[Viewpoint] Voting without remorsePerhaps life is full of remorse. Everyone has remorse for the road not taken and the road taken. Some argue that almost all people, except for psychopaths, regret choices they have made.
There are so many different kinds of remorse. Buyer’s remorse is about regretting a purchase of an unwanted product at an expensive price. Some people regret their decisions to get tattoos.
Voter’s remorse is also common. Many voters often become disappointed because they had high expectations of magical peace and prosperity from a certain candidate’s victory. Many of them actually bring the remorse upon themselves.
Experts say the biggest reason behind voters’ remorse is their lack of knowledge about economic and political issues. Uninformed voters often make choices based on their intuition or other people’s recommendations. According to a research study on U.S. elections, voters also often have strange and unusual beliefs.
When voters are uninformed, politicians have no incentive to address concrete political issues. Instead, they simply pay attention to their image and popularity, which is what they know voters will notice.
Another major cause behind voter’s remorse is the practice of giving blind support to a political party without carefully thinking about the achievements that each party has made. This phenomenon is seen in all countries with party politics. While straight-party voting lends stability to democracy, it is also detrimental that voters choose candidates based on party affiliation instead of individuals’ abilities.
Korea’s political culture, in particular, is suffering from this practice. Because of regionalism, voters often vote by party affiliation. Though they often have regrets, they still vote based on regions and parties at the polling station.
Some argue that the adverse effects of straight-party voting are minimal when the number of voters who vote based on party affiliations is similar for each political party. But politics is not just about the community. Wouldn’t it be better to have many voters who make the right choices and feel happy about them?
Voter’s remorse is a problem, but voters without remorse are also troublesome. These voters are likely to vote first based on ideology, such as conservatism or liberalism, and then try to rationalize their choices and always believe in them. They feel satisfied about wrongful outcomes. There is no reason for remorse.
Ideological voters must remember that ideology and policy are closely related to each other but that ideology does not necessarily guarantee the quality of a policy. A certain ideology does not always produce bad policies or good policies.
When voters have no remorse, politicians have no remorse. Politicians do not have to admit policy mistakes when they have solid backers who will support them no matter what. When there are voters who offer blind support, there is no need for politicians to do their best to develop good policies and implement them because policy outcomes will not decide an election. Politicians become complacent.
When voters care so little about politicians’ actual accomplishments, the political parties will pay more attention to recruiting popular celebrities and focus on engineering alliances and mergers to win elections rather than developing good policy.
Korea has achieved industrialization and democratization. But we have not seen progress in political development or industrial advancements. Without progress, politics and the economy will remain idle.
There are many obstacles, but the key solution is ending the practice of giving blind support to political parties and voting without remorse. And for voters to become smart, they have to become more informed about the issues.
*The writer is an editor of the JoongAng Sunday.
By Kim Whan-yung