With the November election more or less around the corner, we are coming up on one of those traditions that should be stuck away in a kitchen drawer where we all keep pieces of string and out-of-date supermarket coupons. I’m referring to those crusades staged every four years by talk show pundits and editorial writers to shame us all into voting.
They love to remind us of all the brave men who have bled and died so that we would be free to cast our ballots. What they inevitably overlook is that millions and millions of people who never had the slightest bit of actual freedom have been free to vote. Joseph Stalin regularly won elections with a plurality of 99.9%. So did Saddam Hussein. Dictators can always win elections, but sometimes they simply decide they’re not worth the bother. The real distinction between people who are free and those who aren’t is that free men have the option of not voting.
In the last election, 72% of the eligible voters over the age of 55 cast ballots, whereas 47% of those between the ages of 18-24 bothered going to the polls. I know that some of you are clucking your tongues and thinking dark thoughts about the 53% who decided they had better things to do on election day. Well, I, too, am clucking my tongue, but for an entirely different reason. I am dismayed that nearly half of the youngsters trooped out to the polls. Frankly, I hate the idea that some kid who may still be in high school canceled out my vote for no better reason than that he’s a fan of Sean Penn or went to a Dixie Chicks concert.