The Liberal Ironist Hopes You’re Turning Out to Vote–If You Know What Sort of Country You Want

If you don’t know what you think about the issues, think of it this way: If Nate Silver’s army of HAL 9000 computers are still making the externally-valid estimates they made in 2008, the Republicans are poised to take control of the House of Representatives by a sizable margin.  (Strangely, the pre-election forecasts generally converge on a prediction of almost exactly the number of Republican pickups in the House and the Senate as in 1994; this projected result, like 1994’s, follows an acrimonious national debate over universal health care.)  This means we face a reset of sorts in national politics; for those of you relatively-uninformed about American politics (likely a small proportion of this blog’s current readers given its usual focus), this should be a good time to start paying attention, because the President and the House Republican leadership will likely cast a series of confrontations over issues of the legitimate size, resources and purposes of the Federal Government.

Voter turnout is neither high nor low so long as those interested-enough to be able to express their opinions turn out to support the candidates who will do the most to make the policies they want.  But there is an issue related to being an informed voter that isn’t about their supposedly-salutary effect on political accountability.  Keeping informed about political issues that make a difference to all of us doesn’t just help make us competent voters; this is something we should do for ourselves.  Voting is a political right, but being a well-informed voter is something less easily-grasped–an individual ought.  We face many inducements to concern ourselves with our work and a few private relationships, but the sense of satisfaction and greater sympathy for others comes from accepting responsibility for political concerns which, while certainly not timeless, at least transcend our immediate concerns.  Being seriously-informed about politics isn’t just necessary for a voter to understand whose purposes he or she serves in voting, but it is the primary means by which non-philosophy or theology majors hone and modify philosophical perspective on the things we believe our fellow-citizens most need.  For the layperson, the premises behind our politics–and the debates we hold over the circumstances that allow us to live well together–are most-likely embodied in our political opinions.


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