TV celebrity Mike Rowe — of Ford trucks, dirty jobs and doing it because somebody’s gotta — recently was asked to use his celebrity to encourage people to get out and vote.
He declined. His reasons should give us all pause.
“Regardless of their political agenda, my celebrity pals are fundamentally mistaken about our ‘civic duty’ to vote. There is simply no such thing. Voting is a right, not a duty, and not a moral obligation. Like all rights, the right to vote comes with some responsibilities, but lets face it — the bar is not set very high,” he said.
Simply said, you shouldn’t encourage someone to vote just to vote. Educating oneself about candidates and issues is a time-consuming task that should not be reduced to a whim inspired by a Hollywood personality’s earnest plea. Our initial reasons for creating a public education system were so that we would produce voters capable of evaluating and understanding the choices they were making at the ballot box.
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Thomas Jefferson wrote in support of public education that: “The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”
So despite past exhortation on these pages to get out and vote, you won’t be hearing that this year. Instead, consider this the campaign to get out and read, and then only after you have invested the time to understand the issues and to weigh the choices, should you get out and vote.
That will mean you don’t choose someone based on who you think will win. You won’t rule out other-party candidates because they might help or hurt a major party candidate. You won’t just pick the lesser of evils.
You will make informed choices because you have earned that responsibility by doing your homework and weighing the information against your values and understanding. You have 23 days to get busy.