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Anger wins in late returns

For the past few months, I have been avoiding writing a column about Massachusetts politics. Gubernatorial elections are dull by themselves, and Massachusetts elections seem duller than most. However, with all the complaining about low voter turnouts and political hopelessness, I think I'll have to at least make some comments on our government for the people by the people of the people.

Voter turnout in some local elections, it seems, was as low as 35 percent, prompting lots of whining in magazines and newspapers about how decadent, complacent America, victimized by power politics, was showing disrespect for its founders and new democracies around the world by failing to achieve the voter participation of the Scandinavian winter wonderlands. While such opinions do have a lot of merit, they oversimplify a complex problem. Participation in politics may be essential, but voter participation, in itself, is not the best indicator of the nation's political strength.

One letter which appeared in The New York Times last week ["Cash and Slime Are King," Nov. 9] seemed typical of many I have read. Complex ballots, imbecilic candidates, political corruption, Political Action Committees, and political consultants, many believe, are the root of this nation's political ills. Other letters have remarked that failure to vote is both a manifestation of our system's weakness and our path towards destruction.

Not so.

Americans, (myself included) are often inclined to blame others for their own problems (ask the Japanese). Our government is a reflection of ourselves. If we have the gall to criticize a civic leader, we must be willing to think the same of the saps who elected him. If we are poorly led by unscrupulous incompetents, or easily manipulated by crafty spin doctors, we are to blame.

The president did not screw up Middle East foreign policy. We did.

Congress not did fumble the budget. We did.

A media artist did not elect that rodent. We did.

A common criticism of today's government is that leaders fear making decisions that will endanger their constituent support, and as a result often hedge on every important controversy. But we support them anyway. A lazy incumbent may guarantee some pork barrel projects for our state, but if the nation suffers as a result then we lose out.

Failure to vote, or haphazard participation in the democratic process, is often a reflection of exasperation rather than apathy. We don't need laws requiring voting (as many nations have), we need a "none of the above" box on our ballots.

The United States' low voter participation alone, therefore, should not worry us as long as we are willing to hold ourselves and our representatives accountable to the system in other ways.

This nation has had a tradition of disappointment with its government, and I do not think we can or should ever change that.

Foreigners, at least many whom I've heard or read about, don't respect American elections or voting records; they respect Americans' almost instinctive knowledge of when and how the democratic process should kick in to correct a weakening government or decide a crucial issue. Democracy does not equal voting, and government is not dead. The fact that some college student is taking time out to write a column about it should give us some inspiration.

who

Matthew H. Hersch '94 is an associate opinion editor of The Tech.

[gfsandwich,1,1.5]

Complex ballots, imbecilic candidates, political corruption, Political Action Committees, and political consultants, many believe, are the root of this nation's political ills.

[gfsandwich,1,1.5]

The president did not screw up Middle East foreign policy. We did.

[gfsandwich,1,1.5]Our government is a reflection of ourselves. If we have the gall to criticize a civic leader, we must be willing to think the same of the saps who elected him.