Democracy Or Oligarchy?

Sample BallotYesterday after I voted, I tweeted that I prefer a democracy even though it’s not perfect. The thing is, I’m beginning to feel as if I’m not living in a democracy any more. There’s more than one reason, but the prevailing one at present is that so few people vote!

I know this is the low of my state, but in Los Angeles County, only 29.4% of registered voters managed to make it to the polls yesterday. Never mind that not all who are eligible have bothered to register.

Sure, part of living in a free country is that no one makes you do your duty. But these numbers mean we no longer have a majority of the people deciding important issues or choosing which candidates will serve in important offices.

Take our county assessor, for example. Just this year there was a scandal in the office and the chief assessor was charged with corruption. In the contest to replace him, there’s a 50.2% versus 49.8% split—about as close as you can get. But in reality, whichever candidate wins (I understand they’re still counting mail-ins) will do so with the approval of 14.6% of the registered voters.

That’s a mere handful of citizens essentially dictating to the rest of us who will move into an office that needs to be cleaned of its corruption. Did “we” get the right guy or did “we” vote in someone who will continue doing business as usual?

The point is, there is no “we” in our elections any more. Even for those who vote, making a decision is more apt to be choosing the party line, which means someone else is making the decisions and telling their followers how to vote. Some, to be sure, listen to political ads on TV and let the people who pour thousands of dollars into producing slick sound bites determine how they should vote. But is that any better than voting the party line?

Often times trusting in TV commercials means trusting in those with the most to gain if you vote their way, but who they are is something you have to dig to uncover.

I realize that part of why voter turn out is low stems from this very problem. People feel less empowered by voting than in the past. Who they choose likely won’t change things, and if there is someone who has good ideas, it’s hard to figure out who they are or what they believe in because of the attacks hurled at them from the other side.

But here’s what bothers me about voters: all this “work” seems too hard. We actually have to pay attention to what’s going on, to listen to who does or doesn’t endorse a candidate, to read up on what he says he wants to do if elected.

I have to say, people in fledgling democracies put us to shame. They know what it’s like to have zero voice in how their government is run. By our voting habits, you’d think that’s the kind of government we are trying to create here in the US.

Maybe we should revoke voting privileges that aren’t exercised. If a person doesn’t vote in a five year span, for example, they will be banned from voting for life. I mean, they’ve shown they don’t take their responsibility seriously, so why should they get to fire in and vote whenever it jolly well pleases them?

I’m not actually serious about that idea, but I have noticed, people care about things they may actually lose more than things they feel entitled to own, whether they use them or not. So I can’t help but wonder, if we were faced with the possibility of losing the right to vote, might we actually start exercising it?

Published in: on November 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm  Comments (1)  
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