Hey, Stupid: Please Don’t Vote

The San Jose City Lights production of “44 plays for 44 Presidents” is terrific for political hacks, history majors and local political wannabes. It is engaging, poignant and most people will learn something new of the Presidency. But—**spoiler alert**—the ending does encourage everyone to register and vote. In the spirit of democracy, I respectfully disagree.

While there is no doubt that everyone has a right to vote and no one should be denied that right to exercise their franchise, the choice of voting should be left to the individual. Some people, in fact, should never vote. They are the ignorant, the unreasonable, the woefully misinformed and the truly undecided voter. They should be encouraged to exercise their freedom and their right not to vote.

At this point, some Republican friends are going to expect a partisan attack on their belief system. But this is not about people who have a different, misguided philosophy; it is about stupid people, folks who are so unwilling to engage in their democracy that they can find no difference between the candidates or those who think the President is a Muslim or that Mitt Romney will cede power to the Mormon Church. This is about the person who votes for Romney because he “has better hair” or for President Obama because he “looks better with his shirt off.”

The reason these people shouldn’t vote is that in close elections, they actually make a difference. That’s right, our next President could be elected because he has “nice hair.” And not only at the national level, but at state and local levels the ignorant do far more damage.

The dirty secret is that California’s fiscal problems are due to voters—not the legislature. But nobody wants to blame themselves. Our education problems are due to voters, because we have 1,039 local school districts. Yet one district, LA Unified, has 1/3 of the students in the state.

Local control is a buzz word adopted by conservatives, but how many people know who their school board members are? Yet they voted for them. Throw in ill-conceived, albeit fondly worded state initiatives, bond measures, parcel taxes, new political entities, and the ever-popular no new tax laws, and you have created a system that is ungovernable. But, hey, you voted for it. It’s your fault.

So, this election, be reasonable. Vote if you understand the candidate or issue. If you don’t, leave it blank. You will be doing your country and local community a favor by simply not voting. Let the people who know something about the candidates and the issues vote.

Finally, if you have an informed opinion—regardless of philosophy—please vote. But stay home if you can’t decide whom to vote for President after two years of campaigning. As John Kennedy said, “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”

Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

13 Comments

  1. I’m astonished.

    I sort of agree with you, Rich.

    OMYGAWD!  I feel cheap and dirty.

    Actually, your essay is a critique of “democracy”, or more specifically, “representative democracy”.

    It seems to me, that “democracy” sort of works when all the stakeholders have skin in the game, attend the same “town hall” meeting, and hear all of the arguments on all of the issues from the same sources at the same time, and vote soberly with more or less full knowledge and full attention.

    “Representative democracy” is something completely different, and creates a special interest group—the “representation class”—whose interests are DIFFERENT from the body politic.

    And the difference in the interests between the “representives” and “the people” is at the root of much of the dysfunction of “democracies”.

    “Local control” undoubtedly has its problems, but it is not inherently worse than “central control”.

    “Local” misgovernment creates far less damage and harms far fewer people than “centralized” misgovernment.

    A snarky or unkind person (e.g., me) might characterize your essay as “elitist” for suggesting that some people are “better” voters than others, but I think that is an accurate assessment of your case for non-voting.

    I just wonder how far you are willing to go with your elitism. 

    Would you agree with restricting the privilege of voting to those with high school diplomas, or achieve a certain score on intelligence tests?

    How about limiting voting to only those who pay taxes, or have a self-generated income that exceeds a certain threshold?

    One of my favorite ideas is to deny the privilege of voting to anyone deemed to be a “ward of the state”, and simultaneously classify anyone who receives welfare benefits, food stamps, public assistance, etc. as a “ward of the state”.

    Are you willing to go that far, Rich?

  2. If I don’t know the candidate, or the issue, I leave it blank. It’s simply common sense not to vote for someone or something you know NOTHING about.

  3. Not elitist—as the right to vote should be denied to no one, ever.  The choice is an individual one.

    As for local government causing less problems, I differ.

    We can’t get a transit boulevard from San Jose to Palo Alto because individual jurisdictions can’t agree.  A minimum wage in San Jose is being opposed because it would allegedly give other cities an unfair advantage economically—a statewide raise would give Nevada and Oregon an unfair advantage—nationally, we would all be under the same rule.

    When my IPAD was stolen, I had to deal with different law enforcement jurisdictions and even though I could see it on a map—I couldn’t get them to go get the theives because they were outside the jurisdiction.  Really?  1,039 school districts—each with their own administration, many with less than 1,500 students are draining the system of resources.

    Moreover, those who want to govern least should consider working with fewer government bureaucracies is so much easier than hundreds.

    • > Not elitist—as the right to vote should be denied to no one, ever.  The choice is an individual one.

      Ever the sophist, Rich.

      The bad guys can effectively deny a person’s right to vote by cunningly arranging for an illegal or unethically manipulated counter-vote.  Dead people. Felons. Illegal aliens.

      “Progressives” do NOT believe in “individual choice”.  Their business is orchestrating and shaping a “collective choice”.

      “All those NOT supporting the union’s endorsement of Obama with union funds, signify by saying I resign from the union and quit my job.”

  4. Actually, Robert Heinlein, in his book ‘Starship Troopers’ addressed the issue of voting enfranchisement. In his fictional future, humanity is at war with a race of giant insect-like sentients bent on the conquest of the galaxy. In this future, the only people who can vote are those who have honorably completed military service. Heinlein justified this philosophy by asserting that those who have served in the military understand things like teamwork, sacrifice, service, honor, integrity and duty and probably better than those who have not put their lives on the line in defense of the Republic (or humanity, in the case of the book).

