"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 23, 1800

Friday, November 9, 2012

K Is For.....Kinetics

Sir Isaac Newton taught us that bodies at rest tend to stay at rest and bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, at constant direction and speed, unless acted upon by an outside force. That dynamic, was on full display during this past election. The one thing we can say for sure this election was most surely NOT about is change. Not only was the incumbent president returned to office, but congress retained its make-up almost exactly. We have a Democrat in the White House, a Senate just barely in Democrat control and a House securely in the hands of Republicans, exactly as we did for the last two years. This was a continuation of the status quo, but was it a vote in favor or is something else happening?

The other stand out fact about this election is that it was pretty much the Great "Meh" Election of 2012. As ubiquitous as the Facebook posts and phone calls and media reporting was, that didn't translate into voter participation. The tallies aren't complete, but it's safe to say conservatively that we had 10 million fewer voters than four years ago. We are likely to find we had fewer voters than in 2004. That's not just a smaller percentage of people voting, that's raw voter numbers. The population has grown by 19 million in the last eight years and yet we had barely as many people vote, if as many at all. We had a huge jump in the percentage of the electorate that chose to sit the election out, but why?

One possibility is that people are happy and satisfied with the state of the nation and their own lives. But if they were all that happy, I'd think they would want to turn out to ensure the continuation of the status quo by voting in all the incumbents, and they didn't. Even those who won did so with fewer votes. Many people who voted for Obama in 2008 chose to not do so this year, for example, so I'm not thinking that's the reason.

Another possibility is laziness and apathy. A friend of mine was bemoaning the number of young people in her circle that didn't even register because "they just aren't into politics." I don't think that feeling is at all limited to 20-somethings. It's a sad thing, as I commiserated with my friend, but this is actually what I hope to be the reason for the lack of participation in this year's election. I hope laziness is the problem, that a lot of bodies at rest are simply not being acted upon by sufficient outside forces to start moving, because that makes the solution simple, if not easy. Those of us who do care, wherever we lie on the political spectrum, can get those balls rolling by exerting some force on them in the form of discussion and argument and example. Like I said, not easy, but simple. I have an idea that I think will work and it conveniently starts with the letter "L." Guess what the next blog post is.....

The third possibility I see is the scary one. I am hoping the lack of participation is not due to a conscious or unconscious rejection of the efficacy of representative government itself. If people are not happy and not lazy but don't believe they hold the power to effect change at the ballot box, they will seek other means eventually. I am trying to hold faith that we haven't gotten close to that point yet, and I'm going to do all I personally can to see we never do.

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