Obama in 2001: Mandatory Voting Great But Libertarian XFL Watchers Won’t Go For It

Wednesday, when President Barack Obama suggested he was open to the idea of mandatory voting, it created media attention because of the advantage it would give to Democrats, who traditionally do well with younger, more liberal Americans, who do not tend to turn out at the polls at the rate of conservatives. Obama points this out in the audio saying “all politicians know seniors vote and kids don’t.”

The White House has since backed off the idea when White House press secretary Josh Earnest said today there was no specific proposal and the president was just answering a general question.

However, this has been a long held position by Obama, as shown in this Feb. 27, 2001 audio on Chicago’s WBEZ  “Odyssey” radio program titled “The Right to Vote.” During a voting rights history discussion, then Senator Obama, wearing his hat of constitutional law professor, explained the he is a fan of mandatory voting, but it is imposable to achieve in America because of those pesky  “Libertarian,” “XFL watching” Americans.

The professional football league, XFL, was a widely ridiculed effort mostly aimed at its founder, World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon, who himself ended up admitting the league was a “colossal failure.”

Obama said, “I am not sure that we would not have a healthier political process if we had mandatory voting of the sort they have in Australia. As I understand it, I think you’re looking at a modest fine for not voting. So at least there is some incentive to voting beyond civic interest of involvement.  And I’m not sure that wouldn’t be a healthier thing. I don’t think it’s a realistic prospect because it runs contrary to a strong Libertarian ethos in this country that I think applies to voting, like everything else. I don’t get a sense that this country — I think most individuals feel that voting is a good thing, it is part of our civic responsibility, but I think they also feel, you know, if I want to sit on a couch and watch the XFL and not go to the polls then that’s OK too.  So there is a strong dose of skepticism  about mandating voting that I think could not be overcome in this country.”

The host giggled as she asked, “Do I detect an anti-XFL basis in you, Barack Obama?”

Obama laughed as he said “no comment.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN