Thank You For Not Voting

On the night before the 1988 election, my college roommates and I were watching “Nightline,” and caught a startling and wonderful sign-off by then-ABC reporter Jeff Greenfield. I liked it so much that four years later, I was waiting with a VCR to see if Greenfield would deliver the same message again.

He did, and here it is, transcribed word-for-word, and edited just slightly to take out references to any particular election year:

“If you’re still not sure whether you’re going to go out and vote, do us all a favor–stay home. I know this flies in the face of the incessant appeals from news programs like this one, from public service announcements, from movie stars and rock-and-roll idols, begging reluctant citizens to go out and cast a ballot. But think about it for a minute. Sure, our political system rests on a belief in one person, one vote. Sure, on election day the pauper is equal to the millionaire, the servant and the master speak with the same voice, but do we also really believe that the citizen who has no interest in the government, the American who has to be dragged to the polling place like a reluctant suitor, badgered into a trip down the aisle, really deserves such solicitude?

“And this year… no one can honestly say we’ve lacked the chance to see and hear these [candidates], or their records, or their ideas, or their personalities.

“So please, if you still feel too lazy, too uninvolved, too apathetic to care about this election, do not tarnish the votes of your genuinely interested friends and neighbors.

“Go back to sleep.”

–Jeff Greenfield, “Nightline”, ABC, November 3, 1992.

A dozen years later, that’s still pure poetry–and damn good sense. Take it to heart.

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36 Responses to “Thank You For Not Voting”

  1. Princess Kimberley Says:

    Amen, sista!

  2. Salt Lick Says:

    Of course, Greenfield is being completely disingenous when he writes that “no one can honestly say we’ve lacked the chance to see and hear…” B.S. — MSM has never examined fully the record of the most liberal senator in Congress. Greenfield is superb at sounding “fair and balanced” while pushing the liberal agenda. A lot like David Broder.

  3. Bret Says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. Completely uninformed votes are “noise” and will mostly cancel each other out. If a voter has even an inkling, they should definitely vote.

  4. Robin S. Says:

    Salt Lick,

    You can’t expect Greenfield to be completely spot on, considering he said that 12 years ago and Stephen’s just repeating it for us here.

  5. FJohnson Says:

    Well, I think its better for pubs if people don’t vote, but this year I think a lot of people will. Unfortunately, Bush has galvanized people to the point where not only the rich will vote.

  6. mrsizer Says:

    not only the rich will vote

    Huh? Has that been a problem in the past? What do you mean by “rich”? No one in my very large clan (about 80 people in my family) is in the top income tax bracket and we all vote every year.

    Perhaps you meant “bourgeois”? Does the proletariat have to be “galvanized”? That implies they’re not capable of recognizing and acting in their own best interests without external motivation. Rather condescending of you, I think.

    Perhaps I’m overreacting…

  7. Ed Driscoll.com Says:

    “Thank You For Not Voting”

    Jeff Greenfield’s early-1990s advice for uninformed voters remains as valid today as it was then. Of course, if you’d like to get informed about background of the candidate the legacy media is explicitly backing, but doesn’t seem bothered to explore,…

  8. artboy Says:

    No, its better for republicans if informed people vote.
    Additionally, if the direction the country is headed in the current world climate is important, you’d better damn well have more than an inkling before you vote

  9. Ferrethouse Says:

    re: uninformed votes are “noise”

    Uniformed votes are not “noise”. They reinforce the bias of the media. These are people who are priable to the will of the liberal media. They can’t form their own opinions so they jump on the media bandwagon. The media is corrupt because of uninformed voters.

  10. Britton Says:

    artboy-

    is that why metropolitan areas vote overwhelmingly democratic? i guess boston, nyc, dc, chicago, san francisco, los angeles, etc. are filled with uninformed voters? hmmm. or maybe that explains why people with a masters degree or higher tend to vote Democratic versus Republican. By your definition, “informed” does not equate to “educated”.

    I think those who are unsure should vote as much as those who vote based on party lines and with little regard to candidates or where they stand frankly. My issue is more if you have examined the candidates and still can’t make a choice, you don’t know very much about yourself or where you stand politically.

