When you objectively look at our political party system I don’t think too many Americans would say that they are happy with the way things are going. All you have to do is to analyze the miserable percentage of how few Americans vote, to see that something is rotten in Denmark and I don’t mean to cast any aspersions on Denmark. This last election had the poorest voting percentage visa vi the total population numbers since 1942. American voters had a great excuse that year because a lot of men had a bigger task at hand and that was fighting a war in the Pacific and against the Nazis.
There are different suggestions on how we might fix our party system but the one suggestion that is most intriguing is mandatory voting.
First before we look at why mandatory voting would change the party system for the better, let us briefly look at a key problem of today’s political parties. Each party spends an inordinate amount of time and energy on bringing to the polls, their party base, the worker bees of their respective political party, those who are passionate. When you concentrate on ringing the bell of your ideological base too much you discourage other voters who do not belong to those interest groups from voting.
Democrats are responsible for concentrating on getting their base to vote. They work to get members of labor unions, women and members of minority groups to the polls.
Republicans are equally to blame by concentrating on one issue voters, with their focusing on voters interested in abortion, illegal immigration, guns and gay marriage.
Well, such an emphasis ignores the rest of the voters who don’t really care about the hot button issues of the hard core ideologues of each party. If your attention is drawn away from the real problems that you face as citizens, it is easier for our new aristocracy, the oligarchs and the corporate world to control things and maintain their ever growing wealth at the expense of those who work hard every day to bring bread to the table and a roof over their family’s heads.
One of the first things I learned a long time ago about voters was that pocket book issues were what most Americans cared about. Stagnant wages, and a lack of social and economic mobility just might spark interest in the minds of voters as well as other issues. So how do we broaden the appeal to the great mass of the electorate that our political parties ignore? Make voting mandatory!!!!
There are 31 countries who have mandatory voting. Countries like Belgium, Australia and Switzerland have mandatory voting. Belgium started mandatory voting in 1892 for men and 1949 for women. Australia has had mandatory voting since the 1920’s. Fines are minimal in countries like Australia. Other incentives that are used are for example; making it harder for you to get a job. Greece makes it hard to get a passport. The reality of mandatory voting isn’t that you HAVE to vote, but clearly the incentives are meant to greatly encourage people to vote.
The downside of our current voting statistics is that in a country like the United States that prides itself on having a representative democracy, the harsh reality is that only a minority of our citizens vote. Around 50% of our citizens are registered and then only a certain percentage of those actually vote. The notion that we have a representative government where the rule of the majority is sacred is but an illusion, as a majority of our citizens never vote in a national election. Mandatory voting would only be for national elections.
Of course, the reform of mandatory voting or in fact making anything mandatory in the United States is contrary to the image of America. We had a hard time accepting the idea that you have to wear seat belts in cars and have helmets for motorcyclists. Although the odds seem slim and none might be winning for this reform to become a reality it is an issue we should discuss. If we as a nation can have Social Security and Medicare for all, why can’t we make being a responsible citizen be mandatory? Voting is a birthright that men and women have died for.
Mandatory voting should be another tool used along with vote by mail, absentee voting and other suggested reforms to help make our own political parties discontinue their current stress on hot button issues that only encourage their political base to vote. Let us help our political parties broaden their election issues and include in their appeal for votes more issues that Americans really want to hear about.