Dear UCubed Leader:
“We in America do not have government by the majority,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote. “We have government by the majority who participate.”
Today we are a nation of 314 million people. And the majority who participate numbered 66 million – that was President Obama’s winning vote total in 2012. Two years earlier, the majority who participate tallied 45 million votes – that was the number of votes cast for GOP congressional candidates. 1
So, one in five Americans produced the victor in the 2012 presidential race. One in seven of us put John Boehner in control of the Congress. And we wonder why our Democracy is so dysfunctional?
We need look no further than the mirror. Some of us are addicted to voting, and carry the burden of those who opt out of our Democracy. Some do the absolute minimum by participating once every four years. And others couldn’t care less.
Jefferson, ever the sage, believed that lethargy was “the forerunner of death to the public liberty.” He understood that:
“The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.”
And, writing in 1787 as other politicians fretted about Shays Rebellion, he concluded his letter by asking “what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance?”
In 2014 midterm elections, 40 million registered voters will see no value in voting. Even in the next presidential contest, more than 50 million voting-age Americans will refuse even to register or vote.
So, perhaps the concept of our civic duty must expand. We owe democracy more than our own votes. We owe it an effort to corral non-voters, register them and encourage them to vote. Taken one step further, our civic duty should include informing them of the facts of our political life.
Jefferson relied on private letters and friendly newspapers to convey his message. With the advent of social media, we can – with a click – help our friends stay well informed.
It is the least we can do.
In unity – Strength,
1. In 2012, Democratic congressional candidates won 60 million votes to 58.5 million votes for their opponents. Due to gerrymandering, the GOP continued to control the House of Representatives.