Monday, November 3, 2008

Voting, or Not

I blogged yesterday about John Stossel asking whether there are not some people who simply should not vote. Here's a link to Stossel's ABC bit (thanks to Jon-Michael). See my post below for the link to Stossel's column.

To pick on a rock concert to question young people on their political knowledge, that strikes me as unfair. I notice Stossel didn't go to a nursing home and quiz old people. Why not? Maybe because they're the only ones still watching ABC.

Are some people simply so politically disconnected that we're better off not having them vote?

That raises the counter question -- would you have a test for who can vote, who cannot? The typical response is to spit and sputter and explain how that's not what he or she is proposing, not a test. Not a Jim Crow test. But it comes down to that, doesn't it? Hell, even Jon Stewart posed this one to Rick Shenkman, who wrote Just How Stupid Are We? The book details the political ignorance of the American electorate. I blogged about it some time ago. In that blog you'll find a video link to Shenkman's funny The Daily Show appearance. Watch it. Shenkman doesn't agree with a test either. But it is the natural consequence of asking this kind of question.

People who can't answer how many U.S. senators there are -- and we agree everyone should know this -- can still vote their economic self interest, or at least their perceived economic self interest. There is no constitutional requirement for basing your vote on specific criteria such as those approved by political scientists and journalism professors who blog too much. Sure, this leads to ideological inconsistencies and unexplainable voting patterns, but let's face it -- that's good fodder for political scientists who study this stuff, yet more academic articles to be read by tens of people worldwide.

In a perfect world we would have a deliberative democracy, and in a perfect world Georgia would not have lost to Florida. But the world ain't perfect, and neither is democracy. It's messy, and people who vote who don't know a hell of a lot, and they vote for what some may think are the wrong reasons. I suspect this has a lot to do with Stossel's problem. He'd be less concerned about the youth vote if it was going one way and not the other.

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