The Corner

Beavis & Butthead Democracy

It seems fitting, given my gripes of late about the amorality of democracy, that I should revisit one of my favorite subjects: the absurdity of efforts to increase voter turnout. The latest idea is to make voting into a lottery so that the crowd we normally see waiting on line at the convenience store during working ours will be encouraged to vote. From today’s column:

“…Since the civil-rights era, Americans have been indoctrinated with the message that voting is the essential yardstick of citizenship. Editorialists, civics teachers, and an assortment of deep-thinking movie stars residing in Periclean Hollywood have gone to great lengths to tell Americans that voter apathy is, in and of itself, a terrible evil and that, conversely, high voter turnout is a sign of civic health.

Indeed, for several years, voting-rights activists have been pushing to give prison inmates and younger teenagers the right to vote, presuming that giving rapists, killers, and Justin Timberlake fans a bigger say will improve our democratic process.

The push to make voting much easier has been considerably less controversial. Weekend voting, voting by mail and online voting are constantly greeted as vital reforms of our electoral system. And although some of these reforms are probably benign, all assume that even the slightest inconvenience in voting is an outrage because democratic health is purely a numbers game: More voters equals a healthier society. My own view is that voting should be more difficult because things of value usually require a little work. That goes for citizenship too.

Consider Internet voting. In the conventional view, the only legitimate criticism of online voting is its susceptibility to fraud. Almost no one questions its advisability if it worked — even though online voting assumes that we desperately need to hear from people who otherwise couldn’t be bothered to get off the couch. Voting fetishists often liken democracy to a national “conversation” or “dialogue.” So, tell me: What intelligent conversation is aided by the intrusion of Beavis and Butt-head?

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