Rachit, your post was short and to the point (kind of like you). I agree that votes are certainly more emphatic, carrying more ‘oomph’ when there is a bigger perceived change they could bring about (re: the difference between stability and war vs. subways and above ground light rail).

So is this a natural instability in the system? Does a stable democracy eventually lead to completely indifferent voters , easily swayed by straightforward rallying cries (Germany was treated unfairly after WWI, we deserve our living space back!)? Is it inevitable that society oscillates between democracy and martial law or totalitarianism?

Clearly the answer is complicated. It seems that the west, at least, has been relatively stable since the fall of the Soviet Union. Although again, perhaps the relative stability and the absence of a nation like the USSR – which could provide a clear contrast to the democratic process (serving as impetus for a typical citizen to carry out his ability to vote) is partly to blame for the various deadlocks and incompetencies in many political systems in the west. Without a clear opposition, a clear ‘opposing side’, countries like the U.K and the U.S. have instead focused on internal conflicts with one political party labelling the opposing party as the ‘other side’ to spur the same type of passionate voter turn outs as before.

Perhaps my mom’s confusion between ‘cheering’ and ‘voting’ is deeper than it seems. There are certainly many overlaps between political and sport affiliations. Many people are born into them, and in many countries, switching political sides is just as bad as switching between cheering for the Leafs and the Habs. What’s a great way to improve fan turn out at games? Rivalries. Delicious, delicious rivalries. So if we don’t have an international rival, we better have internal rivals to engage the public. The only problem with this parallel is that good political systems are built not on rivalries, but on compromise and the ability to find a happy middle ground.

If our society craves conflict and needs clear contrasts to engage with a process, what does this mean for the future of western democracy?

~ V

P.S. This post was written in Berkeley, California on a grassy hill off of Oxford street.