Election 2012: Let's Hear It for Cynicism

In the sense the Obamaites mean, cynicism is skepticism toward politicians' grand plans.


Presidential elections: Like malaria or certain "social diseases," they just keep coming back.

While it's always nice to have an opportunity to "throw the bums out" and usher in a new set, I'm not remotely as excited about the 2012 choice as many of those in my increasingly frantic Twitter feed. Neither of the likely outcomes is anything to cheer. But, in the spirit of Monty Python's Brian, I'd like to look on the bright side.

Despite himself, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich always manages to cheer me up. In a get-out-the-vote column in the Huffington Post last week, he wails: "If you succumb to cynicism, the regressives win it all."

"Cynicism" in politics is the Obamaites' bête noire. President Obama decried "cynics" in his inaugural address, and on the campaign trail in 2008, Michelle Obama insisted that Barack Obama "is going to demand that you shed your cynicism…and that you engage."

But what's wrong with "cynicism" in the sense the Obamaites mean—skepticism toward politicians' grand plans? Ambrose Bierce's "Devil's Dictionary" defines a cynic as "a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be." We could use more of that attitude toward presidential politics—and happily, it seems to be making a comeback.

Some of the better arguments for a Romney presidency are cynical indeed. Despite the GOP candidate's China-bashing on trade, his demagoguing on Medicare for "our seniors" and his apparent belief that he can solve our fiscal crisis by eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting—many of Romney's supporters insist he'll shake the Etch A Sketch and pursue different policies in office. Romney doesn't mean what he says, they say. Given his record, they're probably right.

The American Conservative's Dan McCarthy suggests, tentatively, that a Romney win might "heighten the contradictions on the right to the point that reform becomes possible." A rift could emerge "between frustrated hawks demanding a Dick Cheney agenda and business-minded Republicans who don't want to blow their political capital" or bust the budget on adventurism abroad. What's more, "the left…just might hold Romney's feet to the fire on war and civil liberties."

The best you can say about an Obama victory is his capacity for mischief would likely be diminished in a second term. He'll have nothing resembling a mandate going into 2013, and things will get worse for him from there. As political scientist Colleen Shogan explains, all two-term presidents in the modem era have been plagued by some form of the "Sixth-Year Curse," characterized by "scandals, weakened political coalitions, and midterm electoral defeat."

Whatever happens today, the good news is that the Cult of Obama has been badly weakened and with it, perhaps, the Cult of the Presidency. To borrow a famous George W. Bush malapropism, rarely is the question asked, is our electorate learning?

Far be it from me to tell anyone how to vote. But let me make one suggestion about how to comport yourself on this Election Day. Please refuse that infantile "I Voted!" sticker they hand you at the polls. You are, presumably, a functional, taxpaying adult who reads the newspaper and strives to form intelligent opinions about public affairs. You shouldn't be caught walking around with a laudatory label on your shirt, like you're a five-year-old kid who just went to the dentist, got the bubble-gum flavored fluoride and didn't squirm.

If voting is a civic duty, let's try to make it dignified for the grown-ups.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.

NEXT: Obama's Slim Yet Consistent Lead Will Carry Him to Victory, Unless Battleground State Polls Are Statistically Biased

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  1. Let’s Hear It for Cynicism

    Hip! Hip! … Meh.

    1. My daughter point out to me that would be “Let’s hear it for apathy.”

      1. Apathy, in your face!

  2. from the Facebook front:

    “Since everybody’s on the voting train today, I predict one of these clowns will narrowly win and absolutely nothing will change because of it. We will have flushed as much as $5.8 BILLION down the proverbial toilet to elect another batch of clueless idealogues into the presidency and Congress who will fail (miserably) to address ANY of the serious issues this country faces because they will be too busy raising MORE money for the NEXT campaign to do the job we elected them to do. Neither of these ass hats deserve my vote.

    No matter who wins, America will come out the loser. Again.

    I’m done.”

    1. and another ‘friend’: “If everyone “threw their vote away”, this country would be better off. Fuck em’ both.”

