Dave Meslin on Voter Apathy

I Disagree with his main premise as I truly do believe the modern world is one of apathetic potential voters who simply place other priorities ahead of voting and civic engagement. Voting used to be a major part of one’s personal identity and I feel the number of people that is still true for is rapidly shrinking. This website is about trying to re-engage voters, trying to make them understand why it all matters and should matter to them, and trying to work out how to make the whole system better overall.

Having said this, Meslin’s arguments for encouraging engagement in places where people are actually looking (newspapers, magazines, etc) is a good one. While it is very easy for people to look up information about politics and civics on the internet, in the newspapers and other avenues, they often don’t. Why not then try to make information available everywhere, all the time, as much as possible? Why not bombard the populace with ways to be engaged so that they have no choice but to feel a desire to participate?

My biggest complaint about those who do not participate is that it is so easy to do so. The internet, while not always accurate, is something the majority of Canadians have access to and it provides concise, quick information without ever having to get up out of your chair. People want the political process to be easy and it does not get easier than that. But while engagement is easier in our time than it has ever been in human history because of tools like the internet, people are still not getting involved. So I agree that we should remove all the barriers and obstacles possible so that people eventually have very little choice but to participate. In a world where everywhere you turn there are reminders of your link to the society beyond yourself, you are much more likely to remember your role in shaping that society and the ease with which you can do so.

One argument I agree with the most in Meslin’s presentation is the part about leadership. Leadership is voluntary. And I think this is what he missed overall in stating that it is the system and not the people that causes apathy. People lack this will to voluntarily become a part of the process. We do not live in Australia where there is compulsory voting and compulsory enrollment. Canadians have to decide they want to participate because they have the option to simply plug their ears and blindly go about their daily business. If we can make civil discourse part of the daily discussions of society at large by doing things like taking back public spaces, as he suggests, then maybe people will remember how important simply having the discussion really is.