    As for the comment earlier regarding the MSM not investigating the Congressional record of Kerry as some bias towards getting to know the candidates…frankly it is no one’s responsibility but YOUR OWN to get educated on the candidates. I shouldn’t have to spoon feed you info about who they are, when you can find that out for yourself. Since when is it MSM’s responsibility to walk you to a voting booth? And frankly if you don’t view MSM with some caution then there is something wrong with you anyway. Congressional voting records are open to the public so if someone is truly interested in where a candidate stands, they can go look at it themselves. In fact, that is probably more reliable than listening to Bush’s team spin Kerry’s votes into oblivion without any context to when/why votes were made and what other fat was rolled into the bills he voted for/against. To just say, he voted to raise taxes 95 times is not really informational as much as just trash talk. If a voter wants to know they need to be responsible enough to research it.

  11. Baseball Crank Says:

    POLITICS: The Virtues of Not Voting

    Will Collier passes on a wise lecture from Jeff Greenfield on why you shouldn’t vote if you really can’t make up your mind….

  12. my thoughts, without the penny charge :: political :: Says:

    Go Back To Sleep

    VodkaPundit has posted an aside from Jeff Greenfield, formerly of ABC News and now on CNN, who urged undecided and unenthusiastic voters to stay home and not vote….

  13. SCO Says:

    Britton –

    Where do you get “…people with a masters degree or higher tend to vote Democratic versus Republican..”

    Can you site statistics or studies to prove this assertion. By the way, being “educated” does not always equal being “informed”.

  14. E. Nough Says:

    Britton waxes rhetorical:

    By your definition, “informed” does not equate to “educated”.

    As is that’s news to anyone.

    I know a whole lot of well-educated people with advanced degrees whose political views are equivalent to those of the average not very bright 13-year-old. These are highly intelligent, well-read, “sophisticated” people who honestly believe that UN proclamations result in “peace.”

    As someone who has a college degree and is working on another, I am quite certain that levels of education do not correlate positively with being well-informed or a wise decision maker. After a point, the correlation may even be negative.

  15. McGehee Says:

    Beyond a certain point, the decision to get an advanced degree is itself a singularly uninformed one.

    I know more blockheads with advanced degrees than I can shake a stick at. Of coufrse, they think their advanced degrees make them smarter than everyone else, because they could write and defend a dissertation on how the migration paths of the European swallow are affected by the favorite color of a mythical English knight or some such nonsense.

  16. The Jawa Report Says:

    If you’re stupid, please don’t vote

    Since most of my intro classes are taught on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, today afforded me the last opportunity to give some advice to students who are about to get their election cherries popped. Here’s what I told them: DON’T…

  17. Larry J Says:

    As for the voting habits of people with advanced degrees (I have 2 masters degrees

  18. Will Collier Says:

    What Larry said. (M.S.E., 1993)

  19. Britton Says:

    Your assertions that people with advanced degrees have little political intelligence is rooted solely in opinion and is a useless argument. Maybe you just know stupid people with masters degrees. I don’t know what to tell you.

    I know plenty of uneducated politically idiotic people who vote Republican, but that means very little in terms of demographics.

    As for statistical information regarding those with masters, I think the reports I’ve read regarding correlation between education and political affiliation showed that the biggest Democratic support of those with masters degrees come from lawyers, doctors (a degree I think that completely refutes your argument regarding “less grounded” degrees), scientists and of course academics.

    I’ll try to find some raw data, but to me it makes sense to me.

  20. Britton Says:

    Sorry, masters or higher is what I should have stated.

  21. spongeworthy Says:

    An assload of those are lawyers and teachers, so let’s stipulate that a great many of those with advanced degrees are voting from self-interest and not from some pinnacle of wisdom.

  22. E. Nough Says:

    Your assertions that people with advanced degrees have little political intelligence is rooted solely in opinion and is a useless argument.

    As is your assertion that people with advanced degrees are more “informed” voters.

  23. rosignol Says:

    As for statistical information regarding those with masters, I think the reports I’ve read regarding correlation between education and political affiliation showed that the biggest Democratic support of those with masters degrees come from lawyers, doctors (a degree I think that completely refutes your argument regarding “less grounded” degrees), scientists and of course academics.

    Lawyers, I’ll buy. Doctors, I have trouble with- all the docs I’ve discussed the matter with (about half a dozen) have a low opinion of the Dems (at the federal level) because of their close relationship with the lawyers.

  24. Doug Dever Says:

    Damn… now I’m going to have to tell all the staunch conservative Political Science PhD’s I know that their advanced degrees don’t count…

    Britton,

    You came trolling in here trying to thumb your nose at everyone by implying people who vote Democrat are smarter than Republicans because “people with advanced degrees” tend to vote Democrat. Maybe that’s what matters to you.

