Get Out the Vote or Get the Vote Out?

President Obama made waves once again this week by stating, at a Cleveland town hall meeting, that it would probably be beneficial for America to adopt mandatory voting.  “It would be transformative if everybody voted,” the president opined as he listed the people who don’t typically turn out to vote (most of whom, if they did, would fall into the Democrats’ rank-and-file).  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that our president is valuing tactics in this suggestion more than political philosophy, which has spawned a rather strong rebuke from conservative pundits.  Liberals, sharing the president’s penchant for voting, have hesitated to announce support for mandatory voting, but nonetheless mention in light of President Obama’s remarks that we need to find ways to increase voting in our country.

I have been listening to and reading the response to President Obama’s remarks from a rather peculiar position.  I quite frankly don’t think there should be mandatory voting because…well, as a royalist, I don’t think the populace should be allowed to vote.  I made a deliberate choice not to vote in 2014 based on this position and I have no intention to vote ever again.  No doubt such a position puts me in the minority of basically every social grouping in which I will ever find myself (a fact that does not bother me since I won’t recognize the validity of any vote on the matter).  Nevertheless, even should I adhere to a republican or democratic system of governance, it would strike me that our nation’s preoccupation with voting is entirely misplaced.

Every election cycle we hear from politicians and celebrities about how important voting is for the survival of our liberty.  Propaganda with figures like Uncle Sam tell us that it is our duty to vote.  The USCCB even buys into this charade by stating that voting-eligible citizens in this country have an obligation to participate in public life through voting.  What all of these claims fail to comprehend is the fact that prohibitions on voting are far more important to the preservation of liberty and sustaining a healthy public square than the act of voting.  This is a universal truth, though it seems to be especially integral to the nature of our own nation’s government as enshrined in the Constitution.  The United States has, for example, a Bill of Rights that could just as accurately be called “The Top Ten Things You Idiots Can’t Be Trusted to Vote On.”

I am quite confident that my royalism, which is indebted as much to Aristotle’s treatment on a mixed government as it is to an understanding of Christendom, will not get much of a foothold in our era.  However, I hope that royalists such as myself can at least caution our confreres against the narcissistic obsession with voting.  Even in a republic or a democracy, voting occupies a limited role that must be shaped by the far more important first principles, rule of law, and code of conduct that permit voting to exist in a stable manner conducive to the common good.  When a civilization allows voting to be the ultimate virtue of civic life, it is a sign of deep moral and intellectual decline.

Only disaster awaits the people who treasure voting above all else.

One comment

  1. Spaniard says:

    I assume you read in the recent edition of Catholic Spirit, that Bishop Piche of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis is seeking “common ground” with Minnesota legislators on something called Restore the Vote: giving convicted felons who’ve done their time the right the vote again? Seems in line with your post about our obsession with voting, and probably doesn’t give you (or me) that warm fuzzy feeling that democracy is in good hands…

    Having said that, I have to also say that I’m inclined to think of voting as, if not an obligation, at least a means of influencing how our society operates. Obama wants a captive voting bloc for a political reason, as you point out. Since I’m opposed to him on nearly every issue, I’m drawn to the polls myself to pull the lever for the other fellow.

    As the saying goes every time someone is about to ram another social engineering scheme down our throats, “elections have consequences.”

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