Sunday, March 8, 2015

Post Selma: How Are We Doing?

Selma was about a specific cause: The right to vote. Having worked so hard to gain that right, first for white male landowners, then for African-Americans, then for women, you'd think we'd do better than we do at actually exercising it. Countries in Europe manage to hit 80 percent voter turnout. Here, we manage 60 percent only in presidential years. Obama's candidacy led to a quick growth in African-American and youth voting, but turnout fell with enthusiasm by 2012.

We have all kinds of excuses for failing to vote, and there is no doubt that current rule changes, particularly in Southern states, make voting harder for the poor and the elderly. But just about 25 percent of those eligible to vote are not even registered to vote, taking them out of the statistics entirely. We can blame the system for that if we like—same-day registration should be an option in this mobile society, and we need to modernize the process. I still have people on my voting lists who died or moved years ago. But ultimately, it comes down to individual choice and thus individual responsibility. If you don't vote because you think America doesn't represent you, well, that's the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy, isn't it?


mlutwak said...

Or someone might to feel that the electoral choices offered to them are representative to possible range of reasonable points of view.

KAZ said...

Not quite sure what this means. Stop voting for incumbents, help find candidates in your neighborhoods, work to get money out of politics. Still all personal choices.

mlutwak said...

Late night typing.
s/b "Or someone might NOT feel that the electoral choices offered to them are representative OF THE possible range of reasonable points of view."

Many people do not have the time or resources to make those personal choices. I recommend Francis Fox Piven's Why Americans Don't Vote (Pantheon, 1988, ISBN 978-0-394-55396-2); please find it in your mail shortly.

KAZ said...

I don't think people had time or resources 50 years ago, either—or any better choices at the ballot box. But they managed to resist actively and nonviolently, with acts of witness and boycotts that often hurt them more than they hurt the oppressors. Shrugging off that sacrifice is sad and a little petty. I know Piven's theories about the demobilization of the electorate, and I get the problems, but at the end of the day, if you don't vote, someone who doesn't represent your interests will, and we'll end up with the idiots who now run the country.