What is required of the electorate to vote?

“The days of the social contract, in which citizens have obligations as well as rights, seem to be over.”

womenvoteThe arc of American history had always been to make voting available to more people. The 15th Amendment (1870) prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude, though it required The Voting Rights Act of 1965, nearly a century later, to enforce it.

The 19th Amendment (1920) prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex. The 24th (1964) prohibits the revocation of voting rights due to the non-payment of a poll tax or any other tax. And the 26th (1971) allowed eighteen-year-olds (like me, that year!) to vote, and you better believe that I did.

One could make the case that the 17th Amendment (1913), which provided direct election of United States Senators by popular vote, and the 23rd, which granted the District of Columbia the right to participate in the Electoral College, also fall in this category.

Thus, the move to limit voting I find antithetical to this democracy. I’m told by proponents that voter ID is “easy” to come by. Yet it has proven to be anything but.

Look at Wisconsin Is Systematically Failing to Provide the Photo IDs Required to Vote in November, with the subhead, “New recordings from the DMV show how the state is continuing to disenfranchise black voters.” The state police raided a registration program in Indiana that was assisting potential black voters. There is also disenfranchisement in Florida, and a FAKE meme in Pennsylvania suggesting that voters can text in their votes.

While voter fraud is negligible, voter suppression is widespread and could alter the results of the election.

Here’s something I did not know until recently. Forty-six states have laws that allow private citizens to challenge the eligibility of prospective voters, “either on or before Election Day. Although these laws are more than a century old, they have drawn increased public scrutiny in recent years as the number of citizen poll-watchers and challengers in elections continues to grow.” And that was written before the 2012 election.

I’m disturbed by this apparently popular article after the second Clinton-Trump rock em sock em event: 24 Hours After Last Night’s Debate, Mike Rowe Makes A Huge Confession On What He Sees Wrong With This Election. It says, basically, that unless you’re well-informed you shouldn’t be cajoled by some celebrity to go out and vote. I agree with the celebrity part – heck, I think THEY’D agree with that – but not the conclusion he makes.

He says, “Develop a worldview that you can articulate as well as defend. Test your theory with people who disagree with you. Debate. Argue. Adjust your philosophy as necessary. Then, when the next election comes around, cast a vote for the candidate whose worldview seems most in line with your own.”

I dare say that almost all the Trump, and most of the Clinton, supporters have a worldview they can defend. I’ve spent the better part of the last three months trying (and mostly failing, to tell the truth) to understand the mind of a Trump voter.

And I believe that debating and arguing, especially online, that has made us more fractured as a nation, not more understanding. There was an article in the New York Post?, of all places. I don’t buy the conclusion, but I do believe this:

…this election has channeled a narcissism and intolerance that our country has been incubating for years.

In fact, many Americans believe they’re entitled to their intolerance — believe it’s their patriotic duty to react fanatically or with bigotry to anyone who doesn’t share their views…

Who among us doesn’t have Facebook friends who believe they’re entitled to “go nuclear” when expressing their political views on other people’s pages, especially when opposing someone else’s post?

We’re growing more racially, culturally and economically separated from each other every day…

We engage in very little healthy discourse, because we don’t have to — which robs us of the grace to manage diversity… “We are too segregated on so many levels — it’s not just race, it’s everything — and that resentment and entitlement and bigotry on both sides have fed into this populism.”

Did politics create this state, rather than society? “Hell, yes.”

“Part of the problem is that government and, in turn, politics no longer asks anything of voters…”

“Instead, we just constantly poll and survey voters to find out what they want.”

As a consequence, Americans feel entitled to demand whatever they want because our government and politicians are always asking us to tell them, promising that if they win they will deliver.

And when politicians get our votes, rise to power, but then don’t deliver exactly everything they promised, we feel frustrated.

“The problem is not just entitlement, it’s narcissism…”

Entitlement mostly comes from affluence and from the remarkably high standard of living in today’s America, something likely unavoidable when there is so much progress and material bounty…

“But narcissism is a collapse of democratic values, where every American now thinks he or she is the most important person who has ever lived, instead of being one of many voters in a system based on compromise and moderation.”

The days of the social contract, in which citizens have obligations as well as rights, seem to be over.

“Imagine John F. Kennedy today saying ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country…’ He’d be hooted off the stage as just another Northeastern, Ivy League elitist talking down to the people.”

That’s how far we’ve come — or, more precisely, how far we’ve fallen.

So I WANT those people who aren’t as invested as I am -I’m very invested- to participate in the democratic process as well. Sure, I want an informed electorate, even as it may make decisions I HATE, from time to time. But it has been the trend of this democracy to break down the barriers. Voting isn’t just for the white male landowners, or just the men, it’s for everyone.

I find the Rowe essay patronizingly snobbish. The notion that one should read Hegel before voting I found irritating, and I wasn’t sure why. But I later realized it reminded me of the literacy tests that were promulgated, disproportionally on black people in the South in the 1950s and ’60s, that was declared illegal.

Also, the comparison with gun ownership I found to be a stretch. Society will operate if most of us do not own a gun but could collapse if most of us don’t vote. And especially, we need young adults, who are part of the disillusioned seed corn of democracy to be involved.

I vote EVERY year; the fifth time in 2016 will be in November. John Lewis, whose book March, Book 3 was nominated for the National Book Award, knows people who DIED to get the right to vote, in MY lifetime. Now, the supporters of one candidate (guess which one?) have threatened to intimidate nonwhite voters on Election Day. Now, those threats against voters are illegal. What year IS this?

I vote, not just in the Presidential years, but every year, for city council, and state representative, where my vote really has power, largely because other people do not cast their ballots in off-year elections.

If, after your investigation, you find NONE of the Candidates for President acceptable – John Oliver thinks voters are crazy for supporting Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, but Stein supporters vehemently disagree – you could choose to vote for NO ONE on that line. You could consider it your protest. But vote!

Also, there are lots of other issues on the ballot, including who will be your members of Congress. Did you Bernie folks know that if the Democrats regain control of the Senate, Bernie Sanders will chair the powerful Senate budget committee? Not going to the polls doesn’t show dissatisfaction; it can easily be perceived as laziness.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

6 thoughts on “What is required of the electorate to vote?”

  1. I was advised that, no, Bernie will NOT be likely to be elevated to the Senate Budgetary chair in a Clinton administration, because he is NOT a Democrat, but is an Independent. Corporate Dems do NOT support socialism, after all.

  2. Sanders is the ranking minority member of the Budget Committee. As such, it is in strong Senate tradition that if the party with which he caucuses (the Democrats) become the majority, then he would ascend to the chair of that committee. It would be HIGHLY unusual for the chair position to go to anyone else, if the Ds take over.

  3. Occasionally I hear, in response to calls for voter ID laws, a response of: “OK, fine. Everybody gets a photo ID, free of charge, paid for by the federal government.” Somehow THAT idea never gets traction. I wonder why….

  4. I didn’t read the Rowe essay, but I’d bet that behind his “reasoning” is the notion that only a small elite should be given the right to determine who leads the nation. That would be Corporatism, the imposition of a corporate dictatorship, which is exactly like monarchy but instead of one family choosing the king you get a group of elites electing their CEO.

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