We are living in surreal times.
The headline reads: “Obama floats making voting mandatory, calling it ‘potentially transformative'”
It’s not that I think mandatory voting is a serious or imminent possibility. I’m commenting on it just to illustrate how illiberal the progressive intellectual and political establishment running most of the show has become.
“If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country,” Obama said, calling it ‘potentially transformative.'” [reported at foxnews.com 3-19-15]
A reader of my column summed up my own attitude quite well when she wrote,
Yeah, if everybody voted you’d automatically include all the degenerate, lazy, indifferent, incompetent, stupid, uninformed, and mentally defective a***holes in the electorate. I.e., liberals who vote for handouts. If most non-voters were well-informed, alert, intelligent, mentally active, and independent-minded, I guarantee Obama would be screaming about restricting voting, not expanding it. His motives are the only transparent thing about this administration.
She’s not wrong.
Only two types of people would change their behaviors as a result of laws mandating voting. One would be the type my reader referred to above: The kind of people more likely to demand or otherwise depend upon government handouts. Even though both Democrats and Republicans uphold and expand government handouts, regulations and bailouts, the Democrats do so on a grander, more expensive and more self-righteous scale, so it would naturally benefit that party.
The other type would be principled opponents of both major political parties, the kind who recognize that neither party offers a choice worth the trip to the ballot box. Less consciously principled, although still in the same category, would be those disgusted with the prospect of choosing between Entitlement State Candidate A (e.g., Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, John McCain) and Entitlement State Candidate B (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or any other Democrat running), without really knowing why.
The primary offense in mandating voting would be the blatant initiation of coercion by the federal government against its own citizens. Not since drafting soldiers to die in Vietnam would there have been such an obvious offense against individual rights in the United States.
While drafting citizens into a war (a government-bungled war, no less) remains the most appalling violation of rights imaginable, the spectacle of drafting citizens to vote in elections with the quality of candidates usually available would be an almost unimaginable absurdity.
And what would enforcement of such a law actually look like? Would state and local police, already saddled with the unjust and impossible task of controlling people’s drug intake and trade, now have added to their plates the burden of hunting down criminal non-voters? Would a new federal police force have to be established and hired — kind of like seasonal census workers — in order to enforce voting mandates on Election Day? Would they drag you out of your house, or fine/jail you after the fact? And if the latter, would the computers recording whether a citizen voted also record which candidate the citizen voted for? And you wonder why I call it a soft dictatorship. It’s actually not all that soft.
The incredible thing is that Obama actually believes this law would be a good thing. We actually have an Orwellian “1984” style president in the White House, although it happens to be 2015. He’s constitutionally required to step down in early 2017, but how safe are we with a man in office who has nothing to lose between now and that time, by doing and saying whatever he wishes? What’s to really stop him from issuing an executive order to demand mandatory voting? Nothing, in principle, given all else he’s attempting by executive order. Only the practicality and feasibility stops him, at least for now.
Does anyone still doubt this man’s fascist tendencies and beliefs? When Obama claims such a law would be “transformative,” what he really means — on the most obvious level — is that Democrats would presumably enjoy a lock on the government forever after. Because such laws often have unintended consequences, this might or might not end up being the case.
The principle behind Obama’s statement is wider, deeper and much more disturbing. He’s implying that elections are not really about ideas, so much as obedience. Forcing people to vote would, in effect, end the requirement of candidates to actually earn the votes of the electorate, since their participation in the electoral process would now be guaranteed. It constitutes the nationalization and socialization of voting.
Any remote, dim credibility implied by such a proposal assumes that the candidates of — let’s say — the two major parties have diametrically opposite viewpoints on the philosophy of government. For instance, one party would be completely against the entitlement-regulatory state and in favor of unhampered capitalism; and the other party would favor some form or level of government-sponsored social insurance and even outright socialism.
In today’s context, both parties believe in the welfare state and only differ on the price tag (less relevant as it’s mostly financed by debt) and comparatively stylistic concerns such as attitudes about marriage and birth control.
In such a context where both political parties offer two versions of the same thing, coercing citizens to vote is tantamount to forcing citizens to endorse the gigantic government transfer-of-wealth state as we know it. No room would be left for sitting out an election in protest. Because increasingly, refusing to vote is the one of the only methods left for voters to convey their disapproval of both parties. So long as people are allowed not to vote, it’s possible that a majority (perhaps even a hefty majority) will stop showing up at the ballot box one election day. In such a case, neither a victorious President Obama nor a victorious President Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush, could be able to claim a genuine mandate — thus leaving credible incentive for the formation of a genuinely second party.
It’s true that coercing people to vote would not, in and of itself, rule out the possibility of additional political parties, not so long as freedom of speech were still permitted. But the incentive for one would likely diminish rather than grow. The “establishment” as we know it — an establishment dominated by people with Barack Obama’s expansive government views always in power, fighting over petty partisan details as they mostly do now — would become more entrenched than ever.
None of this is the most important reason for not coercing people to vote. The most important reason is that government has no more right to force its citizens to vote than it does to force its citizens to read certain books, attend certain religious, political or intellectual meetings, or do anything else against their will.
But the moment you advance this principle, of sovereignty over one’s own mind and life, is the moment the case for almost everything else the federal government presently does comes tumbling down.
Now that’s a transformation we could use.
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