Voting Is Easy; Vigilance Is Hard

I taught US History in these parts for 40 years, and in all that time most students made the same mistake about democracy their parents did. They figured after the heated campaigning was over, their job was done. They had voted, the best man or woman had won, and from this point on it was the winner’s job.


You see, candidates are at their best during the campaign; yet often at their worst after the campaign. It’s human nature. Theirs and ours. It’s so much easier to be your best when the lights are on, just as it is so much simpler to be your worst after the cameras shut down and everyone goes back home.

Here’s the challenge.

We know what the winners promised us. They know it too, for they have a garage full of snappy signs and brochures spelling it all out. However, for a democracy to truly work, the system calls for our vigilance as well as our vote. Which, when you think about it, is so much harder. Harder because it operates on one of life’s most counter-intuitive beliefs. That people [“demos” in ancient Greece where this whole dazzling idea first started] are inherently willing to put the public needs over their own.

To prove my point, watch how you and I react next time there’s a traffic jam on the Kennedy, and no cops or stoplights to organize everyone’s impatience. Kinda ugly! Strikes me that human nature like this is precisely what makes our enduring vigilance so much less likely than our enthusiastic voting. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Leave a comment