Voting should be a final stage of civic engagement, not first. And it should be harder, too.

Voting should be a final stage of civic engagement, not first. And it should be harder, too.

Can you name all three branches of government? Can you name even one? Do you know who your congressman is? Your senators? Do you even know how many senators each state gets? If you know the answers to these questions (and you probably do because you’re a newspaper reader), you’re in the minority.

In fact, the data have long been settled. A very high percentage of the U.S. electorate isn’t very well qualified to vote, if by “qualified” you mean having a basic understanding of our government, its functions and its challenges. Almost half of the American public doesn’t know that each state gets two senators. More than two-thirds can’t explain the gist of what the Food and Drug Administration does.

Now, the point isn’t to say that the American people are stupid, which is the typical knee-jerk reaction of self- absorbed political junkies. Rather, it’s that millions of Americans just don’t care about politics, much the same way that I don’t care about cricket: They think it’s boring. Ask me how cricket works and I’m likely to respond with the same blank, uncomprehending stare my old basset hound used to give me when I asked him to chase a Frisbee. Ask the typical American to explain, say, what a cloture vote is, and you’ll get the same.

Continue reading →


Commenting Policy

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.

You may use HTML in your comments. Feel free to review the full list of allowed HTML here.