The Evil of Two Lessers

From the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution in the Vote: The Machinery of Democracy exhibit, found on Wikipedia Commons.

From the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution in the Vote: The Machinery of Democracy exhibit, found on Wikipedia Commons.

The US is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, which is probably why the people hate it so much. It calls upon the electorate to be responsible for the government and to hold our leaders accountable for their decisions. Most people don’t like to think that much. The problem is that our country is structured such that apathy on the part of the voting public simply doesn’t work and leads to a government far removed from the will of the governed — sort of the system we have now. The shrinking number of people who show up at the polls, particularly during midterm elections, which are arguably more important than presidential contests, does not bode well for the future of US democracy. There is hope, but only if the constituency can shake off its apathetic ways and start being engaged in how the country is run.

Evidence is strong that when a concerted effort is made on the parts of voters, major changes can occur. The way the radicals took over the Republican Party is by electing more and more extreme politicians. None of the current crop of Tea Party republicans would have been considered electable in the 1980s by even the most conservative of politicians then, but each election cycle the party inched more and more to the right, shutting out moderates and favoring radicals. A journalist recently proposed that liberals and progressives should reclaim the Democratic Party in the same way. In every election, run their own candidates, even if it means splitting the vote and losing the election to an extremist candidate, so that the next time around, the more progressive candidate gets elected. Over several election cycles, the face of the Democratic Party would change, just as quickly as the Tea Party took over the Republicans.

It’s obviously a tricky strategy and runs the risk of some really unqualified people getting elected in the meantime and causing considerable damage, but one wonders how that could be worse than the mess we find ourselves in at the moment. Maybe, if it works, it will convince the electorate that they can effect the course of politics in the US, and might just help restore a little confidence in the ability of our government to oversee the needs of the people. Distrust of our government is perhaps one of the worst legacies of the two-party tyranny which has had a stranglehold on democracy in this country practically since its inception.

The stakes could not be higher. If the majority of the US electorate continues to just sit out the elections, we run the risk of losing the very right to decide. It’s not like we’re being overtaxed with elections in this country. Our elected officials serve two, four, or six year terms, though staggered schedules for local and national elections and the endless campaigning by national politicians may make it seem there are more elections than there are. Most US citizens only pay attention to presidential campaigns, though local elections have a far greater impact on our lives. If we should ever lose the right to vote, it might take another revolution to get it back and that’s something no one wants.

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