- - Friday, October 17, 2014

Right before every election, there are a bunch of funny man-on-the-street interviews with people who don’t have a clue what’s going on in American politics, but are determined to vote anyway. Get-out-the-vote efforts like Rock the Vote are aimed at getting young people who don’t give a damn to march to the polls anyway. The voting rules in many states have been changed to make it easier, and give people a lot more time to cast their ballot, or maybe mail it in.

We don’t want to make voting harder than it really needs to be, but this obsession with herding as many warm bodies as possible into the voting booths is crazy. If you don’t care and don’t understand the issues, do us all a favor and stay out of it.

The argument against voter ID laws is based on the idea that being asked to produce a photo ID will intimidate people right out of voting, even if they’re legal voters. Photo ID doesn’t seem to intimidate many people out of buying alcohol, or getting on an airplane or opening a bank account or renting a video at a Blockbuster (if any of those are still around). But I guess voting is such a borderline thing, something they’re so on the fence about, that if someone asks for identification, they’ll throw up their hands and go home. The effort to obtain an ID card is just too much to ask, even when states give the cards away for free.

Look, we all know those arguments are mostly a smokescreen put out by people who want to keep vote fraud on the table as an option, or people who are just using the voter ID issue as a race-baiting tool to make their constituents angry. But for anyone who does take those arguments seriously, listen up: If you can’t be bothered to put as much effort into filling out a ballot as you do into buying a six-pack of beer or wine coolers, then your participation is not enhancing democracy. Voting is a civic responsibility, something you’re supposed to do with care and pride. If you have to be cajoled, seduced or dragged into the booth, you don’t belong in there.

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel ventured out last week to ask people if they knew who Joe Biden was. Many of them did not have a clue. One guy thought “Joe Biden” was the name of a terrorist group. And this was done in Los Angeles, right after half the city was shut down to make way for Mr. Biden’s motorcade during a visit! Watch the Kimmel take here.

Low-information voters are bullies, because they get worked up on emotional crusades instead of reasoned arguments. They stampede easily. They don’t like being told they don’t understand what they’re voting on.

A lot of them aren’t voting for anyone. They vote against people they’ve been told to hate. They’ll settle for just about anybody on the ballot, as long as the bad people lose. Don’t be surprised when you get poor government from people who win elections entirely by convincing voters the other guy was worse.

This doesn’t just apply to liberals, of course. There are plenty of people on the Republican side telling pollsters they plan to vote for protest candidates who can’t win. Look, guys, the primaries are over, and I have to tell you, whatever “message” you think you’re sending with a protest vote isn’t worth the price you’re going to pay for sending it.

Some low-information voters have a very narrow view of what is possible. They can get backed into a corner by tired old arguments about how nothing can ever change, we’re stuck with a bad system, and the country is doomed. Other low-information voters are way too eager to believe that utopia is just an election or two away. The cynics and the saps have one thing in common: They’re bullies. Politicians use armies of these folks to intimidate each other.

And then you’ve got the kind of low-information voter who doesn’t need to know anything but how much he’s getting from the government in benefits. We have to do better than that. We can’t just use the government as a hired bandit to loot each other. Everything the government gives you was taken from someone else first. If you don’t think about the cost of what the government does, you’re not casting a responsible vote — and you’re in for a big surprise when the people who promised you everything run out of other people’s money to pay for it.

It’s tough to be fully informed. Everything is political now, so it takes a huge amount of work to get up to speed on every issue. That’s a good reason to keep government small and simple. What’s the point in bragging about “democracy” when nobody understands what they’re voting on?

But make the effort. Those ballots are printed on flimsy paper, but they’re really heavy. It takes strong intellectual muscles to carry that much weight. That is why the Liberal Bully of the Week is the Low Information Voter.

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