F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
November 5, 2000
Ignorant Voters Should Stay Home

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

American citizens have the right to vote; they also have the duty to make an honest and informed choice.

If free markets are something you dread,
Our Constitution is over your head,
And American history
To you is a mystery,
On election day, please, stay in bed.

When we vote for President, we are "selecting someone for the highest office in our land -- and the most important office in the world," observes syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell. "This is someone who can take us into war, or blunder us into war, someone who can restore the rule of law or further corrupt our institutions until this is no longer America. Yet what are we talking about?" Sowell asks. "How Al Gore kissed Tipper, how George W. Bush kissed Oprah Winfrey, how Joseph I. Lieberman is Jewish and what Richard B. Cheney's retirement package was from his previous employer. Is this how little we think about the future of our country and the lives of our children?"

Sowell recoils at "repetitions of the mindless mantra that we need to 'get out the vote.'" He sees no advantage in having "more people who don't even care enough to become informed about the serious issues show up at the polls." Sowell complains that the undiscriminating effort to increase voter turnout is "putting form over substance. It is also putting enormous power in the hands of political demagogues who exploit the voters' ignorance to gain power for themselves. It used to be said that an informed citizenry was the foundation of democracy," he recalls "It is still true, but it just doesn't get said anymore. 'Participation' is now the magic word, even if it is participation in self-destruction."

Sowell offers this challenge to marginal voters: "If you can't be bothered to read a lot of dull stuff about Social Security or military defense or what is really going on in our public schools, then why should you be bothered to go down to the polls on election day and cast an ignorant vote? And don't kid yourself that watching TV -- even TV debates -- is going to inform you," he scolds. "Sound bites are usually very unsound. If you can't see beyond a media image or some catchy phrases and emotional attitudes," Sowell suggests, "then why should you take the future of the United States -- and the world -- into your hands in a voting booth? Stay home," he counsels. "At least you won't be doing any harm."

The political process in America has become a theater of the absurd. Victories are determined by -- and campaigns tailored to -- so-called swing voters, people who still haven't made up their minds with only days left in races that began months, if not years, earlier. Could it be that they have no minds to make up? If they have no grasp of the issues and no judgment in general, why are they voting? If they are morally and intellectually incompetent to cast a ballot, why do they enjoy the franchise? Elections are now decided by -- the undecided! Forget finance reform: we need franchise reform, and fast.

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