    Personally, I’ve seen more people without degrees or with a BS/BA succeed in the private sector. The beauty of this country is that your family doesn’t have to be able to afford to send you to Yale or Harvard for you to be successful. It takes hard work, a good business sense, self-reliance, and on a lot of occassions a heaping of intestinal fortitude. That’s what the American dream is all about, it’s not about going to the right schools and jet-setting with the stuffy class… it’s about giving your kids a better start and lifestyle than you had. It’s about anyone being able to move through the ranks instead of being born into them. Out here in the real world, all of those things have very little to do with a degree. You can take your guidance from wherever you’d like, but I’ll continue to look up to those people who create wealth and jobs.

    Additionally, you attempt to use the fact that major urban areas tend to vote Democrat to defend your position. Apparently, in your world, smart people feel compeled to live in the city. Or maybe the smart ones get out of the city and into the suburbs, where they have more say in local government affairs and better schools. Not to mention the cities tend to have higher percentages of lower income families who have become accustomed to some degree of entitlement programs and fear the kind of self-reliant policies that most Republicans advocate. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for lifetime, give him some WIC coupons for a fish and he’ll vote Democrat for a lifetime – and then demand “free” health care.

  25. artboy Says:

    Britton,
    Heavy democratic voting in metro areas is nothing new. Having been a precinct captain in Cook county Illinois I can attest to that. Although I’m not sure why living in a metro area would by default make one more or less informed

    I’m not sure why you equate masters degrees with informed but I don’t think there is a direct connection there. That is to say, educated in the traditional sense is not necessarily equal to informed, while educating one’s self to the world almost certainly is. That said, I’m not sure that metro living is any more of an encouragement towards a need for exposure to ideas than any other location is.

  26. Britton Says:

    What I was implying by stating that metropolitan areas vote is that those people who watch politics, participate in it and who work and participate in the financial capitals of this country, the seat of industry, innovation and investment live and work in metropolitan areas. Yes the lower income you point to tend to vote Democratic and that is a base. But they don’t account for why the liberal elitist states and suburbs of major areas like Boston and NYC vote Democratic. While the rural areas of the country tend to vote republican. Ohio is a good example.

    As for the education, that was a separate point from metropolitan areas so I wasn’t implying those with masters degrees or higher live in metropolitan areas (although I’d bet that that does have some validity to it). You’re correct, I am sure not all people with a PhD or a masters votes Democrat. However statistics show the trend says they do. And these aren’t just lawyers. The Washington Post just had an article about this demographic and I’ll try to find it but I’m not trolling to say smarter people vote Democratic. I’m also not implying those with masters or phds went to Yale or Harvard which is just absurd or that somehow they are “better” than those with just Bachelor’s degrees. I do however think that those who have sought higher education pay more attention to the world around them, whether by aptitude, choice or curiosity. They watch the news, read the newspapers, magazines, follow politics more often than those who have high school diplomas. I was just pointing out that there is a huge demographic of Democratic voters who I think are fully informed and capable of following politics with some understanding who still vote Democratic. I consider myself one. To disagree does not mean one is uninformed or stupid.

  27. Britton Says:

    I think the reason those with PHDs or Masters degrees vote more Democratic than not is because of the relationship the Republican party has with the religious right. Lawyers would be opposed to this relationship in general either because they have no morals (just kidding) or because the mere interjection of morality into law is antithetical to our system of government. Doctors and scientists are more apt to vote Democratic because the archaic antiquated views that the religious right takes on issues like evolution, stem cell research and scientific research in general are antithetical to everything they have dedicated their lives to. That doesn’t make them non-religious, but they certainly recognize the power that constituency holds over the GOP. So while I don’t think voters with higher degrees don’t vote Republican because of the basic principles of the party, which I’m sure many agree with, many of which I myself agree with, I think until the GOP relinquishes some of that control the religious right or the idea that they are the morally superior party, theywill continue to turn away voters, educated or otherwise.

  28. BeckyJ Says:

    As the holder of a PhD in political science, I’d like to address some of these comments. I’m not sure how or where it started, but academia is overwhelmingly liberal and votes Democratic for the most part. The notion that more intelligent people vote Dem stems from that I think.

    There are conservative PhDs (check out Claremont McKenna College in CA, or Hillsdale in MN, for large concentrations of conservative faculty) and there are individual faculty at other schools obviously. One reason you don’t hear more about conservative faculty is that those of us without tenure tend not to talk about our political views as that can go to the always vague category of “collegiality” in our tenure reviews (see Erin O’Connor’s archives for discussions of that issue) and cause us problems down the line.

