Political Suffrage


Hey, I like democracy as much as the next guy, you know one person one vote, but ...

Non-land-holding Americans won the right to vote, state by state, between 1820 and 1865.

Women won the right to vote in 1920, after 150 years of being ignored.

Black Americans won the right to vote more than once, several times after the Civil War and more than once as a result of the Civil Rights Movement.

Young Americans old enough to fight in wars for their country won the right to vote in 1971.

Immigrants win the right to vote after proving that they understood what this country means to the rest of us.

One of the legal ploys that white Southerners used to prevent blacks from voting, after they had explicitly won that right more than a few times, was by imposing a literacy test on them.  Now, 150 years of slavery and discrimination does not produce a literate electorate.  But to be perfectly candid, immigrants have to prove they know what they're doing before being vested with the right to vote, and why shouldn't we have to show we know what we're doing when we go to vote?  The problem was, the white trash that imposed these literacy tests on blacks exempted whites who had already voted!  Good deal, huh!

Today there are hundreds of thousands of blacks who don't know what they are doing when they enter the voting booth.  And there are millions of whites who know as little.  Voting is a privilege in a free society, and it is the responsibility of its citizens.  But the mere act of voting does not fulfill the citizen's responsibility; understanding the issues and their over-all context - that is, knowing what your vote means - is a prerequisite for being a responsible voting citizen.

Frankly, I am deeply offended that MY vote is worth no more than the vote of someone who is:

While my passion here expressed is clearly NOT racist, it is clearly elitist and incidentally anti-poor, as poverty and illiteracy are frequent fellows.  But I am NOT suggesting that it is OK for me (or us) to demand that the ignorant "pick themselves up by their own bootstraps," as they need the help of the literate society to achieve literacy (if you can't read, you do not seek out the aid of someone else who can't read in order to learn how to read).

BUT there are powerful forces in the literate portion of society who profit by widespread illiteracy.  For example, American companies hire educated foreign labor instead of American labor because it is cheaper and it is more highly skilled.  And political demagogues control illiterate voters more easily than they can voters who know what they are talking about and who can distinguish today's words from yesterday's deeds.

In other words, while pairing the vote of a politically illiterate voter with my informed vote is a travesty on the meaning of a free democratic society, permitting the fortunate few to rule without the bother of the check of the "under-classes" is a recipe for oligarchy, the tyranny of the aristocracy.

The solution to this quandary may seem elusive.  Maybe, maybe not.  I propose a special tax on the literate to pay for the political education of the politically illiterate.  It is the responsibility of the over-classes to lift up the under-classes.  A nation "cannot long endure half-slave and half-free," and it is folly to expect the slaves to lift themselves up to becoming free men.  The same facilities that we make available to the immigrant who wants to become an informed and responsible citizen we should open up to anyone whose political illiteracy has, temporarily, cost them the right to vote.  If a man votes the way that Jerry Falwell tells him to and he can't explain why he votes that way, he should not have the right to cancel MY vote.

Everyone has the right to their own opinion.  But if you can't logically explain the basis for your opinion, others have the right, indeed the duty, to discount your opinion.  But if you profit from others' ignorance you are equally to blame for the problem.

A working democracy needs a high-level of informed participation to succeed.  It is EVERY citizen's responsibility to assure these conditions so that we may all benefit from the wonder of a true democracy.