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In Praise of Low Voter Turnout

Election season is again over: election precincts are closed and change, as they say, has come to America. The past election is an example of how American people see and involve themselves in politics. However, not all American involved themselves not only in the past elections but also during the past few decades. The low voter turnout was seen by many as a political downfall but some think that it tells something good about the current political condition here in United States.

Charles Krauthammer in his In Praise of Low Voter Turnout (1990) commenced by clarifying his view that the power decline of Washington as the head-state of United States is not an omen of American decline but rather a sign of beneficial political decline. He implied that the great political issues (like racism, socialism, etc. ) are all over for Americans are now concerned on the beautification of the country and improving their lifestyles.

He believed that everything in 20th century should be revolving around economics, science, arts and environment and those politicians who are trying to relive the long-buried political issues will not be paid any attention to. This observation of Krauthammer may be applicable at the time he wrote the essay but it is clear that many people are still listening to the politicians aspiring for political change such as the new president-elect Barack Obama.

Low voter turnout is seen as a form of social passiveness because election is often regarded as a solution to the problems of our country but as what Krauthammer implied, politics must not be the center of our lives and people should dedicate their time in much important things i. e. religion, arts, family. Ross Douthat in his follow-up essay of In Praise of Low Voter Turnout (2000) agreed that Americans nowadays are truly much concerned of their personal and scientific affairs but he sees these detrimental not only to the politics but to all aspects as well.

Because of the democratic republic nature of American government, people have the choice and power to choose the things essential to them. Douthat mentioned that America is a country driven by passions and these can only be pursued if they will get involved in the politics. People who do not participate in politics (in the current pool of social concerns) should actually not be encouraged to vote because they tend to choose the wrong decisions. If they only care about their own undertakings in life they will not be exposed to the larger-scale of concerns which are actually tools of achieving each and everyone’s passions.

Douthat said that democracy can be at its best when citizens are well-informed and engaged but since US is not a pure democratic country the government system is run by popular passion, not by the wants of politically unengaged citizens. Low voter participation leaves the government unresponsive to the needs of the citizens and thus the system will be oligarchic in nature (government as the oligarch). Douthat suggested that social and political involvement should first hold before citizens vote to avoid mistakes in determining what the vox populi is.

Low vote turnout is generally seen as a problem and through media voting participation is convinced. Politics is discussed everywhere and sometimes we can not separate other thoughts from political thoughts. Krauthammer was contented in the political stability of his time and was annoyed of other political disturbances. Low vote turnout for him is a success but it implies that American people are disheartened of the current system which means that government is not the solution to their problems.

And since politics is inseparable of economics, science and religion it is advisable not to detach ourselves from politics but to rather get vigilantly involved in every aspects of our country.


Douthat, Ross G. “In Praise of Low Voter Turnout. ” The Harvard Crimson. 25 September 2000. <http://www. thecrimson. com/printerfriendly. aspx? ref=101515>. Krauthammer, Charles. “In Praise of Low Voter Turnout. ” Time Magazine 21 May 1990.

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