Update (10/22/2016): As most people are aware, Mike Rowe responded to this post on Wednesday, 10/19/2016. I posted an apology and brief explanation while I digested his response, reread his post, and came to terms with why I could have approached this topic better.
After a few days, I’ve finished collecting my thoughts in a new follow-up post. It’s a long read, but I hope it adequately explains why I wrote the unjustifiable way I did about Mike Rowe, why I owed him an apology, and why I still respectfully disagree with him over encouraging people to vote.
I also wrote it on my own site because, fair warning, it’s probably too boring for SeriouslyGuys.
For some people, an election boils down to Democrat or Republican.
For others, it’s Vote or Not Vote because, overall, politicians are no prize. They’re more like the price of living in a republic with democratically elected representation: OK, you get someone who will mostly make the decisions you want, but they’ll also be the kind of person who wants to be a decision-maker for everyone else. It’s no surprise that most of these people probably rank high on the psychopath spectrum.
So, I can understand when a common sense guy like Mike Rowe would rather not encourage people to vote. Voting is inspirational in the theoretical, Leonardo-DiCaprio-does-it sense. But when you look at the choices, it looks more like a dirty job — do you ladle out the solid chunks or siphon the ammonia-smelling liquids?
But, when Mike Rowe says that people shouldn’t be encouraged to vote because they’re probably too stupid to do so, that’s not common sense. (Rant also celebrated here, although it bogusly claims he posted it a couple of days ago.) That’s elitism, which seems out of character for the champion of the hard-working American.
In response to a reader, who asked if Mike would use his celebrity to encourage people to vote in the upcoming election, Mike deferred. But not on the grounds that it’s none of his business whether people vote, but because he can’t encourage just anyone who’s eligible to cast a ballot. It’s probably better if some people just don’t:
That would be like encouraging everyone to buy an AR-15, simply because they have the right to bear arms. I would need to know a few things about them before offering that kind of encouragement. For instance, do they know how to care for a weapon? Can they afford the cost of the weapon? Do they have a history of violence? Are they mentally stable? In short, are they responsible citizens?
So, who is Mike Rowe-certified to vote, since it’s apparently as dangerous as people arming themselves to the gills? People who “read more.”
Spend a few hours every week studying American history, human nature, and economic theory. Start with “Economics in One Lesson.” Then try Keynes. Then Hayek. Then Marx. Then Hegel. Develop a worldview that you can articulate as well as defend. Test your theory with people who disagree with you. Debate. Argue. Adjust your philosophy as necessary. Then, when the next election comes around, cast a vote for the candidate whose worldview seems most in line with your own.
I’m suddenly curious to see Mike’s bookshelf. Because it would be funny if even Mike didn’t meet his own literacy standard for being encourage-able to vote. Fortunately for possibly Mike and millions of voters who haven’t carved the time out of their 40-to-60-hour work week to study economics, we outlawed literacy tests, which racists used to prevent African-Americans from “voting against their own interest” during Jim Crow.
But, what’s so surprising is that, for a guy who normally thinks everyone has the potential to shape and contribute to society with hard work, Mike thinks that there’s a class of better voters out there and that stupid people should maybe sit out the election so that we don’t elect Trump or Hillary. (As opposed to electing … who?) We’ll only treat it “like the final episode of American Idol” — y’know, a show that stupid people watch.
Mike is correct that the two candidates elected in the primary are historically unlikable, that “their approval ratings are at a record low.” In his opinion, this is because stupid people got their vote in the primary, and now all the smart people who sat out of the first round of electing their leader are stuck deciding between what the idiots fed them. (If that doesn’t sound smart to you, then you probably don’t read enough.) So, don’t vote or something.
Mike’s ignoring how we know that these two candidates are so unpopular: because while not everyone could be bothered to vote, everyone does have an opinion about the people who won. This is something that every despot and unpopular political party has recognized: they can continue to win election after election so long as only a select group of people vote. It’s how guys like Saddam Hussein could claim 99 percent election victories or how gerrymandering — shaping districts around likely voters’ homes — guarantees certain parties maintain hold of House districts.
Low voter turnout elects unpopular candidates. The solution to this isn’t fewer voters; it’s more.
If every Republican who hated Trump voted in the primary, he wouldn’t be the Republican candidate. And even with the DNC’s super-delegate system, if every Democrat who hated Hillary voted (and it’s possible that not enough people hated her), then Bernie Sanders would’ve won.
Admittedly, it’s too late to not vote for either (or possibly an equally detestable third-party kook) in the general election. But only “well-read” voters participating won’t prevent any of the above from winning. Instead, more of one party’s energized backers will decide for everyone, which might be a minority of a minority. Or, in other words: an oligarchy will decide our next four to eight years of national governance if everyone sits out.
To borrow from Mike’s CV, this general election is like a backed-up sewage line. We can claim we didn’t help plug it up, but somebody’s still got to clean it up. That means deciding how much sh*t lands on the town downhill — yes, choosing the less sh*tty of two evils. And, Mike’s special few who know a thing or two about history and economics should act more responsibly next time so that we don’t have a plugged up sewage line for the next general election.
We all need to vote. And not just for president — because too f*cking late — but in the primaries and in the off-year elections, because today’s House or Senate candidate will probably run for President tomorrow. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
So, if Mike Rowe won’t say it, I will. Vote. Even if you don’t think you don’t know enough — and really, who does? That’s why we elect qualified representatives. — vote. And don’t let anyone, especially Mike Rowe, tell you that it’s better if you don’t.
And if hearing that choosing not to vote when you’re capable of doing so makes you feel guilty? Then maybe do something so that you don’t feel ashamed, like vote or at least don’t make a big deal about not voting.
Or, don’t listen to me. Nobody cares what I think. Nobody asked me, anyway. But at least I’m not trying to sell you a t-shirt off of apathy and low self-worth.