It Shouldn’t Matter That Much

Jonah Goldberg explains that “The fact that the presidential vote matters so much is a sign not of national health but of dysfunction.”

The more the federal government gets involved in every aspect of our lives — for good or ill — the more people will feel that their livelihoods, lifestyles, even their actual lives are at stake in a presidential election. If the federal government didn’t have so much leverage over your life, politicians wouldn’t be able to scare you into the voting booths. 


President George W. Bush adopted a number of policies liberals once decried as dangerous expansions of the imperial presidency. With a few exceptions, few complain about those powers now that Obama is the president. The rule seems to be runaway executive power is good, so long as my guy is in power.

It’s not uncommon to see “elections” in third-world countries marked by violence. Sometimes it breaks out into a full-on shooting war, and it’s hard to tell the difference between electoral campaigns and military ones.

This happens because the governments in those countries are all-powerful–unrestrained by any kind of common law traditions or constitutional limits. Both sides know that whoever wins will get everything, and whoever loses will starve. In those circumstances, blowing up a polling place to win is a sensible course of action.

The way to keep that from happening is to make government matter less. The more it does matter, the more people will be willing to say anything or do anything to control it.

I’m not saying that America is in that position now. But we’re either moving in one direction or the other, and the direction we’re going now is not toward a less-powerful government. My hope is that, by the end of the day, we’ve maybe started to turn an itty-bitty bit toward a better direction.

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