Our becoming a nation of idiots — a word derived from ancient Greek, meaning those who ignore public matters — didn’t happen overnight. Erosion in public belief in the essential role of voting in self-government has been slow but steady.
From a high of 63 percent turnout in 1960 — a presidential election year — to a low of 36 percent in 1998, the segment of Americans who vote in national elections has steadily decreased. In the nine federal elections held since 1990, turnout rate in the United States exceeded 50 percent only three times. Over this period, voter turnout in America averaged 42 percent.
In comparison with nearly every other industrialized democracy, that record is embarrassing. Since 1990, voter turnout in England has averaged 67 percent; 73 percent in Germany; 59 percent in Canada; 60 percent in France; and 89 percent in Italy.
A little secret in politics is that politicians like it this way. The smaller the voting universe, the easier it is for those who are part of the system to manipulate it. Indeed, according to a study published by the Alliance for Better Campaigns, the purpose of negative television ads is not only to run down an opponent, but also to suppress voter turnout by souring people on the entire sordid process.
By weakening democratic processes, we weaken democracy’s singular idea that sovereignty rests in the people and not in those who serve them. Fewer civic groups, lower attendance at town hall meetings, and shrinking union membership all reflect private citizens’ reduced involvement in public matters.
But giving up these practices doesn’t do anywhere near as much harm as abandoning the right to vote. For just as slavery condemned both the slave and the master, not voting damages both citizen and politician.
Politicians who gain office with the support of small percentages of voters have less legitimacy and effectiveness. Deep in their politico souls, elected officials think that when they’re answerable only to a small number of citizens, why worry about the oafs who don’t even bother to vote.
Nonvoting citizens feel even more remote from an already aloof government, rendering politicians ever more unaccountable. Not voting cedes the ability to shape community policy to those who do, creating two classes of Americans. And perhaps most important, low turnout helps morph American’s healthy skepticism about government into a corrosive cynicism that drains public matters of relevance and purpose.
The above are a few paragraphs from the Sunday 10/28/2007 Buffalo News Opinion section placed by Kevin P. Gaughan who sends a very important message on this matter. When are citizens going to realize the power at their fingertips is going away because of their apathy. He has a few ideas on how to increase voter turnout as our old way is outdated and public participation has to be revived. Read the article and forward the message to your friends. Who knows,maybe there is hope on the horizon in the way we get good or bad leaders.
Gaughan article link: http://www.buffalonews.com/149/story/194223.html