The Case For Not Voting?

Peter Suderman has another provocative essay at Culture 11 bearing the above title, with the more interesting (and in the case of his actual essay, accurate) subtitle, “Why we care too much about politics”, in which he echoes some themes found in Ryan’s previous post on slippery slopes.

Here’s the second paragraph:

Ah, democracy! Government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Its virtues are expounded in our nation’s schoolrooms, its greatness declared by pundits and politicians, by the elite and the average. It is the risen Christ of this nation: Upon it, all other beliefs are founded. We fight wars for it, we enact laws to preserve its purity and power, we encourage its exercise and consider it the greatest privilege of the citizenry. Our national life is built around its rhythms, and society’s character is shaped by the habits it encourages. Democracy, we are told, is the beating heart of the American project, the steady pulse of freedom — it is Everything!

And the concluding paragraph:

So vote, or don’t, but either way, don’t agonize over it, don’t raise an eyebrow at your friends and neighbors if they stay home, and don’t worry if the other side wins. Democracy will march on, endlessly entertaining, endlessly frustrating, endlessly compromised, and endlessly mediocre. American greatness has persisted not in spite, but because of this: It is not that our politics make us great; it is that they allow us to do so on our own.

Go read the whole thing.

3 Responses to The Case For Not Voting?

  • “So vote, or don’t, but either way, don’t agonize over it, don’t raise an eyebrow at your friends and neighbors if they stay home, and don’t worry if the other side wins.”

    Do you believe that, Chris? — “don’t worry if the other side wins”?

    Do you intend to vote? If so, why?

  • Sorry, Chris, I should’ve given more of my own commentary… I don’t agree with everything Suderman says, but there is an underlying sentiment which harmonizes with my own, which is summarized by the pithy little saying that “politics is downstream from culture”.

    Do I intend to vote? Absolutely, because it’s my responsibility at a faithful citizen. Will I be disappointed if Obama wins, as expected? Of course; I think his policies are worse, all in all, particularly on the life issues. But I don’t think it’ll spell the end of our country, as some of my conservative compatriots seem to think (or at least say).

    But I’m more concerned by the fact that we’re focusing almost exclusively on politics, to the point that everything hinges on what happens Tuesday every 2 or 4 years. Is there a feedback loop in the culture/politics relationship? Is the law a teacher in its own right? Yes to both. But I still think we need to rebalance our focus to ensure that we’re not neglecting the culture.

    That’s my sentiment, and as noted above, it harmonizes with aspects of Suderman’s piece, which I why I drew attention to it.

    Thoughts, Chris?

  • But I’m more concerned by the fact that we’re focusing almost exclusively on politics, to the point that everything hinges on what happens Tuesday every 2 or 4 years. Is there a feedback loop in the culture/politics relationship? Is the law a teacher in its own right? Yes to both. But I still think we need to rebalance our focus to ensure that we’re not neglecting the culture.

    I concur: I would say it’s our culture that shapes much of our behavior; the law’s chief function is a deterrent to our vices. With respect to the predominant issue of abortion, as the Bishops stress it’s a “both / and” — pro-life legislation must be pursued but is not the end-all; rather operating in conjunction with the building of a culture that values life (and, for instance, that won’t perceive a child as merely an impediment to individual ambitions: college, career, etc.).

    Culture shapes economics as well. You know my sympathy for Michael Novak’s observation that a healthy market economy is contingent on the health of a nation’s culture and its institutions. Witness the present crisis — one can blame the “predatory lending” of “Wall Street”;
    but one cannot overlook the inclination of many on “Main Street” to commit mortage fraud, falsifying their histories to obtain houses they couldn’t reasonably afford otherwise. Plenty of blame to go around. Case in point:

    BasePoint Analytics took a look at millions of subprime loans and found that in 70 percent of cases where mortgages go bad quickly (exactly the kinds of mortgages that account for a chunk of today’s rising default rates), there was some misrepresentation by the borrower, broker or appraiser, or some combination of the three

    The health of our economy is only so good as the moral virtue of its participants.

    Likewise, a culture that sees the solution to poverty as starting with one’s self and not governmetn handouts for forced “redistribution” from the rich. We can justifiably oppose the latter (remote, abstract attempts at charity) — but our protests are in vain if we neglect to take the local and most immediate route, beginning with ourselves.

    Quick thoughts but yes, I agree.

    My main criticism of Suderman is the dismissal “don’t worry if the other side wins” — there’s a good case that a Democratic majority in Congress coupled with a ready and willing presidential administration could do a lot of damage in four years, especially on the pro-life front, that would be irreversible.

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