    2. and:

      “Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm today. Please vote! The only “wasted” vote is one not cast! Be an American, dammit!
      Like ? ? 5 hours ago via mobile ?

      3 people like this.
      Jason XXXX Be Pro American & write in Ron Paul!!!!!!!!
      4 hours ago via mobile ? Like ? 1

      Amy XXXX If that’s what you want to do…
      4 hours ago via mobile ? Like

      Steve XXXX of course you could vote Gary Johnson since Ron is out.
      4 hours ago ? Unlike ? 1

    3. My roommate refers to the Presidential contest as “Most Handsome 2012”, and contends that the top of the ticket is a wash and therefor Paul Ryan pulls Romney over the line. I find this at least as scientifically predictive as any other way of guessing who will win.

      He didn’t vote at all, I voted for Johnson.

      1. Biden is a good lookin man.

        Plus the populas has aged so they are lookin at white manes…under the handsome metric i think it is still a wash.

    4. Most of your “friends” are correct.

  3. If voting is a civic duty

    It is not.

    , let’s try to make it dignified for the grown-ups

    No. Let’s try to make sure children see how pointless it all is.

  4. Whatever happens today, writes Gene Healy, the good news is that the Cult of Obama has been badly weakened and with it, perhaps, the Cult of the Presidency.

    You can’t possibly be serious with this nonsensical jibber-jabber. If a president as utterly horrendous as this one actually gets reelected, it will only be because the Cult of Obama is one of the most powerful cults of personality in history.

    Furthermore, he will be even further emboldened to forge onward with his radical transformation of this country, by executive decree and bureaucratic regulatory fiat if he has to.

    1. I think Obama will lose, but I think we’ve got a problem even if he does. And if he doesn’t, we’re in bigger trouble and dumber than I thought.

      1. don’t vote wasted.

        1. I prefer: Don’t vote, get wasted.

      2. First sentence, spot on.
        Second sentence, close enough.
        My reply, not as good as either.

        1. I don’t expect much from the electorate, but I do expect that they’ll at least trigger the ejection seat when a president sucks. If we can’t expect even that much, then we’re in bigger trouble than I thought. And I think we’re in quite big trouble as it is.

    2. C’mon he’s a wartime president! Boldly leading the Free Shit Army…FORWARD!

  5. Voting is like driving. If you want to go backwards, vote R. If you want to go forward, vote D.

    1. That’s super clever, did you come up with that yourself?

    2. You mean off the cliff? Though I think, at best, the GOP might drive that was a little slower.

        1. It’s kind of a dumb ending to a country.

    3. Just a little more gas and we’ll avoid that cliff.

    4. And if your bladder is full, vote P

    5. No, we’ve got a lot of rough terrain ahead, so I’m downshifting to L.

    6. I drive a standard.

  6. Well he didn’t have a mandate with Obamacare. The makority were against it. He rammed it through anyways. So I’m not sure how much comfort his “diminished capacity” provides.

    I “threw my vote away” on Johnson. Felt good.

    1. I also voted for Gayjay but it didn’t feel good. What is this feeling people keep talking about?

      1. Don’t think of it as voting for Gary Johnson, think of it as sticking it to red and blue. I’m in Ohio, I’m just hoping that Gayjay gets more votes than the losing margin of the race. Then whatever team loses will blame it on Gayjay. That’s my hope anyway.

        1. I will say that 4 years ago it took me over an hour to vote. Today it took two minutes. Same polling place. Seems like that wouldn’t bode well for Obama if that’s a trend.

  7. I was asked as I purchased ten bottles of Swedish beers in the state run liquor store by my hotel what my nationality was. I suspect the inquirer detected my accent and when I answered that I was from Texas, he immediately asked whom I was voting for. I told him I was boycotting the election and instead was making money from a business trip. I told him that the two choices were unworthy of my vote. I mentioned Obama’s abyssmal human rights record that mirrored Bush and he offered that Obama’s Peace Prize was premature.
    Nevertheless, he provoked the entire conversation by suggesting that I was of course voting for Obama. He also worked for the State in a state run liquor store. But it was nice to be able to tell such an individual that I was boycotting the election and that I was in Stockholm to prove it.

