The 16 percent turnout among 111,324 registered voters in Chattanooga tells of despair, but of a kind that suggests good things ahead.
In the low election turnout there arises the possibility that politics have faded, that the great hope in the voice of the people has weakened, that the inspiration poured into the modern welfare state has gone. The glory of modern politics is the nation-state created in its most magnificent form “eternal and indivisible” in the French revolution. But now it appears members of the public are seeing it in a down market, in a bear market, and have also thrown into discount elections for city government.
In the day of incessant and total politics, one’s homeland means little, and one’s hometown even less. Chattanooga indifference amplifies the indifference to national elections, which run at consistent lows.
The majority report on the 16% voter turnout
The majority report views low voter turnout as might a scold having her way with a delinquent pebble thrower parkside by the fountain.
David Cook, a columnist in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, laments this public indifference to balloting. “Given the chance — the privilege — of voting [voting is actually a right, not a privilege — DT], vast numbers of people stayed home. Too busy. Too bored. Too much rain. Too whatever. In past years, the city mayor and council have been elected by fewer than 20 percent of registered voters” (italics added).
An editorial on the left-side editorial page went on to snarl that the majority of registered people who didn’t vote will, at the first conflict to arise before the council, “raise their hands and voices to complain.” The nonvoter, in other words, in the city election lacks standing to voice a position on an issue, or be grieved at any exercise of city council legal authority through its ordinance book. His place to complain about taxes, ordinances, losses, compulsions vanishes if he does not take part in the holy sacrament of political process.
To give flesh to his complaint about the nonvoter, Mr. Cook illustrates his lamentation with a figure of the number of people who go to Hamilton Place mall. In 2011, 16 million are estimated to have visited, or about 43,000 a day, by Mr. Cook’s accounting. “Which means that Tuesday, more than twice as many people went to the mall as voted.”
Exhaustion of politics
There is a chagrin on the part of our readers and other people. We are tired of all the promises of these state. Its ministers no longer have claim to your soul. Its officers cannot help you. Its barons cannot protect you. They are not that important. They are not that important. The people are exhausted from statism.
The effect may be more pronounced on account of the pervasiveness of the state. In every part of our lives it stands. It is always advising about our diets, telling us to drive safely, buckle up telling us we cannot own firearms with a certain look, telling us to save our money, forbidding us from earning more than F$10,000 in cash without filing a currency transaction report with the federal police. Myriad forms of advice or coercion. We come to realize it doesn’t matter who the faces are of the people who run the machine. Almost, you think that no matter whom is elected, the government gets in. That is a perspective of despair. You are despairing of government. You are despairing of the state. You are despairing of the idea of people representing you in an area not readily available to you — that of law, of force and compulsion.
The more laws we have, the more remedies you will see suitable to law, the more coercion we have playing itself out into society and against the free market. You are shaking your head. You think the free market is so damaged that there seems no reason to vote. You think somehow the situation is so far gone, so distressed, that voting is a wasted effort.
Indifference may be displaced with hope
My theory of Chattanooga surmises that as the state becomes less pervasive in the coming sequence of economic and financial meltdowns, the people of the city will rise to the occasion of those disasters. They will take these disasters and their attendant losses as opportunities.
Devolution and decentralization are growing pressures upon the United States. The federal power cares not about destroying the people and the economy as it thrashes through its woes to find a financial handhold; it cares not whom it destroys, whom it leaves hanging; it cares nothing for its own retirees, for social security beneficiaries, users stuck with worthless federal “dollars.” Uncle cares only for his own survival as his creditors crack down and seek to force the issue of repayment, and he seeks to elude them through inflation.
Convulsions preoccupy the center; the extremities are paralyzed. The center is gripped by apoplexy and lawlessness; but the heartland is finding its own center, gaining its bearings. The blood of the free market holds greater promise to trickle into the states and their cities, and to the peoples residing therein.
If I’m right in this projection, we can find meaning in the optimism expressed by Chattanooga’s mayor elect, Andy Berke. If it’s possible for Chattanooga to develop a better local economy, a powerful internal marketplace,‡ his words might issue a richer meaning.
“The people of Chattanooga are ready for renewal,” he tells a crowd Tuesday celebrating an election win, “a fresh approach to address and overcome the challenges of our city. We are ready to renew our commitments to this place, to our highest goals and aspirations and, most of all, to each other.”
‡ Kathryn Foster of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce gives glimpses of the power of local economy in a Nooganomics interview available at ustream.tv. She is my guest today at Nooganomics.com, the weekday show 1 to 3 p.m. at 1240 Copperhead AM radio (a commercial station)
James Harrison, “Andy Berke elected mayor of Chattanooga,” Nooga.com, March 5, 2013
David Cook, “What Silence Looks Like,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, March 6, 2013
Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Berke wins in a walk,” March 6, 2013