“Not Voting is a Vote” NYT Op-Ed Sparks Outrage on Independence Day

 “Not Voting is a Vote” NYT Op-Ed Sparks Outrage on Independence Day

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

On July 4th, the New York Times opinion section published an op-ed by Michigan resident Matthew Walther, titled “Why I Don’t Vote. And Why Maybe You Shouldn’t Either.” This decision drew sharp criticism from democracy experts and voting rights advocates.

Walther, a contributing editor to The American Conservative, expressed his disdain for the concept of “civic duty” — a term often used by voting rights advocates to encourage electoral participation. “If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, civic duty is surely the first. Some version of the civic-duty line is trotted out by the sort of do-gooder who hands out voter registration forms to strangers — an activity I find as off-putting as I would an invitation to sit down and fill out a handgun permit,” he wrote.

Journalist Stephen Wolf highlighted an excerpt from Walther’s essay on X/Twitter, noting, “This is what the New York Times chose to publish on Independence Day just one week after the Supreme Court ruled that Republican presidents are above the law.”

History professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on democracy and authoritarianism, criticized the Times’ decision to publish Walther’s column. “This is just very sad and frankly just what the Autocracy Doctor ordered,” she tweeted. “Not voting is a vote to let others decide your fate, and we know that many elections are decided by relatively few votes. The goal of many autocracies is ‘demobilization’: people detaching from politics so they don’t resist.”

The backlash over Walther’s op-ed comes on the heels of criticism the Times faced for an editorial calling on President Joe Biden to drop out of the 2024 race while remaining silent on the continued candidacy of former President Donald Trump despite his 34 felony convictions. Earlier this year, a Times journalist, speaking anonymously to Politico, suggested that the paper’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, harbored resentment toward Biden for not granting an exclusive sit-down interview.

“All these Biden people think that the problem is Peter Baker or whatever reporter they’re mad at that day,” the Times reporter said. “It’s A.G. He’s the one who is pissed [that] Biden hasn’t done any interviews and quietly encourages all the tough reporting on his age.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently mocked the Times’ editorial board by publishing an editorial with a nearly identical title, replacing Biden’s name with Trump’s. “The debate about the debate is misplaced. The only person who should withdraw from the race is Trump,” the Inquirer argued. “Trump told more than 30 lies during the debate to go with the more than 30,000 mistruths told during his four years as president.”

The 2024 election is expected to be closely contested, with key battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin playing critical roles. In 2016, Trump’s victory was secured by fewer than 80,000 combined votes across these states. Similarly, Biden’s 2020 win was determined by less than 45,000 votes spread across Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin.

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