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Why Americans Shouldn't Vote

Everyone is sure the American political system is broken, but no one wants to blame the people in charge. James Fallows has his nifty little book blaming the press; Howard Kurtz blames our talk show culture; Frontline and The Center for Public Integrity point to our corrupt campaign finance system; conservatives tout their all-purpose reform, term limits; and yet in none of these diagnoses is there any blame for the folks who run the Washington asylum: voters.

What we need to fix Washington is not a little more tinkering with the inside-the-Beltway system. We need a little tinkering outside—voter reform. The problem is twofold: voters are ignorant and corrupt.

The Washington Post's recent "Reality Check" series put the problem into sharp focus. Forty-eight percent of Americans do not know which party is more conservative and which is more liberal. Now, it is clear that labels have their limits, but is there any excuse for not knowing where Gingrich and Gephardt stand on the political spectrum? Forty-six percent do not know the purpose of the Supreme Court. Forty percent do not know who the Vice President is—Jay Leno's constant barrage of jokes notwithstanding. It is true that the vast majority of these potential voters are not registered, but in almost all races the ignorant vote is larger than the difference between the winner and the loser.

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