    Lou’s idea of denying the voting franchise to anyone who is a ‘ward of the state’ is interesting. Both Plato and Aristotle held that the problem with a democracy is that, inevitably, the masses (demos, Greek) would vote that they should receive a distribution of the accumulated wealth of a nation to the ultimate detriment of the nation as a whole.

    At the time, the concept of ‘democracy’ was new and untested. However, Alexis de Toqueville, 2000 years later, observed the same thing, with the benefit of empirical evidence. He stated, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

    This is the central difference between a Republic and a Democracy. In a true, functional, Republic such as how this nation was originally designed, this redistribution of wealth would be impermissible and unthinkable. That it has become both permissible and commonplace suggests that the USA has become more democracy than republic and it is interesting to note that this transition coincides with the presidencies of Democrats, particularly FDR.

    For all the snark, elitism, and partisan commentary, and despite the rare occasion in which I have found myself in agreement with Rich Robinson, I doubt very much that he is anywhere close to as intelligent or deeply thoughtful as Plato, Aristotle or Alexis de Toqueville. Furthermore, while Rich’s eyes are clearly and firmly fixed on the future, it is clear that he neither glances over his shoulder toward the past and the lessons of history nor glances across the pond to witness in real time the failure of the European-style democracy and the essential collapse of various democracies in the Old World. The reasons Greece is collapsing, the reasons France is on the verge of collapse, the reasons Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are all failing are precisely because of the out-of control entitlements which have led to moribund economies and growth below 1%. In other words, they are failing because of what those philosophers observed hundreds and thousands of years ago.

    I agree that this Republic would be healthier if more voters were better educated on the issues and possible outcomes and also had a more complete understanding of the philosophical foundation which underpins our nation. Unfortunately, all too many lack education on these issues and, just as dangerous, all too many vote primarily in their immediate self-interest as opposed to the long-term health of the nation as a whole. Perhaps as a partial remedy to this, voters should have to pass a modest test showing that they have, at least, read the text of the measures on which they vote and the position statements of the candidates for whom they vote in order to cast a ballot.

    • Actually the democracy cannot survive quote is attributed to Alexander Tytler,  not Toqueville.  That said, as we become more democratic and less of a republic you can see the trend of supporting more government while restricting tax policy. 

      The answer is neither unlimited taxation or drastic cuts to all government.  It is a balance and it is complicated.  Reduced to soundbites it is a dangerous ideological divide that has divided this nation more than at anytime other than the civil war.  Exploited by the demagogues of the far right, targeted to the especially susceptible people whose fear and ignorance tend to overwhelm their ability to discern fact from fiction and reason from mythology.

      The Stewart—O’Reilly debate explored this chasm and Stewart did a great job getting O’Reilly to a reasoned position.  (Of course, first he had to get him off of BS mountain.)

      So, in the final analysis, we can come together if people of good will, despite different ideologies, will simply acknowledge that each is a human being and that we share the same goals.  I’ve never met a Republican who didn’t want a good economy, a good education system or a decent environment.  Their priorities may be different, but their goals are same.

      Politics in its best form is simply the best way for people to achieve the same goals.

  5. It seems as though most of us here, though we may differ in our political opinions seem to be in agreement that it would be good if we could somehow “qualify” people to vote. The idea of making voters pass some sort of test. Or demonstrate that they are not a financial burden on society, etc. Though appealing to me, especially as a conservative, such ideas still go against the American grain and would probably all prove unconstitutional anyway.
    There is, however, one reform that could be instituted, or at least the reining in of a trend, which would have the effect of weeding out many of these undesirable voters without stepping on anyone’s civil rights. I’m talking about getting what’s lately become the “voting season” back to what used to be known as “election day”. You know, it used to be illegal for anyone to accompany a voter into the voting booth and there was a reason for this. In that sacred cloak of privacy a voter has an absolute assurance of privacy and the public is assured that that voter was in no way coerced or influenced to vote other than how he or she wants to vote , no matter what he’d told a pollster, a spouse, or a door to door campaign worker. Nowadays we’re encouraging, for some cockamamie reason, people to mail in their ballots. A whole different dynamic and a whole different set of possibilities are at play now that 2/3 of the “voting booths” in this country are now peoples’ living rooms, kitchen tables, and office desks. Most importantly though, this campaign to make voting more convenient has also had the effect of making sure we get the votes of those who otherwise wouldn’t have made the effort to set aside a few minutes on a particular day to cast their ballot. I don’t really want these people voting so why encourage them? Most, not all, but most of these people are the ones about whom Mr. Robinson is referring.

    • Let me be clear; I oppose any restrictions on voting or limiting the vote.  I support people making good choices for themselves—not regulating those choices or proscribing them.  On that conservatives should agree.

      I support more participation in elections to the extent the voters choose to educate themselves (democracy is a participatory sport) and to the degree they choose to exercise their franchise in a responsible manner.

      • Ok. I agree with you.
        So what do you think about discouraging further efforts to make voting even easier and more convenient than it already is?
        Don’t you think that requiring voters to show up in person at the designated polling place on election day might tend to weight the electorate toward the sort of voters who choose to “educate themselves” and “exercise their franchise in a responsible manner”? That’d be a good thing. Right?
        I’d think you’d be in favor of this. Or do you worry deep down that your “stupid” tend to vote Democrat?

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