Time's ‘Ideas’ Blog Toys with Notion of Mandatory Voting

August 21st, 2012 5:19 PM

Whatever happened to American exceptionalism? Liberal abhorrence of the concept has been well-documented in the past. One of the latest examples can be found at Time Ideas, where Eric Liu has published a case for mandatory voting laws. Liu never outright admits as much, but it’s abundantly clear he feels such a policy would help elect more liberal Democrats to office and hence put the country further leftward than it would otherwise be.

Liu, a former speechwriter and policy advisor to President Clinton, joined a growing sect of the liberal media punditocracy who have publicly admitted that they want to see an America that mirrors the rest of the world. Twenty-three nations -- most famously Australia -- have adopted more of a compulsory approach to suffrage, so why not us?

Of course, forcing a person to vote is a fundamental invasion of an individual’s right to be left alone, something liberals who value the Supreme Court-discovered constitutional “right to privacy” are supposed to cherish. Nonetheless, Liu joins the majority of the panel from the MSNBC show The Cycle in advocating for a left-wing social engineering effort.

The reasoning for such a proposal couldn’t have been any more transparent. “Some Republicans will oppose mandatory voting for the reason they now push voter IDs: to win,” Liu wrote. Parenthetically adding, “Conventional wisdom says the more people who vote, the worse the GOP does.”

But it’s more than just conventional wisdom. It’s backed up by polling data.

"If everyone in America voted, President Obama would be on his way to a second term,” the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake recently lamented. “If people don’t vote, their candidate preferences won’t have an impact. And these Americans clearly aren’t paying attention to politics, only 39 percent can identify Joe Biden as the current vice president.”

While Liu acknowledged that there might be some draw backs to making people do something against their will, every counter argument “reflects a lack of faith in democracy itself” in his mind however. The idealist in him believes that everyone would be more informed and content with their political representation if such a law was implemented

How exactly would mandatory voting lead everyone involved to be better-informed citizens? Liu doesn’t provide much of an explanation for this, but common sense tells us that mandating something doesn’t have a profound impact on human behavior. For example, you can require American high school students to study Bach and Beethoven, but no one seriously expects that to supplant their preference for Bieber or the Beastie Boys.

Mandates can change behavior, but they can’t change the human heart and mind, no matter how much liberals wish they could. And given that misinformed, disengaged voters would pay no penalty for voting – nor receive any direct benefit for casting an informed ballot over an uninformed one – it’s hard to believe that any call for mandatory voting is anything but a cynical plea for more power.