Written by Laura Clawson for Daily Kos
George Will is very concerned that the Obama administration is talking about trying to make it easier to register to vote and vote, which Will sees as a slippery slope toward mandatory voting, which would be bad because “As indifferent or reluctant voters are nagged to the polls—or someday prodded there by a monetary penalty for nonvoting—the caliber of the electorate must decline.” Along the way to that concern for the caliber of the electorate, Will quoteslongtime bad guy Hans von Spakovsky and cites the example of Nazi Germany. Which should tell you pretty much all you need to know about this argument.
Will’s starting point is that it’s not bad that 60 million eligible Americans aren’t registered to vote, because maybe they just don’t want to be and it would somehow be oppressing them to make it easier for them to register should they decide they want to do that. And if you read a generic “democracy is good” statement by a Justice Department official creatively enough, and you’re a paranoid like Will, you can get from easier or universal voter registration to mandatory voting through the logic that if you think democracy is good, you’d enforce it. Will, for his part, does not think democracy is necessarily good. For one thing, there’s that whole caliber of the electorate thing if, heaven forbid, more people voted. (So keeping people in low-voting populations from voting tends to improve the caliber of the electorate, we have to infer.) For another:
Those who think high voter turnout indicates civic health should note that in three German elections, 1932-33, turnout averaged more than 86 percent, reflecting the terrible stakes: The elections decided which mobs would rule the streets and who would inhabit concentration camps.
As Media Matters’ Simon Maloy details, Germany was in bad shape in the early 1930s.
None of that, however, is an argument against the high voter turnout as a sign of “civic health.” It’s an argument against war, depression, anti-Semitism, Nazis, Communists, and political violence. Will could just as easily have argued that representative government, or elections themselves, aren’t a sign of “civic health,” given how they were misused and perverted by Hitler and his associates.
Maloy probably shouldn’t tempt Will like that, because it’s actually about the same size of jump from “the Nazis show that high voter turnout is scary” to “the Nazis show that elections are scary” as from “voter registration shouldn’t be a difficult hoop to jump through” to “voting should be mandatory.” Remember, this is one of the alleged serious intellectual voices of the Republican Party. And he’s arguing against increased voter turnout by citing Hitler. Enough said, I think?