If you don’t care, admit it to yourself, try to become a better citizen, and cast a ballot next time.
by Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2022
William F. Buckley once received a postelection letter from an elderly liberal saying that she wished it were not only the number of votes counted but the weight and worthiness of each. Surely the votes of the thoughtful and informed should be counted more heavily than those of the frivolous and knee-jerk. If we did it that way, she said, the Democrats would have just won in a sweep and not gone down to defeat. Buckley replied that he too wished the votes of the more knowledgeable were given greater weight as this would ensure conservative victories for generations. My goodness they joked around in those days.
My modest hope as Tuesday approaches is that all ballots be cast only after much thought. It’s almost touching to talk this way, to want the quality of each vote to be high, but every time I hear “Vote!” or “If you don’t vote you don’t get the sticker that says you voted,” I realize that the pressure to vote is high, especially among the young. We say that voting is our right and duty and it certainly is our right, enshrined in that old Constitution, but our duty is to take a serious interest in our country, state and city, and be part of an informed citizenry. And then vote.
Maybe you feel pressure to vote, maybe your friends or associates will tease or embarrass you if you don’t, but I don’t know. If at this point in your life, for whatever reason, you don’t care that much and haven’t bothered to learn much and get a sense of the candidates—if in your heart you know you’re not as committed and informed as the neighbors, who are always going out to meetings and helping local groups—then I say it would be honorable to hold off and spend the next few years studying. This would be an act of humility. Democracies can’t continue without at least someone being humble.
So if you’re serious and take our political life seriously, please go Tuesday to the polls. And if not, admit it to yourself and try to become a better citizen so you can vote in good conscience next time.
May Serious Person turnout be historically high.
I wrote last week of where I think we’re going, and why: a very good night for Republicans, with both houses of Congress won and some surprising governorships taken. The wave we are in has been building since the spring and summer of 2020 and the protests and riots sparked by the killing of George Floyd. That period has never been fully appreciated as the time of trauma and disorder it was, with small businesses going up in flames and some downtowns turning into war zones. It was just about that point the Democratic Party made it obvious they’d gone far left on issues of crime and punishment. Then Afghanistan, illegal immigration, inflation and wokeness in the schools. Those things would leave voters turning against a ruling party, and taking from it some of its power. It should be remembered in all the excitement that Congress will still likely be close in both houses, that neither party will have an overwhelming majority. America is still divided.
On Wednesday evening the president made his hastily called closing argument. It was aggressive and sloppily divisive. Immediately at the beginning he painted the attack on Paul Pelosi, then went to 1/6 and Donald Trump’s Big Lie. All these things were and are terrible and deserve continued thought and attention. But Joe Biden deployed them politically, as a dodge to keep the mind from issues working against the Democrats. His speeches seem tired and pre-masticated. He never seems to think aloud seriously or follow any particular line of logic. He just describes things over and over in what he thinks moving language that will break through. It doesn’t because it isn’t moving. The path to most hearts is through the brain.
His strategy, I suppose, was to light a fire under the Democratic base. A broader strategy would have been better: Talk to the American people candidly, acknowledge what’s not working, don’t treat crime and inflation like a third rail you can’t touch. At least say, “I hear you, the problems you are facing are real, and I am asking for the right to turn them around.”
Would that have worked? No! Nothing will work right now, it’s a midterm and voters are mad. So just be as constructive and realistic as you can. There’s nothing wrong with seeming beleaguered when you are, or asking for help when you need it.
Here is what is coming: The dread Democratic circular firing squad. Everyone in the party fighting about whose fault it was.
Progressives mostly stayed off the national trail because voters noticed their policies were a large part of the problem. Those policies and their promoters will face some internal fire. So will individual campaigns, and faulty candidates. If, against such odds, a Republican wins the New York governorship for the first time in 20 years, Democrats will accuse the state party of complacency and blindness.
But after a few days most of their wrath will be turned on Mr. Biden, first in sharp, hot not-for-attribution quotes and then very-much-for-attribution quotes. In the coming weeks and months it will become clear the 2024 presidential cycle has begun, and the party’s attempt to replace its incumbent. All those Democratic Senate candidates who wouldn’t answer the question: Do you want him to run again? They knew what’s coming.
Final point: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has it exactly wrong about his party’s problem right now. He insisted this week that the Democrats’ problem is they got their communications and messaging wrong. “We’re getting crushed on narrative.” No, you’re getting crushed on facts. You’re getting crushed by unpopular policies. The answer is to change them, not how you talk about them. How you communicate your feelings about the facts isn’t the issue—suburban women don’t care about your feelings. They care about real-world things. If you don’t understand this you won’t be able to dig your way out.
And here a small thought on what we are doing Tuesday, which is choosing political leaders. Politics is a profession, a serious one for serious people, and, for its successful practitioners, one closer to art than we know. Artists try to apprehend the big picture quickly and, at the same time, get to the heart of it. My fear of current leaders now, many of them, is that they came to full adulthood in the past 30 years, in the internet age, and are more about the picture and the video than the book. They are strategic but not reflective. They don’t read. They see feeling as more important than thinking. They Instagram their breakfast. They go to the gym a lot and are buff in their skinny suits.
Those serious, thoughtful voters I pine for? I hope those elected next week are worthy of them.