This editorial was originally published December 12, 1936.
IF THERE is anything which should appeal to one’s patriotism, to a sane, reasonable and justifiable love of country, it is the opportunity to vote at a national election. It is easy to find fault with the parties, to denounce the greed, evasions and cowardice of political organizations, and even to pick flaws in the candidates. Issues may be confusing and political processes are rarely altogether satisfactory. But popular choices must be made, no adult who is not mentally deficient can fail to have some preference, and it is inspiring to take part in the greatest single decision in the world. Always, in advance of one of these great national elections, there is a tremendous effort by the different parties to get out the vote. Afterward come the post-mortems, not only of those who did vote but of the many who did not. In other words, the stay-at-home vote runs to some twenty or thirty millions. Numbers must be ruled out because of mental and physical disabilities, accidents and unavoidable circumstances. Others are so ignorant or live in such remote regions that even the most alert of political machines cannot drag them out of their lethargy or from their accustomed routine. Legal residents of the District of Columbia are denied the ballot. Finally, there is the large group of voters disqualified because of too recent change of residence. But it is not to such considerations that these few paragraphs are directed. Unfortunately, many of the stay-at-homes have no real excuse to offer. They say their votes do not count, but, of course, that is not so. No one can tell how much a given action counts. If everyone took that attitude, there would be no elections, no government, no social order—only anarchy. The very fact that millions are actually unable to vote makes it all the more incumbent upon those who can go to the polls to do so. There has been altogether too much emphasis in recent years upon rights rather than upon duties; in an election, millions of individuals have a chance to show in a real way that they have some regard for their duties. It is sometimes said that among the stay-at-home voters are many who believe in property rights and in the more sane, moderate approach to public questions. But their attitude is a farce and worth nothing to the country unless they put it into practice to the extent of going to the polls. An election for President and Vice-President is a necessary part of the processes of democratic government. But it is much more than that. When forty or fifty million men and women perform their civic duty, even though the effort required is very slight, something has been added to the sum total of the moral force of the nation.