Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I was reading an essay by my sister about why you should vote. And I totally agree with her. Usually I write an essay of that sort every year. But this year, I thought about why that sort of thing happens. The most common explanation is that Americans are politically apathetic. Which is true, to a certain extent, I believe. However, it's worth asking WHY this is they are are apathetic. Part of it is related to lack of competition. In many areas, one party dominates so much that it suffocates the political process.

For example in my county, there were 11 races yesterday for town supervisor. Nine (82%) were unopposed. The other two pitted a pair of Republican candidates against each other. Admittedly, there were county wide races and referenda on the state constitution, but when so many races present no choice, it's hard to get excited.

Out of 38 town wide races (supervisor, town clerk, etc), only 8 were contested. That means nearly 80% of these town wide officers were elected without any competition. The marketplace of ideas loses some of its luster when most of the products have only one brand. Making a choice implies having a choice to make.

While lack of citizen participation is part of the problem of our not-quite-so-vibrant democracy, it's also a symptom.

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