GOOD

Stronger Social Bonds = Better Voter Turnout

Bonds to each other and to our communities can lead us to the voting booth.



In 1995, Robert Putnam published that rare thing: a academic paper that broke through, made noise beyond the Ivory Tower. With Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital, and his related book, he diagnosed a widely felt ill and gave us a vivid metaphor to represent it.

His central thesis:

"For the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, a powerful tide bore Americans into ever deeper engagement in the life of their communities, but a few decades ago -- silently, without warning -- that tide reversed, and we were overtaken by a treacherous rip current. Without at first noticing, we have been pulled apart by from one another and from our communities..."

\n

I have a couple of quibbles with Putnam. One, his stuff occasionally veers close to Greatest Generation crap, as when he says the people who came of age in the 30s and 40s, were "exceptionally civic-- voting more, joining more, reading more, trusting more, giving more." Two, his analysis of the causes is weak; for example, he overstates the importance of TV and overlooks the concerted effort by corporate power to break the bonds between people, which Chomsky discusses here.

But the notion that our social and communal ties have frayed seems incontestable. Despite the internet, our connections to each other aren't as strong as they could and should be.

Voting may seem like a purely solitary act, but Putnam correctly links the decrease in voting turnout to the weakening of our social bonds. If we belong to an organization—a labor union, a church, a local political party—that urges us to vote, we're more likely to do so. Likewise, social pressure, a potent get-out-the-vote force, is more likely to come into play if we're close to our neighbors. More generally, if we're civic-minded, we're more likely to engage in this quintessential civic activity.

A new era of strong civic engagement won't magically appear; it has to be created. That's why I've been using this space to talk about the idea of making Election Day a national holiday—a civic celebration to cultivate a culture of voting.

Fourth in a series. One/Two/Three

This post is part of the Take Back Tuesday campaign to make Voting Day a national holiday. Sign up or encourage your company to join in at takebacktuesday.good.is.

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

Articles

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture