Virtual democracy

. December 2, 2014.

That was a November to remember, all right.  One for the record books.  In like a whimper and out like a whine.

Sorta begs the question:  Just what do folks care about anymore?

To start from the beginning, here in America, we pride ourselves on being the beacon of democracy, where the people rule.  We have the right to participate in choosing our leaders.  No blue blood required; anyone with the talent and the determination can represent us, if we choose.

Aye, as Hamlet famously said, there’s the rub.  If we choose.

Ballot box blues

You might have heard by now that a little thing called a democratic “election” was held early last month.  If you weren’t aware, you’re not alone.  Barely over one-third of registered voters in Lucas County bothered to make a decision on who sets policy in our fair state for the next four years.  Ergo, it’s more of the same, as all incumbents were re-elected.

That includes Guvnah John Kasich, he of the ill-fated attempt to squelch unions a scant few years ago.  Kasich ‘won’ the labor-friendly bastion that is Lucas County, with almost fifty-one percent of the vote. 

Of course, with only thirty-four percent of registered voters casting ballots, that means more like seventeen-and-a-half percent of all possible votes were cast for the grand architect of SB 5.

Put another way, over eighty percent of registered voters chose not to vote for the Guvnah.

As Jefferson said, that doesn’t matter.  Kasich forms the government for those who chose to participate.

In Lucas County, that means Kasich represents those where the vote totals were highest, in the western suburbs and areas of Toledo closest to them.  Folks in the central city and older parts of Toledo, plus the older suburbs, voted at a much lower clip.  

In some areas, less than ten percent of registered voters took a brief few minutes out of their day to exercise democracy.  And the policies coming out of Columbus will likely leave them in the lurch for the Guvnah’s next term.

Perhaps people have become too jaded to believe that voting makes a difference.  Maybe they think the “choice” comes down to Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dummer.  Certainly there was little inspiration coming from Kasich’s erstwhile opponent, the bumbling Ed Fitzgerald, to motivate folks to come out and vote.  

Maybe people are tired of delegating decisions to these hacks and want to take matters into their own hands in a dramatic show of direct democracy!

Takin’ it to the streets

That could explain why Toledo was the home to two major street protests following the little-noticed election.  Folks who don’t believe voting makes a difference decided to take their grievances directly to the Man! 

What’s more, these two protests were both in the same week, drawing tens of thousands off their couches and into the streets.  First, folks flooded the Lucas County Courthouse to protest perceived injustice in the lack of indictment of a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  Then, a huge crowd of workers and supporters jammed local Wal-Mart stores on Black Friday to protest perceived ill-treatment of Wal-Mart associates by Wal-Mart’s billionaire owners.

Except, not so much.  Both these protests, attended by folks from across the region, drew a few dozen people at most. Seems direct democracy isn’t that much of a draw these days either.

Okay, maybe people just don’t think policy-making is that important and instead make their democratic choices in other ways. Consumer choices, maybe that’s where democracy lies in the early Twenty-First Century.

Folks were too geared up for Black Friday to bother voting or protesting.  Who cares about Wal-Mart workers when we can get low, low prices every day?

Nope, even consumerist decision-making was at a low watermark this year.  Retailers saw a trickle of on-site spending instead of the hoped-for flood.  Too jaded to vote, too cynical to protest, too burned out to shop.

There was one glimmer of hope, though.  Late in the month, over 100,000 people showed up to voice their respective support in the all-important decision of Ohio State-versus-Michigan, which still represents a small percentage of people who live in those states.  And it’s actually a sad comment on what it takes to make people care about something larger than themselves these days.

What gives?  Are we all too buried in our own little lives and our online virtual profiles to think any of the rest of it matters?

If so, what sort of democracy do we really live in?  We’re reminded of another purported quote from the founding of America.  Ben Franklin was asked what sort of government America would have. “A Republic,” Franklin replied.

 “If you can keep it.”