I was unable to come up with anything pithy to go along with the very depressing pie chart that I posted on Facebook a couple days ago, but the stark nature of the story it tells won’t leave me alone.
I don't know entirely who falls into the category of "ineligible to vote," but I imagine that it’s a group that defies generalization...people who recently turned 18 and haven't registered yet, the undocumented, the incarcerated, recently relocated, expatriates who retain citizenship but not voter status, etc. But what the pie chart, as well as a few comments I've heard in response, screams in vivid detail is that the scale of the current crisis within our Executive Branch (which is now less about an impotent POTUS and more about Administration and Party) is actually in direct proportion to that 4th largest slice of the pie. The real problem is the other 80.5 percent. Myself included.
There is no viable or meaningful competition, contest, race or election where fourth place wins...unless first thru third DNF (Do Not Finish) or DQ (disqualify). Yes, a lot of people voted for the Democratic nominee, but she was a political horse that many felt they couldn't bet on because of a controvertible track record, despite an historically unparalleled resume. Sadly, there is gender bias in there too, but I’m not going to speculate on how many voters cloaked that bias in wildly exaggerated scandals involving e-mail servers, Foundation donations and military tragedies. But the fact that more than a third (and depending on the nature of that block of “ineligibles,” maybe up to half) of the people who possessed the ability to make a difference, but chose not to, is a much more ominous indicator of the infirmity of our electorate than having to hand the blue ribbon to the slowest runner.
For many, the decision to not vote was a very difficult one (and for some, it is just difficult to vote, but that is a separate rant). To others abstinence was just the easy way out. Not everyone who didn’t vote is apathetic. Nevertheless, apathy and conscientious objection are only meaningfully different to the objector, and both produce the same result. And that result has led us to the perilous perch on which we stand today. Low voter turnout is a symptom, not the disease.
1975-76 was the last time a College major other than Business was the most common degree awarded to graduates. Education topped the list. I’m sure to some that sounds a bit quaint. Since then, Business has been the most awarded college degree in the land, and 2nd place in 2016 – “Health Professions and related programs” – isn’t close. Political Science, International Studies, Public Administration…barely a blip. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017)
The Tech Revolution is trying to make smart cool again, but the real-world application of smart hasn’t followed suit. Inexplicably, smart is seen by many as a burden, a responsibility, an exclusive club reserved for those who carry, or dare I say relish and embrace, the label of Nerd and/or Geek. Computers have changed the world, but changing and expanding minds is still the responsibility of the individual, and the most influential, effective teaching is still experienced on a personal level…parents, teachers, friends, books, colleagues, pets, neighbors, even strangers...
I’ve used way too many words, and way too much of your time to get to my point, which is: we need to make public service cool again. Wouldn’t it be great if Education leap-frogged Business as the most sought after degree, like it was 40 years ago…or perhaps Poli Sci, Int. Studies, History, Philosophy, or any of the myriad intellectual and academic (rather than pecuniary) pursuits? What if Civil Service became the new draft? And every high school grad gave two years of service to his/her country…or someone else’s country for that matter. How quickly would the United States become that shining light on the hill again if we made it a matter of course that each year a fresh regiment of bright, energetic young minds spanned out across this Nation and around the globe not in the name of democracy or deity, but in the name of Good? With the cost of a traditional 4-year college out of reach to so many, and more and more families weighing alternatives to post-secondary education, now is the time.
If we start now, how different would that pie chart look in another 40-30-20 years? Would we have more than one (at least one…?) strong candidate for elected positions across local, state and Federal government? Would we have a legitimate third party? (How would even a 46-44-10 Senate headcount change things today?) I feel pretty certain that at least half of unregistered voters would register, and at least half of registered voters who didn’t vote would vote. And that would make a World of Difference (caps intended).
"If you cannot examine your own thoughts, you have no choice but to think them, however silly they may be."—Richard Mitchell, Publisher of The Underground Grammarian