Elections: Will the American experiment fail?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Elections
Voting booths in New Hampshire

PLENTY OF VOTING BOOTHS … NO WAITING. Mark Buck took this photo in New Hampshire and provided it for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Our nation’s founders recognized that America was an experiment, and a fragile one at that. Throughout our history, astute observers and historians have noted that America continues to be an experiment. At this point in time, what’s your prediction? Is the experiment succeeding or failing?

Free elections are a mainstay of our democracy, and so this week we’ve discussed various features and implications of the November general election. We talked about which political party wants to make radical change in America and which one cares more about Americans (it’s the same party, by the way). We noted that Tea Party members are especially fearful of the threats of terrorism and Ebola. And we discussed the historically low voter turnout in this month’s election.

Today, we reflect on what this may mean for the American experiment.

There are many ways to reflect on this issue, and in this short post, I want to outline just two: low voter turnout and internal threats.

America had the first modern design for democracy, but we haven’t lived up to the potential. Once, Election Day was a celebration. Going to the polls was a heady, exciting, and solemn act.

But, as Howard Steven Friedman writes in The Measure of a Nation, we typically have lower voter turnout than other large, rich nations. Friedman’s findings show that Americans tend to be far behind countries such as Belgium, Australia, Spain, Netherlands and Japan. And in this recent election, we hit a new low in the exercise of our voting privileges.

The value of security refers to protection from internal and external threats. Tea Partiers, for example, fear the external threats of terrorism and Ebola, and the internal threat of “Big Government.” But there is another internal threat—one that Douglas Patterson noted in a comment this week: radical individualism. This is the core American value of self-reliance run amuck. It denies responsibility for anyone other than oneself.

What’s your verdict on the American experiment?
Are you concerned by the low voter turnout?
Have we become too self-reliant and inward looking?

Your viewpoint is important!

You can leave a comment below. Or, you can talk with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

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  1. Debra Darvick says

    Yes, low voter turnout is a concern. I don’t think it’s about being too “self-reliant” but apathy at one end and frustration at the other that voting for the least of all evils is not the healthiest way to choose the leaders of one’s nation.

  2. Rambling Rob says

    The right to vote for the candidate of your choice is an American privilege. The elections are for many candidates national and local. In some areas there are no issues to vote for or against. Yet pundits interpret the data based on party alignment. These alignments are different in different parts of the country. The low turnout in the 2014 election cycle is more a vote to see what the Republicans can do to eliminate the gridlock. So far I see no indication they will work for the citizens. I will vote Republican again if things do not change.