Voting against the futility of voting

Opinion: Columns

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Christopher Damon

John Hubbuch's Dec. 12 column [The futility of voting, Viewpoints] makes an interesting case — on the surface — that Oak Parkers believe in a myth when we think that our high rate of voter turnout shows the vitality of our participatory democracy.

The truth, Mr. Hubbuch maintains, is that voting by an Oak Parker, or pretty much any Illinoisan for that matter, is an exercise in futility. It is pointless — the evidence he presents for this being the one-sided nature of local, county and statewide political contests, including many local candidates running unopposed.

But let's think about this just a little more deeply. When we do, I think we'd agree that any reporter or regular columnist for a news periodical (such as Mr. Hubbuch) is in no position to comfortably make such assertions about the futility of voting. Why? Because the reasons for one-sided voting can only be two, neither of which will cast Mr. Hubbuch in a favorable light. Elections end up being one-sided because either:

A) most voters had reached a general consensus as to the right election choice, or

B) people were unaware of some defect in the "favorite" candidate or party or unaware of the virtues of the "underdog" candidate or party, such that the actual election result should have been much closer.

If the reason is A, we should recall that there was a time when such general unanimity of voting was called "The Era of Good Feelings" (1820 – President James Monroe re-elected unopposed). It could be viewed as a sign of political health. It might mean that no big issue is tearing us into two equally opposed parts. If this is the case, then your column casting one-sided voting in a negative light has missed the point completely. We should instead be celebrating this consensus among the voters

If the reason is B — that voters are not sufficiently aware of the issues or personalities of the candidates, or lack insight as to what each candidate would actually do when in office, and therefore voters are ignorantly voting as a herd for one candidate over the other — then that suggests a failure by reporters and columnists such as Mr. Hubbuch to effectively inform their readership as to what they should know before casting a vote.

Rather than whining about one-sided voting, Mr. Hubbuch should give us good reason to take a second look at that candidate who is destined to get only 20 percent of the vote, or should give good reason for one of us to run again Kimberly Lightford or LaShawn Ford. I heard no such crying from the rooftops from Mr. Hubbuch this past election season.

Chris Damon is a 25-year resident of Oak Park and a former elected member of the Oak Park Public Library board.

 

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