Suppose nobody votes this year. On Nov. 4 the doors to the polling places are thrown open, and there isn’t anyone in line. No absentee ballots are filed. No one litigates, charging either fraud or discrimination, because there weren’t any voters.
It won’t happen. But if it did, pundits and activists would surely blame public apathy for such a catastrophe. I’d name a different culprit: the major parties, their candidates and their acolytes in the news media.
Lately I’ve been poring over fundraising emails from Republicans and Democrats alike. “It’s time to stand up to MSNBC, the liberal media and their attacks,” thunders the campaign of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose troubles are evidently the fault of those reporting them. Meanwhile, Democrats can hardly write an email these days without announcing that the “Koch brothers” — all Charles and David are ever called — are “pouring money into” some congressional district or Senate race. The incantation “Koch,” which I’d wager millions of voters are unsure how to pronounce, apparently works fundraising magic.
The Democrats warn their base that Mitch McConnell can’t be allowed to become majority leader of the Senate. The Republicans caution that Nancy Pelosi can’t be allowed to become speaker of the House. And of course there is plenty of irrelevant celebrity-bashing along the way. (Irrelevant, that is, unless either Glenn Beck or Bill Maher is running for office this year.)
My father would have been appalled.
Dad was a well-connected and highly partisan Democrat, involved at high levels in several presidential campaigns from the 1960s onward. But he liked to say that it is possible for your own side to be right on the issues, yet not deserve to win. In particular, he used to say, a candidate whose main strategy was to talk about how rotten the other side was wasn’t worth a vote.