Voting: Fun, games or none of the above?
Another election, another series of laments for voter turnout. I am starting to believe that the title of this blog should be amended to include an apology. I.e: .... Politics (Sorry).
In today's Ipolitics.ca, Robert Asselin says this is a pretty dire situation. Of course, if you're reading Ipolitics.ca, you're not likely to be part of the turnout problem. Same thing is probably true about this blog, unless you've stumbled here by accident, in which case, again, sorry it's about politics.
Over the past week or so, I've been sent some messages and links to new projects, aimed at getting young people interested in politics.
One is a new Facebook game, brought to you by TVO, called Honoured Citizen:
One involves a puppet (yes, a puppet) named Suzy Citizen -- a young, would-be political junkie who keeps coming up against an adult wall of cynicism and apathy.
But will games and puppets cut it? Or are we setting our young people up for inevitable disappointment (and even more cynicism) -- leading them to believe that politics is all fun and games, when it's not?
Personally, the most intriguing thing I've heard on this subject lately came from University of Montreal political scientist Andre Blais, speaking at a Library of Parliament forum on youth engagement.
Prof. Blais said that we have to confront this stark, cultural fact: In the past few decades, we have learned to value choice more than we do duty. When voting was seen as a duty, turnout was higher. Now it's a choice -- not just between parties or leaders, but between caring and not caring, voting and not voting. Until we get our heads around that notion, Blais said, we won't really be tackling the problem of political disengagement.
For fun, I hauled out that Google N-grams gadget again, to test whether choice was more popular than duty. (Google N-grams, to recap, are charts created by word searches of Google's massive book archives.) Here's the result:
It certainly seems to back Prof. Blais's theory. Now -- what to do about it?