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Monday, 30 January 2017

The 45th President asks: Why didn't you vote??

Donald Trump was widely mocked for a recent Tweet in which he asked: Why didn't these protesters vote?

There are two - alternative - ways to look at this Trump remark. 

Most people focus on the alleged falsehood of his claim. Indeed, it's likely that many of these protesters did vote on 9 November 2016.

But how about the very many people who did/do not vote in General or Presidential elections?? Why don't they vote? What is their responsibility for the outcome of such elections? What is the responsibility of politicians who seem unable to motivate enough voters to cast their ballot? Why do we blame an "illegitimate" elected president rather than the people who didn't bother to vote??

Even I feel uncomfortable raising these questions. I think, feel and believe these questions also question the heart of democracy: do we have a right to vote or a duty to vote? 

In 1970, the Netherlands abolished a voting duty. Voter turnout immediately decreased significantly and has deteriorated ever since. 

National voter turnout (blue) remained relatively stable but municipal (green) and provincial (red) suffered a lot. Source: Sargasso

The real question is: Who profits from a voting rightBased on Brexit and Trump, it's fair to say that populist persons or themes will profit. Hence, Trump has a valid point in asking: Why didn't they vote?

It is too easy to blame others without blaming yourself first. Clinton's claim that she lost due to the FBI director and/or Russian interference is ridiculous, if only because she won the popular vote by 3 million votes. She lost - and even by relatively small margins - because she ignored the rural regions that turned towards Trump. See Cook political report for details.

I think it's safe to say that Brexit and even Donald Trump would not have happened if there would have been a voting duty. The only way we can guarantee our "free" Western societies is by requiring a civic duty to vote for its continuance. Trump is right in asking us: Why didn't you vote??

Vote! (1983) by Steven van Zandt - artist, FB, IMDb, "lyrics", video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2