Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Please Don't Vote

I read recently that the fifth most frequently googled question about Jeb Bush during the GOP debate prior to the New Hampshire primary election was whether the Republican candidate was related to former president George Bush (Exactly which George Bush they were asking about wasn't made clear):
... according to Google, a lot of people watching the CNN Republican presidential debate were curious about Bush's background — specifically, whether Jeb Bush is related to George Bush. It is the fifth-most Googled question about him.
Reading this causes one to wonder how many people who'll be voting in November know that Hillary Clinton is former president Bill Clinton's wife.

Recalling the words of Thomas Jefferson that "any nation which expects to remain ignorant and free expects what never was and never will be," the fact that so many American voters had no idea as to the relationship between Jeb and George generated a feeling of despair for the future of our democracy.

Then came word from Gallup that their polling found that the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, whom one prominent legal scholar named "the most influential justice of the last quarter-century," was nonetheless unknown to nearly a third of Americans (32%) and generated no opinion from another 12% in 2015, Scalia's 29th year on the nation's top court.

In any case, between now and November we'll be hearing lots of people tell us that it's our duty as citizens of a free republic to vote, that the right to vote is a precious privilege that we're morally obligated to exercise, etc. This is not exactly true. It is not our duty as citizens, at least not our primary duty, to vote. It's our first duty as citizens to be informed about who our leaders are and what they are about. It may not be interesting or "sexy," indeed, politics may strike us as tedious, but we have a duty as citizens to be informed about it nonetheless.

We also have a second duty, in my opinion. If we have not taken the trouble to learn at least the basics of how our government works, who the major players are, what their character is like, and what their guiding principles have been throughout their careers then to vote would be irresponsible. It would only compound the failure to fulfill our first duty.

So here's my plea: If your vote is based on a candidate's looks, eloquence, charm, ethnicity, or gender - none of which have anything to do with whether the candidate will be a good president - if you're attracted to a candidate because he or she is good at insulting people and/or making grandiose but empty promises, and if you know nothing much else about the candidate, please find something else to do on election day. Please don't vote.