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Decoding Obama's Mandatory Voting Fantasy

There’s nothing that excites someone to vote like being forced to do it. But federal force is one of President Obama's favorite things, so his recent announcement that mandatory voting might be a good idea is hardly a surprise.

Normally, Americans have an aversion to being told what to do. Imagine if a president had proposed mandatory prayer for all Americans. Most previous presidents thought prayer was a good idea, so why not prayer for everybody -- by mandate?

Mandatory voting is just as unappealing. After all, part of the right to vote we hear so much about also includes the right not to vote. Americans have the constitutional right to reject the political process, check out and not vote. In fact, one might argue electoral apathy is a sign of a nation’s health. If things are going well enough, if people are content, then voting isn’t a priority.  Voting only rises in importance when the government manages to screw up people’s lives enough to make voting important again.

Deciding not to vote is still casting a ballot of a different kind. Or as Neil Peart put it in another context, “if you chose not to decide you still have made a choice.”

Let’s return to mandatory prayer.

President Obama thinks mandatory voting is a good idea.  As a progressive, he subscribes to the theology that a better, brighter future is just around the corner if only the machinery of government can be properly tuned to get us there. Apathy and nonparticipation, to progressives, is one of the pesky by-products of freedom, slowing our journey to utopia. Once everyone is forced to vote, those teeming masses will raise their collective fist high in the air and transform the country.

But what if a president preferred raising up America’s hands in mandatory prayer?

Naturally, we know what the progressive secular left would do with such a proposal. Laughter, ridicule and endless citation of the Free Exercise clause would follow. The pro-prayer president might respond that nationally mandated prayer -- let’s just say on Fridays, for convenience -- "could lift up and transform the nation." But the laughter from the left would drown out the pro-prayer president. After all, we are a nation that believes in people exercising freedom of conscience, right?

So what if a president proposed mandatory speech? Every American might log onto whitehouse.gov and register their views on every issue. More speech is good, right?

Not a big fan of prayer or speech? Then fill in the blank with what you like best for your own mandate. Mandatory church. Mandatory quartering of troops. If not troops, mandatory quartering of AmeriCorps volunteers. Mandatory gun ownership. Mandatory party membership.  Mandatory recycling. Mandatory exercise followed by mandatory community picnics. Mandatory kale.

All of this starts to sound, dare I say, rather un-American. See, mandates are the ways of totalitarians.

Americans believe in freedom. If you don’t want to vote, don’t. Some elections just aren’t worth your vote. Some elections, you might not find a single candidate to be acceptable. If you choose not to vote, you still have made a choice.

But this is a president that seems all too comfortable with mandates, rules, and edicts, and is all too uncomfortable with freedom.  Years ago, Dorothy Rabinowitz called Obama the “alien in the White House.”  She wasn’t talking about where Obama was born. She was talking about how Obama doesn’t fit into the American experience of freedom or love of country.

Obama playing with the deeply offensive idea of mandatory voting only adds to this assessment.

So why do progressives want to force everyone to vote? It’s critical to understand this, because mandatory voting isn’t the only process scheme they’ve cooked up to transform the nation.