Voter turnout in the U.S. Presidential election of 2008 was the highest in 40 years. In the recent presidential elections it had on occasion slipped below one-half of those eligible. In most other elections it is well below 50 percent.
I have mixed feelings about this. I know about opportunity costs and the idea that many people have bigger fish to fry is attractive.
One also has to be careful about romanticizing democracy and, by extension, the state.
But I greatly appreciate voting with feet. Accidents of birth are profound and many people find the stength and the opportunity to do something about it. This is why maps of the world ought to color countries by whether people are struggling to get in or to get out.
The U.S. leads the pack as the place to get into. It has done so for many years and will probably continue in that role for a while. Of all of America's positives, my favorite is the (relatively) low place of tribalism. Around the world, people slaughter and maim each other (and always have) for reasons of historic tribalism. Modern man is worthy of the label if and when he finally moves away from this pre-historic legacy.
Come to America and you may get to marry someone from a different tribe. You may also strive for any high office, no matter your roots.
This is why I disagree with the discussants on last evening's Jim Lehrer News (and many other venues) who inevitably want "a conversation about race".
No. Communist-style re-education camps are a horrible idea. Much better to ride the wave and leave race and tribalism behind us. We should always learn from history, but we should not wallow in it to make political points.