by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It used to be that the first Tuesday in November was Election Day, but now it is the last day of Election Month.
Election Month is bad, but it’s a symptom of a deeper problem that makes the underlying problem worse. As George Orwell said, “A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, but then fail all the more completely because he drinks.”
The deeper problem is that we simultaneously expect too much and too little of casting a ballot. See, for instance, actress Lena Dunham’s “5 Reasons Why I Vote (and You Should Too)” on Planned Parenthood’s website. Reason No. 1: “When you vote, you feel so, so good.” …
… Of all the reasons one should vote, using ballots as a balm to cure low self-esteem has to be the most pathetic. But it is reason No. 5 that gets to the heart of the problem. Dunham writes that “voting is kind of a gateway drug to ‘getting involved.’”
This is a widely held view and, as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no truth to it. But even if voting boosted civic participation, the very idea puts the cart before the horse. It is like saying you should buy a car because that way you might learn to drive, or saying take the test and then study for it later. Voting should come at the end of civic engagement, not at the beginning.