people who get swindled by a long lost Nigerian prince are the type of people who believe in small government; except when it hurts that massive military base employing their entire city which no longer serves any strategic purpose. They are the type of people who love to rave about the pervasiveness of the federal government in our every day life; but staunchly demand that it intertwine itself, legally, in the pointless cultural affair of marriage.
They are the idiots who, decry the incredible power of the executive branch in one cycle (Iraq), then wholeheartedly support its usage in another (Libya). They are the people who love to rant about their golden moral compass of how non-racist they are and then turn around and generate openly racist policies to pay for past sins. They are the people who are devout atheists and supposed ‘humanists’ who don’t believe in the ‘archaic Judeo-Christian morality ploy’ but then inundate us all with that timeless passion play of original sin; to be born white or rich is a terrible crime.
I want political parties to spend money on their strategies, their message, and their rebuttals to their opponent. If a little rain is, at any point, going to keep you from voting then please; don’t vote… ever. Thanks.