Pearls turn up occasionally in our collective memory of famous quotes and sayings. How about, for example, "a pearl of great price is not to be had for the asking," or the old saying about "casting pearls before swine?" Obviously the idea is that pearls are valuable, and not to be squandered on those who can't or won't appreciate them.
If you think of the right to vote as the pearl of the democratic form of government, you might be legitimately alarmed that it is being squandered.
Point: Today my wife and I went to the polls for a very simple election - choosing a new member of our county Board to replace one who resigned a few months ago. A great deal of controversy has developed locally over the current Board's approval of at least two expensive and not-exactly-essential projects. Not an exciting election, perhaps, but one that clearly affects people's taxes. Yet in a group of about a dozen of our peers later in the day, we found that only three of us had voted (or had a clear intention to). Others said they weren't familiar with the issue, so "probably won't vote;" and still others said they didn't know there was an election taking place.
Point: Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor, is exploring his chances to run for the Republican presidential nomination. That in turn, or course, leads to talk of a political dynasties, actual or potential: Bushes, Clintons, Kennedys, Harrisons, Roosevelts, and even Adamses. Haven't we had enough of political dynasties? If part of our national myth is that every little boy and girl can dream of being President some day, shouldn't we be able to come up with good candidates who aren't related? Yet it appears that these dynastic candidates have pretty good chances of winning, if nominated. And sadly, it's probably often little more than name recognition.
Point: The Supreme Court recently advised us that it's pretty much OK to buy votes, if you have enough money and you do it at arm's length - pay the candidate's campaign expenses, though apparently you can't directly pay the voters, not yet. (You'd be correct if you surmise that I do not buy the argument that money is speech. Money talks, but in a different way.) The wealthy of any political persuasion may now dole out real pearls, enabling those few swine who appreciate them to scoop them up before a disinterested and uninformed electorate awakens to their value.
Non-Point: At first glance, the little town of Divide, Colorado appears to be another example of the vote being undervalued. Reports are that eleven different animals are running for the office of Mayor. But we'll drop this one out of the lineup, because if you read the fine print, you'll find the town actually has no mayor, and the fake "election" is a way of raising funds for an animal shelter.
I realize, of course, that political theoreticians like to say that "not voting" is itself a vote, and is the citizen's right. True, as far as it goes, but I think the adages are right: A thing whose high value we fail to appreciate is too easily taken away from us.