The headline’s boring, because I don’t write clickbait (no matter what Justin says). It’s also inaccurate, because the debate is being framed by two partisan groups who have skin in the game.
I’ll spell it out: While it would be nice to be able to say that Republicans are genuinely concerned about securing elections from fraud, or that Democrats are trying to make sure that everyone who wants to vote can vote, we really can’t. Oh, sure, when it comes to voters, that might well be their actual concerns, but that’s only because that’s what’s being hammered into them as what’s important by people they trust to tell them about things. The very simple version of the truth is, the Democrats want this to pass because it will mean they win more elections, and the Republicans don’t want it to pass for the same reason.
But that’s only the simplest, totally-boiled-down version. There’s a lot to the truth; it’s a complicated thing, and viewed from different angles it can mean different things to different people. This is why perspective is so very important.
Right now I could dive into the details of the bill, mentioning things like how to prevent farming Grandma’s votes at the nursing home, or having landlords and neighborhood political bosses forcing people to vote their way — both of which do happen, though probably not as often as they say. I could talk about the great traditions of extending the franchise, making sure everyone is represented and has a chance to make their voice heard. This could turn into a Come To Jesus camp revival tent meeting all about the glories of democracy and the greatness of our system of government. I could wave the flag and preach.
Except I don’t believe it. To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe any of it.
First of all, our process doesn’t elect people that represent us. We’re given a choice between two corporate masters, each slightly more evil than the other. Georgia elected two Democrats in exchange for the promise of $2000 a head (now down to $1400 going once going twice sold!) so let’s not fool ourselves that parties are free from pandering. Right now we have to pick between progressive thought control or scared of science. Next week it’ll be something else as each races the other to the bottom. What we don’t get to pick is fiscal policy, social policy, or whether or not we’re about to go to war with Iran; these aren’t options on our ballots. Instead we get a package deal, and neither side’s much good — “I’ll select… high debt, war, a police state, and a president who can use complete sentences.”
But more importantly, even if we did get the chance to pick people and policy rather than parties (and just maybe, sometimes we do), I don’t want most of you out there doing the choosing. I don’t trust you. I read what you post on Facebook and Twitter, and I despair of the human race — especially that part that lives in America.
Bear in mind, restricting the vote is something that’s been done before, and to our great harm. We should beware of removing whole groups and classes; women deserve to be represented no less than men. The color of one’s skin is immaterial, as is whether one ‘chooses’ to live as middle management, real estate tycoon, or starving artist.
But I would like some way to make sure those people who don’t bother to research the issues, learn about the candidates, or think for themselves have a hard time voting. It’s a dream, I know — but I can dream. I can dream of the day when “He looks like me!” is not a thing that impacts an electoral choice, when “That’s a funny name!” doesn’t make a difference, when “But women are so temperamental!” isn’t even uttered (and not because you’re afraid they’ll jail you).
What’s more, I don’t want there to be some arbitrary restriction put in place by the government — an “issues test”, or a “civics exam”, as some people have suggested. Who can we trust to write the questions? Who picks the answers? No, there’s too much at stake here to entrust it to bureaucrats — and that’s leaving aside the entire question of language accessibility, which is an important one.
No, I want people to approach the act of voting with reverence and awe, entirely of their own free will. I want people to learn more about economic policy, international affairs, and the rights of man because they feel compelled to be educated voters. And I want politicians to approach the same questions honestly, with statesmanlike motives rather than asking if this will help them get re-elected next year.
The first step to solving a problem is admitting we have one. Between where we are and where we should be, there exists a vast gulf, and this bill now before Congress isn’t even a small step in any direction that applies. No bill could be. This has to be an individual choice, made by every American.
So forget about “Get Out The Vote”. Instead, I urge you to consider this: “Do I Deserve To Vote?” Have you informed yourself on the candidates and the issues, or are you just following the party line because all your friends are? Can you find Syria on a map — can you explain why we should or should not have troops there? What exactly is “common sense gun control” and why isn’t everybody in favor of it? How could we get enough doctors for full universal healthcare?
Obviously, no one of us is an expert on every subject, nor should we be. But it’s incumbent on us all as citizens to have enough knowledge on any given topic to know when we’re being conned by politicians and the media — or, if we don’t know, to find someone who does and ask.
Otherwise… [gestures broadly at everything] …we’ll deserve to end up right here.
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