Archived Story

Despite drawbacks, nothing for it but to vote

Published 11:06am Friday, November 2, 2012

Years ago, when I chided a friend about his lack of knowledge on some election-related topic, he explained that he was actively trying not to know anything about it because he didn’t want to be angry, depressed or, most likely, both.

Can’t argue with that. And, as the years go by, the idea of just not thinking about politics seems ever wiser; it’s impossible to think about this election, much less discuss it, without feeling bad.

There may never have been an election more aggravating than this one. The nation confronts an extraordinarily bad set of choices in the presidential race and Minnesotans are beset with a couple of ridiculous amendment referenda.

The contradictions in the question of whether voters should have to show government-issued photo identification are many. For starters, most of those who are pushing for a “yes” vote also cry loudest about the need for small government and reduced government spending; yet, in this case, they are willing to both increase spending and increase government involvement. So are the amendment’s supporters confused? Of, if not, are they cynically pushing an idea that they believe will provide them future political advantage?

Those questions are aside from the main issue, which is whether there’s even any need for election reform in Minnesota. While it sounds dramatic to talk about how voter fraud amounts to “stealing your vote,” it’s far from clear that any Minnesota election has ever been stolen. Or nearly stolen. Or even that a substantial amount of fraud takes place in elections at all.

In the normal course of events, that’s all something the Legislature and governor could figure out how to handle. But because our elected leaders can not lead, they can not collectively figure out whether some tinkering with the election law is needed or useful. So they have collectively thrown the question into the voters’ laps in the form of an amendment referendum.

Finally, we can be sure that whichever way the referendum turns out, it will become a feast for crows — one of those deals that is going to spawn legal challenge after legal challenge at the public’s expense. The only winners will be the high-priced lawyers who create and defend Supreme Court cases. (Credit where it’s due: author George R. R. Martin either coined or popularized the “feast for crows” phrase, although in a completely different context.)

That’s four reasons right there to be angry or depressed, before moving on to the even more divisive question of how to define marriage. For most, the marriage amendment is an emotionally loaded question that touches on religion, sexual orientation and the family. The real question, and the one that is almost never discussed, is why anyone would even want the government — via Minnesota’s constitution — to be involved in religious, sexual and family issues.

In almost every case, attempts to use the heavy hand of government to steer social interactions – whether those interactions are drinking, smoking, sex or much of anything else – have been a failure. Sometimes a disastrous failure. Without taking a position on what defines marriage, let’s just agree that it shouldn’t be an issue that we’re looking to the government to regulate.

So it’s easy to want to shrug off the whole question of politics and elections. There’s no doubt that it’s the worst possible way to run a country — except for all the other ways. So like hundreds of millions of other Americans, no doubt including my friend who avoids politics, I’ll be scratching my head in a polling booth next Tuesday.

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