Though my Massachusetts address probably gives me away, I am struggling mightily to maintain a non-partisan political profile on this website. In that spirit, I'd like to celebrate the outcome of yesterday's election, which was a genuine triumph for voter participation. Specifically, a higher percentage of American voters turned out yesterday than at any time since 1968. For a collection of news stories on this angle, follow this link.
If 1968 sounds too recent to impress you, then I refer you (once again) to Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone. In his comprehensive discussion of civic participation and other kinds of social capital in America, Putnam reveals an amazingly consistent trend: Across virtually all measures of social capital in America over the last century, the 1960s stand out as the peak decade of community involvement. The 60s were the culmination of a relatively steady growth in social capital that started around 1900 (with a distinct hiccup during the Great Depression); since then, just about every measure of social captical in America has declined steadily.
So in terms of American social capital, 1968 sets the bar pretty high.
After spending last night at Kerry's no-show "Victory 2004 Rally" in downtown Boston, I'm glad to have a little something to celebrate today.