Horse apples and buffalo chips

To the Editor,

A modern-day St. George, Ralph Nader’s long list of slain dragons includes getting seat belts put in cars, exposing the iniquities of the big oil companies and criticizing wasteful spending on Elvis Presley postage stamps. Some years back he gained recognition for espousing broad voter participation, and today, like-minded activists beat loudly on the same drum. If matters were left to Nader, mandatory voting in presidential elections would be required.

At first blush, I was tempted to embrace Nader’s sweeping stance on voting. Having obtained suffrage, a freed slave or an early suffragette rejoiced in a hard-won franchise, and neither required coercion for its affirmation. But does the complacency exhibited by a substantial portion of today’s electorate justify mandatory voting? If mindlessly cast ballots engender bad governance, wouldn’t coercion but exacerbate matters? Or would Nader contend that its purpose is to foster a heightened awareness of one’s personal stake in the processes of our republican form of government? Would dragging all and sundry into the voting booth draw the best blood into the political arena, or would demagoguery flourish? These, and other questions, beg of answers. No doubt there are visions of sugarplums dancing about in Nader’s Lincolnesque head, visions to be shared by all. His apologies for mandatory voting, however, have thus far proved to be long on bluster but short on substance.

A cynic would hastily point out that some of the most impressive voter turnouts ever recorded occurred in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, where voting was not only encouraged, but often coerced. An irksome prig might contend that universal voting would ultimately culminate in a virtual one-party system after officiously reminding us that even the Nazi party in Germany faced competition, however token, should he be cuffed with the obvious rebuke that the two-party system in this country is here to stay, ensuring democracy. A cheap churl would take up his cudgel, rancorously grumbling that entrenched welfare generations and an ever-increasing subsidized class would obtain permanent access to the pocketbooks of working Americans, by simply voting en masse for a panderer, from now until the end of time.

Utopia may be just around the corner. All we must do is get out and vote, one and all. Should dystopia instead be the result, I am sufficiently mean-spirited to permit myself a congratulatory “I told you so,” and may God then richly bless the niggardly churl.

The science of phrenology would benefit immeasurably from a comprehensive study done on the shape of Ralph Nader’s peerless dolichocephalic skull, in that its unfathomed contents would be meticulously quantified and divulged. All the crests and crevasses must be accurately probed.

Absent of sugarplums, it wouldn’t surprise me should naught be discovered but horse apples and buffalo chips.

Gail Wickstrom