    The academy perpetuates its liberal leanings by training its up and coming graduate students in that way of thinking. Again, there are those that resist the indoctrination (that is really what it is, although I’m sure many will object); however, most of those folks end up leaving academia for the more tolerant fields of corporate America. These liberal leanings hold true for faculties in metropolitan areas as well as those in more rural areas (College Station, TX or Urbana-Champain, IL for example).

    Just my opinion and conclusions based on my experiences.

  29. BeckyJ Says:

    Sorry – bad link. Should be:

    Erin O’Connor

  30. rvman Says:

    While we are at it, let us not accept at face value Britton’s implicit assumption that cities go Dem because of the advanced degree holders. Advanced degree holders are statistical white noise – there are too few of them to matter, maybe 8% of the adult population. That maybe, at most, 20% of the electorate goes 60-40 Dem doesn’t explain cities which break 80% Democratic. Cities go Dem because of poor people and minorities, neither of whom have Associates, leave alone advanced, degrees on average. They are voting their pocketbooks, not principle, and not because they think they “know better” what is good for this country. Most of them know they don’t, they only know their own interest, and that is the humble intent of their vote.

  31. RichardAubrey Says:

    Interesting observation, rvman.
    If that’s the case, how come so many large cities are run by machines which screw the poor? Seen Detroit’s Kwame Kilpatrick, recently? His charity to promote kids’ leadership pays about 40% of its revenue to his relations.
    Detroit votes for whomever can say the worst things about the suburbs–the white folks–regardless of how stupid he or she may be.
    If they vote their interests, then their interests seem to be overwhelmingly to cock a snook at whitey (to use a neat English term), and I don’t know if they know and accept the cost is to shove a sharp stick in their own eye.
    The fact is that the uneducated and uninformed can be most easily manipulated.

    However, there seems to be a whole lot less connection between cumulative classroom seat time and civic virtue and knowledge than people–especially educators–think.

  32. E. Nough Says:

    I do however think that those who have sought higher education pay more attention to the world around them, whether by aptitude, choice or curiosity. They watch the news, read the newspapers, magazines, follow politics more often than those who have high school diplomas.

    I see no reason to accept this conjecture. In fact, I find it quite likely that many people get advanced degrees — especially in liberal arts fields, but could also be in science, etc. — precisely because of a narrow field of interest, which they use to either shut out competing topics entirely, or as a prism through which to view everything else. (Witness organizations of MDs using epidemiological methods to bolster political conclusions, for example, or lawyers who view every world conflict as it it were a contract dispute.)

    Just as you can claim that a higher level of education results in a higher degree of awareness about the world, I can easily make the counterclaim that past a certain point, the marginal costs of education outweigh the marginal benefits of gaining awareness about the world at large, and various opportunity costs, peer pressure, etc. can result in a human being who, while certainly intelligent and knowledgeable about his field, no longer has a healthy, common-sense view of the world.

    The most extreme and obvious example of this would be someone like Peter Singer, whose insane worldviews would get him laughed out of town anywhere outside academia.

    And this, of course, is disregarding the fact that many of our academic institutions have been completely dominated by the Left, who have turned them into indoctrination centers. The longer one remains in such an environment, the more likely one is to develop a leftish viewpoint, if only as a matter of conformity or downright survival.

  33. Six Meat Buffet Says:

    The night before

    So instead of moping around and waxing philosophical about tomorrow’s election, I’m just going to take a stroll around the blogosphere and peek into the windows of other bloggers, standing in their bushes, trying not to be noticed by the neighbors.

  34. Say Anything Says:

    Undecided? Stay Home

    Guest post by Mark Jaquith of Tempus Fugit It absolutely baffles me that anyone is still an undecided voter at this point. What is even more baffling is that undecided voters actually vote. Vodkapundit posts a 1992 quote from Nightline…

  35. Passionate America Says:

    Passionate Election Predictions

    Regular readers of this blog know that I’m betting on Bush. Who do you think will win (Bush, Kerry, or haha a third party candidate) and why?

    Blogger Predictions: The Horserace Blog, Kerry Haters, Convince Me, Atrios, TalkLeft, Drumwaster’s Rants,…

  36. Jack Tanner Says:

    Spongee – you’re forgetting MSW’s which ar ein abundance and vote 99% Dem/liberal/Green

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