Now he’s gone, I don’t know why, and till this day, sometimes I cry. He didn’t even say goodbye, he didn’t take the time to lie. So went the 1966 Sonny Bono song popularized by both his wife Cher, and Nancy Sinatra that same year. So goes the primary season, as candidates from the Republican and Democratic parties are selected across the country by gatherings of what can best be described as disillusioned voters.
I noticed the election precinct signs up in my Brooklyn neighborhood, and was puzzled by them. I honestly did not even know a primary was being held. Frankly as a resident of New York City, I don’t see much reason to vote anyway. My grossly incompetent City Council member, State Senator, State Assembly member and no-show Congresswoman generally win with a North Korean like majority of the vote, so why waste my time. And as our mayor showed, the results from the ballot box can be overturned with the stroke of a pen.
Voter apathy is not limited to New York. According to researchers at George Mason University, so far this year, the primary with the highest turnout (New Hampshire) saw less than a third of eligible voters actually vote. On average under 9.3 percent of eligible voters (that is voters that are registered in a political party that is eligible to vote in a primary) actually dained to vote. This — more than the fact that Congress has a whopping 13 percent approval rating in the most recent CBS/NY Times poll – should weigh on the heads of our elected officials as they stumble through the rest of the campaign season.
Widespread voter apathy is just another sign of how the nation’s level of confidence has waned and how that lack of confidence is keeping the brakes on the economy. This differs significantly from how the country has historically acted. When Alexis de Tocqueville, in his book Democracy in America described the country in 1835, he wrote of a land and a people who by coming together for mutual purpose, both in public and private, “Able to overcome selfish desires, thus making both a self-conscious and active political society and a vibrant civil society functioning independently from the state.” He suggested that in America, this individualism helped to counterbalance the danger of the tyranny of the majority that he saw in Europe, since people could take control over their own lives without government aid. America, in contrast to Europe, was a society where hard work and money-making was the dominant ethic, where the common man enjoyed a level of dignity which was unprecedented, where commoners never deferred to elites, and where what he described as crass individualism and market capitalism had taken root to an extraordinary degree.
Today, however, the country seems to resemble the type of society that Tocqueville warned against, one where a potentially despotic elected government tries to keep its citizens as “perpetual children,” and which doesn’t break men’s wills but rather guides it, and presides over people in the same way as a shepherd looking after a “flock of timid animals.”
The ways in which the government treats citizens like children grows by the day. Governments from the Federal down to the local level regulate and control nearly every aspect of citizens lives, from where and how they can work, to the kind of medical care they can receive, to the type of food they can eat.
- In New York City, a mayor that went against the will of the people and bought himself a third term now dictates the kind of ingredients that restaurants can use;
- Miami Dade County tells its citizens what type of dogs they can own;
- The President of the United States is concerned with the type of family planning services companies provide their employees;
- Massachusetts requires that all children in daycare centers brush their teeth after lunch;
- Almost every community in the country now dictates to bar owners whether or not they can allow their patrons to smoke.
No wonder that millions of people have succumbed to letting the government take care of them through its bloated social welfare system. The number of people receiving long term unemployment insurance, social security disability insurance and food stamps is at an all time high, and none of these “safety net” programs do anything to encourage recipients to become productive members of society.
On the other end, as ABC News said, and as we found out in our economic impact studies for the firearms industry, a substantial number of citizens are arming themselves, worried that a second Obama administration might restrict gun ownership or attempt to confiscate their firearms.
As the song says – Bang bang, he shot me down.