Should Everyone Vote?

Answer—yes . . . and no. It depends. Given the way things are right now, the way things have always been, and the way things will always be, not everyone should vote. So I guess the answer really is “no.”

This is political heresy. You don’t hear many politicians saying this. It isn’t politically expedient because it challenges a pervasive myth. It could be political suicide to say that there are citizens who should not vote.

Who should not vote?

  1. People who don’t exist.
  2. People who have taken no initiative to get registered or to understand the issues.
  3. People who vote to protect their own self-interests only.

I know the first claim is controversial, but in order to save space, I won’t try to support it here.

The second claim is motivated by my belief that a vote should be cast in order to promote the common good. A failure to get registered and negligence in seeking to understand the issues are indicators that this responsibility is not taken seriously. And those who register because someone from a particular party urged them to and provided them with on-the-spot opportunities to register are vulnerable to manipulation. In fact, often they are manipulated. Deliberately compelling people, often the poor and uneducated, to register and vote, and to be sure their vote is cast for a certain named candidate, is manipulative; it betrays the condescending, patronizing attitude of those who take to the streets to get more people registered. The cynicism behind their alleged desire to help the poor and uneducated by getting them to vote for a particular candidate is lethal to democracy. It is a powerful indicator that party leaders are not interested in doing right by the poor and uneducated, that they are more interested in keeping their political machine running by exploiting those very people. If the policies of hard-left liberals succeeded and everyone was educated and living above the poverty level, these liberals would be out of business. To stay in business, they’re counting on there always being people who need their advocacy. Many of their policies will ensure that they remain in business.

I would add that, in general, people who do not understand the issues should not vote, even if they have taken pains to sort out what the issues are and what the candidates stand for.

What about the third claim? It implies that those who are low on the economic spectrum should not cast a vote for someone willing to levy taxes on the wealthy simply because it could mean that they will have more money to spend. It means that public educators should not vote for bills and propositions promising additional benefits to them and to public education just because they are educators and so stand to gain personally. These are but two examples. But the possibilities are legion.

Our elected representative have responsibilities to represent all of the people to the best of their ability. The electorate has responsibilities, too. We have a responsibility to act in support of the common good. We need not agree on what issues and candidates best serve the common good. But it should be our sincere pledge and intention to be informed to the fullest degree possible, to vote in deliberate support of the common good rather than pure self-interest, and to stay home on election day if we can’t meet these basic conditions.

What say you?

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

4 Responses to Should Everyone Vote?

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    David,

    You ask a good question. My point is that a person might know what specific candidates stand for, but fail to understand the concept of the common good and the viability of democracy under one set of policies in comparison with another set.

    Like

  2. donstuff says:

    Regarding:
    1. Chicago Politics – “Vote early and vote often.” The dead do vote.
    2. Someone in Chicago is voting in place of this group.
    3. See #1 and #2.

    Like

  3. Alex says:

    DG,

    If that’s a heresy, it’s one heresy I here say, on your say, not hearsay, that I am all for.

    That being said, I think the notion of the ‘common good’ fell outside the radar screen before generation X or Y were old enough to understand either word. I never heard this concept or term in high school, for example. And yet, this notion must be a feature of any good polity.

    I’m glad you didn’t attempt to defend claim 1, here, since it very well might be neither true nor false. I won’t explain that.

    Like

  4. David says:

    “…in general, people who do not understand the issues should not vote, even if they have taken pains to sort out what the issues are and what the candidates stand for.”

    What distinction do you make between sorting out the issues and understanding them? In other words, what metric would serve to distinguish between them?

    To me it appears similar to the stages of inspectional and analytic reading, where the issues have been navigated but not properly explored. I agree that in that case one should not cast his ballot.

    Like

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