We had a primary election last week and it seems that only 15% of our local population showed up to the poles to vote. That means 85% of the people who are eligible to vote decided to stay home, or to ignore the advertisements, or to simply thumb their nose at the process in protest. 85% chose to withdraw.
If that percentage held true throughout all of the US that means of the 300 million people we have only 45 million voted last week. For the season finale of American Idol there were over 65 million votes. Even America’s Got Talent and So you think you can Dance got more votes than did those in our primary. Now before you think this column is about complacency let me change tack here.
Alexis de Tocqueville told us in “Democracy in America” way back in the 1800’s that one of the dangers of democracy is “the tendency, when there is equality in conditions, is to withdraw.” In the Philosophical world when two philosophies to battle with each other and neither is a clear winner the tendency of the populace is to enter into a “so what?” kind of malaise. In the religious world Christianity thrives under persecution but when there is total freedom of religion the tendency is to become complacent and non-committal.
With five older brothers I learned to play baseball and basketball with kids who were years older than me. When it came to going to school and playing with kids my age it was a piece of cake, yet when I did my game suffered. I wasn’t challenged, I wasn’t growing, I was simply getting complacent and lazy.
As a compliment I think Americans are predominantly over-achievers. But we are over-achievers who have gotten everything too easily so we have become withdrawn, complacent, lazy and in some kind of foggy malaise. 9/11 shocked us out of this for about a year and then was gone. Katrina shocked us again for about 6 months and then was gone. Our politicians can’t win right now because they are simply trying to appeal to these over-achievers who are stuck in this fog.
It is time for a politician to take a stand, to have a backbone that is not bent by the latest wind but by some kind of conviction that is radical and earthshaking enough for us to push through the fog and vote. EVEN IF IT IS THE WRONG STAND TO TAKE! Did you hear me on that last one? Let me say it again: EVEN IF IT IS THE WRONG STAND TO TAKE! Because if you stand on something with backbone and strength it will cause me to take a stand against it with backbone enough to match yours; which would cause you to stand up again to defend and promote it; which would cause me to make my point clearer and more appealing, and so on, and so on. Cut the clichés, dump the doubletalk and speak clearly and concisely and STRONGLY for or against something. You will turn some people off, turn some people on but most of all you will help ALL out of our 85% chance of fogginess.