A day for Tom Jefferson
What a dandy election victory it will be if the American voters throw out the pollsters' prognosis that they are cynical, undecided, frustrated, bored, and whatever else. Indceed, by going to the polls today, they can show they ar involved, thoughtful, decided, and alive to their responsibilities as citizens to participate in the democratic process. Then the nation will have a strengthened presidency. For whoever ends up in the White House, he will be bolstered by the knowledged that the American people have signalled their interest in good government as well as support for his candidacy.
The voting trends should giver everyone pause. Twenty years ago 62.8 percent of the United States electorate voted. In 1964 the percentage dropped to 61.9 in 1968 to 60.9, in 1972 to 55.5, and in 1976 to 54.4. Hence the expectation of analysts that only a little more than half of all persons of voting age wil cast ballots Nov. 4. Equally shocking in the fact that only 72 percent of the eligible population is registerd to vote (the figur was 77 percent in 1976).
Amazing, isn't it, that hundreds of millions of people throughout the world yearn for a free political system enabling them to govern themselves? While millions of Americans, citizens of the freest land in the world, blithely take for granted such cherished freedom?
We do not think they really do. But election time provides an occasion to reflect no merely on the men who govern but on the manner of government, built on the right of suffrage. This is not to ignore that registration and voting laws, often complicated and cumbersome, need reforming to encourage voter participation. Such reform is something the next president could usefully promote.
Until then, however, may each and every American entitled to vote -- including the young people, who have been especially delinquent -- do so. And if the voter is pessimistic about the state of the union, he or she might be reminded of Thomas Jefferson's confident words in 1806:
"Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights."
If they exercise them, that is.