You tell me

I'm going to copycat Steve Benen from Political Animal. Flagrantly.

To begin, it looks as though erstwhile eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who is running to govern California, never bothered to register to vote until 2002, when she was 46. Her opponent for the GOP, Steve Poizner, is making a lot of hay about it.

Steve wants to know from his readers if failing to vote (or even register) is as big a deal-breaker as Poizner is making it seem. And because I'm actually curious what you think, I'm passing on the question to you.

Would you consider voting for someone, particularly for an office like the governorship of your state, if he or she had not bothered to vote for most of his/her adult life? For my part, the answer is a resounding "no." I can't relate well enough to people who don't vote (for the most part) to even consider them close friends (seriously), and I would automatically disqualify any candidate (regardless of party) if he or she viewed their civic duty as being so unimportant.


  1. How can failing to register and vote be an automatic disqualifier? People change. Things that were once unimportant become important, and vice versa. I'd certainly take the earlier lack of involvement into account, but a deal-breaker? No.

    On a related topic, if a voter's opinion is uninformed, why should we insist she vote? I'd much rather people not vote than vote without thoughtful reasons to support a candidate. Participation for the sake of participation isn't valuable IMVHO.

  2. I think it largely depends upon the political makeup of your particular state. I also figure that making political hay off of pointing out that your opponent hasn't been registered isn't really a very substantive policy point; if that's the worst thing you have to say about your opponent, I'm not very convinced you ought to be running yourself.

    California's yearly elections are about as difficult to predict as the Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley. Someone who didn't vote routinely for the majority of their adult life doesn't necessarily warrant immediate rejection.

    That said, they'd have to have something substantive to say about their failure to vote.

  3. Gadfly, from my perspective voting is always important. Ms. Whitman may not have thought it was, but in that case she and I have very different ideas about the virtues of civic participation, which is one of the values I hold most dearly.

    And no, I think idiots who don't read the news are better off not voting. But I'm probably not likely to have much in common with them, in that case.

    And Padraig, if Ms. Whitman can give a compelling reason for not only not voting, but not bothering to register, perhaps I would reconsider. Now, since this is for the GOP nomination, I don't really have a nickel in that dime, since the current GOP is a bunch of loons as far as I'm concerned. But I certainly think much, much less of Ms. Whitman's claim to be the best person for the job if she didn't care enough to vote for who filled it in the past.

  4. Read Walter Lippmann. I think you'll begin to feel differently about voting.

  5. If she were up against Steve King or Michelle Bachmann, it would not be disqualifying. But it does point to a certain lack of civic engagement, or even interest. It would make me worry that the reasons for running would be egomania or single-issue-focused. It's a serious strike against a candidate, although not always a death knell for me.

  6. I'm not very familiar with Lippmann, but my understanding is that he had a lot of criticism for how our voting public gets its information and uses it when making its political decisions. I think there are valid questions to ask about systems of government, polity vs. democracy, etc. But, within the framework in which we currently live, I think a lack of civic engagement as demonstrated by failure to even register means a candidate is insufficiently motivated to engage.

  7. @ Elizabeth, Dan

    > a certain lack of civic engagement

    Right, and it's an important data point. On the flip side, if a candidate can point to numerous other bits of evidence showing that they don't lack civic engagement, that's a compelling counterpoint. Probably not the case here, but I can imagine someone active in their community, who volunteers at their local school, on the PTA, etc., they have lots of pointers that they are engaged in the community.

    Some people have to come to the political process later. There's lots of reasons why some people feel disengaged in the political process without feeling disengaged from their community.

    But, like I said, she'd have to say something substantive on the matter before I'd buy it.