If anyone doubted that the 2016 election is generating high amounts of interest, one look at primary turnout thus far will put those doubts to rest.
According to Pew Research, primary participation seems headed for an overall high not seen for years.
Such turnout seems like a good thing, particularly as many have mourned the decline of civic participation in recent years.
But paradoxically, could increased voter turnout be yet another sign of the decline of civic participation?
Alexis de Tocqueville would probably say yes, for he described just such a state in his 1840 work, Democracy in America:
“Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions; they want to be led, and they wish to remain free: as they cannot destroy either one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite; they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large that holds the end of his chain. By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again. …
It is in vain to summon a people, which has been rendered so dependent on the central power, to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity. I add that they will soon become incapable of exercising the great and only privilege which remains to them.”
Is it time to realize that true freedom requires more work and effort than simply staggering out to vote every four years?
Image Credit: Artle White (cropped) bit.ly/1eBd9Ks
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.