If you would like to be filled with despair for the prospects of democracy, spend a few minutes attempting to decipher the psephological musings of Lena Dunham, the distinctly unappealing actress commissioned by Planned Parenthood to share with her presumably illiterate following “5 Reasons Why I Vote (and You Should, Too).” That’s 21st-century U.S. politics in miniature: a half-assed listicle penned by a half-bright celebrity and published by a gang of abortion profiteers.
It is an excellent fit, if you think about it: Our national commitment to permanent, asinine, incontinent juvenility, which results in, among other things, a million or so abortions a year, is not entirely unrelated to the cultural debasement that is the only possible explanation for the career of Lena Dunham. A people mature enough to manage the relationship between procreative input and procreative output without recourse to the surgical dismemberment of living human organisms probably would not find much of interest in the work of Miss Dunham. But we are a nation of adult children so horrified by the prospect of actual children that we put one in five of them to death for such excellent reasons as the desire to fit nicely into a prom dress.
It’s not for nothing that, on the precipice of 30, Miss Dunham is famous for a television series called Girls rather than one called Women. She might have gone one better and called it Thumbsuckers. (The more appropriate title Diapers would terrify her demographic.)
Miss Dunham, reflecting celebrity culture at large, makes a fetish of voting, and it is easy to see why: Voting is the most shallow gesture of citizenship there is, the issuance of a demand — a statement that “this is how the world should be,” as Miss Dunham puts it — imposing nothing in the way of reciprocal responsibility. Power without responsibility — Stanley Baldwin would not have been surprised that Miss Dunham and likeminded celebrities think of voting in terms of their sex lives. Miss Dunham, in an earlier endorsement of Barack Obama, compared voting in the presidential election to losing one’s virginity — you want it to be someone special. Understood that way, voting is nothing other than a reiteration of the original infantile demand: “I Want!”
As a procedure for sorting out complex policy issues, voting is of distinctly limited value: If you wanted to know whether the compressive strength of a particular material were sufficient to support a bridge over Interstate 20, you would not go about solving that problem by bundling that question with 10,000 other equally precise and complex but largely unrelated questions, presenting the bundle of questions to the least-informed few million people you could identify, and then proceeding with whatever solution 50 percent +1 of them preferred. That would be a bad way to build a bridge — a homicidal way, in fact — and though it is a necessary instrument of accountability in a democratic republic, voting properly plays a very limited role. For instance, we have a Bill of Rights, which could with equal accuracy be called the List of Stuff You Idiots Can’t Be Trusted To Vote On. A majority of Americans don’t like free speech? Too bad, Harry Reid.
But for Miss Dunham et al., this isn’t a question of citizenship — it’s a therapeutic matter. Voting, she promises, will offer “a sense of accomplishment,” knowledge that one has done the right thing, even “joy.” But checking a box is the most trivial accomplishment imaginable; having done so is no guarantee that one has done the right thing, inasmuch as voters routinely make bad decisions for evil reasons; and one suspects that Miss Dunham means something different and less by “joy” than did, say, Beethoven or Walt Whitman. “I wore fishnets and a little black dress to vote,” she writes, “then walked around with a spring in my slinky step. It lasted for days. I can summon it when I’m blue. It’s more effective than exercise or ecstasy or cheesecake.” And that of course is the highest purpose of our ancient constitutional order: to provide adult children with pleasures exceeding those of cheesecake or empathogenic phenethylamines.
Miss Dunham’s “all about me!” attitude toward the process of voting inevitably extends to the content of what she votes for, which is, in her telling, mostly about her sex life. Hammering down hard on the Caps Lock key, she writes: “The crazy and depressing truth is that there are people running for office right now who could actually affect your life. PARTICULARLY your sex life. PARTICULARLY if you’re a woman. Yup.”
Those of us who have been working against various mandates imposed by the Affordable Care Act are as a matter of fact attempting to extricate ourselves from involvement in Lena Dunham’s sex life, the details of which we would gratefully leave to her own idiosyncratic management. It is the so-called Affordable Care Act that has involved us in subsidizing birth control, abortifacients, surgical abortions, and who knows what else, for the strong, powerful, self-actualized American woman who cannot figure out how to walk into Walgreens, lay down the price of a latte, and walk out with her own birth-control pills, no federal intervention necessary. The very conservative editors of this magazine are in fact trying to make it easier for them to do so with over-the-counter birth control. I suspect that Miss Dunham does not know very many conservatives, so allow me to pass along the message: We really, truly, sincerely do not wish to be involved in your sex life.
I would like to suggest, as gently as I can, that if you are voting as an act of self-gratification, if you do not understand the role that voting in fact plays in a constitutional republic, and if you need Lena Dunham to tell you why and how you should be voting — you should not vote. If you get your politics from actors and your news from television comedians — you should not vote. There’s no shame in it, your vote is statistically unlikely to affect the outcome of an election, and there are many much more meaningful ways to serve your country and your fellow man: Volunteer at a homeless shelter; join the Marine Corps; become a nun; start a business.
And maybe think about acting like men and women rather than boys and Girls.
— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent at National Review.