    1. Borkin borkin borkin bork bork bork. Euro culture is an environment that conditions them to become confused about that kind of logic. Did he try to change the subject and sell you the lingonberry beer?

  8. A Swedish hottie took over my order after I filled out the necessary form.
    All the better. Do you think workers in state run liquor stores in Sweden try to sell you anything? They make minimum $20 per hour to take orders. Why would they be compelled to sell anything? They take orders.

  9. Those of you who do, in fact, participate, please pardon the following rant;

    Participate or shut the $%^&$%@# up! If you can’t bring yourself to vote for the kind of twit that gets nominated, then vote in the primaries. Work for a candidate you could vote for. If you don’t like the process, for Christ’s sake start a petition to get some changes on the ballot. DO SOMETHING! If there is simply no point in the entire process where you feel you can make a difference, then arm yourself and head into the hills to form the Revolution. But. Don’t. Just. Bitch.

    Yes, an individual doesn’t affect the process much. But people who smugly decline to participate at all silt up the system. They are wastes of space. Even more than the Useful Idiots who voted the coming Dictator into power, they will deserve their own eventual liquidation.

    I excuse people like My Lady who neither vote nor whine. It’s the smug “I don’t vote (or otherwise participate) but feel I am entitled to complain until the rest of you line up with my ideals” bastards that have me spitting blood.


    Accusations of nefarious tampering are already rolling in.

    Let’s turn a calibration issue into something nefarious. “I tried the other buttons, but I just didn’t record it.” “You can trust me guys!”

    1. The voting process at my polling site didn’t exactly inspire confidence.

      1. They look up your name and address (without checking ID).
      2. You sign by your name, and they don’t check your signature.
      3. The person who found your name tells the person with the ballots a number, and they hand you one.
      4. You vote by filling in an arrow with a pen.
      5. You tear the top section off the ballot and feed the bottom into the vote counter.

      Opportunities exist for:
      1. Voter fraud.
      2. Tracking your ballot by name.
      3. Errors in filling out the arrows.
      4. Tampering with the ballot counter hardware and software (?)

      1. Oh certainly this machine should obviously be fixed and procedure down the line needs to be improved.

        Just the idea of assuming something nefarious is kind of frustrating.

  11. I voted for G-Money this morning. There were only 2 people in line ahead of me, but a dozen or so in the mini voting booths, filling in the arrows to vote down the California tax increasing ballot measures (hopefully).

  12. Lets hear it for white people wearing baggy jeans!!!

    1. Hell, they can’t be any sillier than Brown people wearing baggy jeans.

      Now if there’s a fashion they white people should REALLY leave the hell along, it’s dreadlocks. A checkout-line book I read while waiting to make a purchase at Borders some years back said it perfectly;

      Very few people look good in dreadlocks. None of them are white.

  13. Phillip DeFranco 2036!!!

  14. After voting I tried leaving witout my sticker but I literally had one shoved into my hand, so I gave it to my five year old.

    He decided it looked better on the dogs butt.

  15. I just see Jason Hu has single-handedly pushed the coffin lid, heart shocked that comes from a fear of the unknown. The coffin lid open, drove my curiosity I looked at them on the coffins. On this one, so my curiosity pressure over fear. Of course, I am no longer the main reason for the http://www.cheapfootballcleats….._92_1.html fear is very good save with a fox’s body, looks like a very thin sleeping fox general.

  16. This energy “rebound effect” has important implications for efforts to restrain climate change through conservation. Various studies have suggested that improvements in efficiency could reduce energy consumption enough to cut global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 25 percent during the next four decades. But this is a highly controversial area of scholarship.

  17. I agree with the general commentary on here . . . after all, we’re mostly Libertarians here. I wrote an article gathering my own perspective on the election and, if anyone would like, kindly check it out:…..or-Society

    Either the Republicans need to adopt elements of the Libertarian mantra or they will continue to lose like they have been.

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