We Can’t Participate Any Less

We’re #1 at being last!

Peggy Fikac reports that Texas is 51st in voter participation rates. As my dad used to say, “If you are going to do a job, do it right.” And Texans are doing, or not doing as the case may be, it right.

Note that I’m no fan of required voting or most get out the vote campaigns. As I blogged around the election last November, people ignorant of candidates (or just ignorant in general) shouldn’t head to the polls. A vote cast in stupidity, as far as I’m concerned, is worse than not voting.

Our status as the worst voting state (or District since D.C. beat us also) is either a sign that we have a bunch of ignorant voters who agree with me or we have a populace increasingly apathetic about our democratic process in Texas.

Since I know how many people read my blog every day, I think we can all admit apathy reigns.

I’m not surprised in the least, by the way, that voter participation is low in our state. The truth is that I’m surprised voter participation is so high in other states.

After all, we know from Nate Silver that political partisanship is worse than ever. Silver writes, “In this environment, members of Congress have little need to build coalitions across voters with different sets of political preferences or values. Few members of Congress today are truly liberal on social issues but conservative on fiscal issues or vice versa.” Increasingly, Silver notes, redistricting and gerrymandering have created landslides in voting districts.

In other words, the system is rigged. Every vote counts, but we have created a system where we know how the votes will count before they are cast.

But redistricting isn’t the only reason people are avoiding the polls. Perhaps, we might argue, voters are increasingly disgusted with political attitudes.

John Cornyn wants to stop a bi-partisan immigration bill by requiring the border is 100% secure. Republican House members have voted to repeal Obama’s health care initiative 36 times, knowing full well the vote is meaningless. Rep. Darrell Issa has made it his mission to attack the IRS on a daily basis.

1. Immigration is a major issue for Americans. Most of us want a balanced approach that privileges the value of being American while recognizing the benefits of inclusion and diversity. Almost every American family is in some way shape or form only 2 or 3 generations separated from immigrant status. In other words, we know we became a great country because of immigrants and we simply want some consistent, enforceable law that welcomes hard workers without draining resources.

We are also smart enough to know you can’t secure the border 100% and Cornyn’s move is political grandstanding designed precisely to stop progress.

2. Note to Republicans–If the private sector was going to solve the health care issue, they would have done so already. American’s have watched their premiums and deductibles rise faster than everything but college tuition for the last 10 years. I think, even in our ignorance, we know that completely deregulating medical costs and insurance is a bit like putting the fox in the hen house and hoping he doesn’t eat all the chickens.

3. Beating up on the IRS is about like yelling at brussel sprouts for tasting bad. Americans don’t trust the IRS already. We fully expect they are corrupt because they keep taking our money every year using laws no one understands written by the very people attacking them today. I imagine the IRS feels a bit like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. “That ditch is Boss Kean’s ditch. And I told him that dirt in it’s your dirt. What’s your dirt doin’ in his ditch?” After he removes the dirt, you will remember, the guards ask why he took all the dirt from Boss Kean’s ditch.

“Why are you taking everyone’s money, Mr. IRS man” our congressmen ask? “Hey, IRS man, how come we don’t have any money?” Here, let me help you revise that law.

You say they investigated the Tea Party before granting them tax free status as a non-profit agency who is supposed to only engage in limited political activity? Isn’t the Tea Party the one where they dress up in really old clothes and hold political rallies?

But these issues are just from this week and they are a small sample of the circus taking place in our governmental institutions across the country. Feel free to add your own examples.

Increasingly, politicians are only held accountable for their behavior if they tweet naked pictures to interns or have an extra-marital affair.

And voters know it.

We also know that it has become increasingly difficult to understand fact from fiction. Certainly, there is the proverbial confirmation bias as we seek out only that information that confirms what we already believe. The irony of this great information age in which we live is that we are becoming increasingly isolated, intolerant, and ignorant of other points of view.

Obama’s health care initiative is going to cost more money if you are a Republican. Or it will save money if you are a Democrat.

The reality is that no one actually knows. Just like we don’t know, really, the full impact of immigration reform. Or tax reform. Or closing Guantanamo Bay. Or any number of other things.

But as we become less certain, our politicians act more dogmatic. Rep. Issa is convinced President Obama ordered the Cincinnati office to investigate the Tea Party group filing for tax free status and he will by God prove it. Regardless of the facts. Because he knows.

And we shake our heads.

And stay home on election day. And maybe that’s the vote more politicians should pay attention to.

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About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

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Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

FiveThirtyEight

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Scott Adams' Blog

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

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