In our sports-bar culture, the way too many people show their loyalty to country is to shout "USA! USA!" and proclaim that this is the best nation on the planet—like rabid fans rooting for a football team. But when it comes to proving that loyalty by actually voting in elections and having a say in our future, far too many people just don't bother.
A new report from the Center for American Progress lays out the grim details: In 2016, the presidential election that gave us Donald Trump as president, almost 92 million Americans who were eligible to vote simply did not. In the midterm election year of 2014, the number of eligible voters who chose not to exercise that right was 143 million. That was the lowest voter participation in 72 years.
But the report, by Danielle Root and Liz Kennedy, does more than record the grim story of people choosing not to vote. It lays out practical ways to increase the number of people who care enough to cast a ballot. Its title is Increasing Voter Participation in America: Policies to Drive Participation and Make Voting More Convenient.
A lot of the voter apathy comes from general disenchantment with our political system and the feeling that it doesn't much matter who gets elected, because all politicians are venal and dishonest anyway. But the election of 2000 proved that theory wrong. George W. Bush managed to eke out a 537-vote victory in the state of Florida, with a helping hand from the Supreme Court of the United States and state election authorities, who had purged thousands of voters from the rolls.
That narrow "win" in Florida gave Bush the presidency. He used its power to invade Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. That invasion led to the deaths of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Had Al Gore won the presidency, there is little doubt that he would not have invaded Iraq, and all those deaths could have been avoided.
In addition to voter apathy, the report points out, there are plenty of structural reasons why voting is much harder than it should be. Other nations do a much better job of getting their citizens to vote than America does. On that measure, our nation is far from number one, despite all the sports-bar-like chants of "USA! USA!" The report goes beyond simply presenting a group of suggested structural changes to increase voting. It uses deep research to estimate how much of a voting increase these reforms could bring about. This is a smart, necessary piece of work. Let's hope that state legislatures pay attention and do what they can to make sure that more Americans actually vote.
First in my class in Officer Candidate School. Late to the conclusion that our attitude toward the military is idolatrous.