Voting turnout

Aeriel Anderson’s Dec. 3 opinion column on voter turnout, “Reaction to voter turnout is overrated,” is emblematic of the tenets of American exceptionalism that too often find their way into supposedly intelligent discourses on U.S. politics.

First, the writer is wrong to assume that the right to political expression is “a rarity in global politics.” Despite the prevalence of media reports on the barbarous political landscape of countries not named the United States, this country is not the sole beacon of light in the world of evil our leaders envision.

Secondly, the writer is mistaken in naively assuming the United States is such a democratic society simply because U.S.’ politicians, mass media sources and history textbooks claim it to be so. Even ignoring the United States’ grim history of undemocratic practices, ranging from slavery and the three-fifths laws to internment camps and the Cold War stranglehold on political rights doesn’t fully cleanse our hands of anti-democratic practices.

Whether looking at the absurdity of the Electoral College, the debacle of the last presidential election or the multitude of claims of racist disenfranchisement of non-white Americans, even the United States’ very recent past has shown the United States is anything but the democratic utopia it has claimed to be.

Even more disappointing is the author’s assumption that because most Americans chose not to vote, they are simply apathetic, lazy or uniformed. Americans choose not to vote because neither of the major political parties are the least bit concerned with the welfare of the average American, and the rules of the game only allow for two players.

Any right that has been gained in the United States, be it workers’ rights, the eight-hour day or those achieved in the civil rights struggle have been won through popular struggle and mass protest, not the ballot box.

If we are to change the course of our country and improve the conditions in which we live, it will not be because of our benevolent elected representatives. It will be because of popular struggle and mass protests that our “leaders” will not be able to ignore.

Peter Gerdts, alumnus