Among our many acquaintances are people who habitually do not vote. They’re lovely people, for the most part, but they’re blissfully ignorant of politics and prefer not to participate. We believe they’re entitled to this perfectly reasonable and probably mentally healthy practice, and we don’t worry that the democratic process suffers from their absence, so we were alarmed to hear President Barack Obama propose that voting should be mandatory.
It’s not an official proposal, at least not yet, but the president did ponder the possibility out loud during a “town hall style event” in Cleveland. He noted that others countries have made voting mandatory, and mused that “It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything.” Not only is the president floating a stupid idea, he’s offering stupid reasons.
Aside from idiocy of the argument that if other countries are jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge we ought to be doing it as well, and the cold chills that run down our spine whenever the president speaks of fundamental transformations, that talk about money is poor hooey. The president outspent his opponents in the past two presidential elections, his party routinely outspends the opposition in all but the most hopelessly gerrymandered races, and he can’t possibly believe that the Koch Brothers and other well-heeled arch-villains of the nefarious right are the reasons he’s putting up with Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress. Money more easily explains why the president is in a position to be making end-runs around Congress and its constitutional authority, as his well-financed campaigns were able to buy the attention of those uninformed voters who were easily swayed by slick television commercials touting his record as a tough-on-terrorism defense hawk and accusing his opponent of killing an employee’s wife and generally spouting the sort of transparent lies that the more politically attuned are likely to recognize as balderdash. Mandatory voting would drive those gullible sorts to the polls at less cost to the Democratic party, which more likely explains the president’s enthusiasm for the policy, but we can understand his reluctance to say so.
Once upon a time the people who stayed out of politics would have likely voted against the party that wanted to impose ever more politics on their lives, and back then the Democrats would have been appalled by the idea of mandatory voting, but these days the party offering the most goodies and the most celebrity endorsements would likely benefit if everybody were forced to vote. Republicans will naturally resist the idea, therefore, but not just for pragmatic reasons. A party of individual rights and limited government should resist mandatory voting on principle, and allow the lovelier people among the uniformed to continue their blissful ignorance of what’s going on and perhaps even be unaffected by it.
— Bud Norman