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Red-Blue America: Not voting hands power to someone else

It's probably not true that conservatives hold voting in such little regard. It's the Democratic votes for which they have contempt. They've shown it in their actions in recent years -- first, through a series of state-level voter ID laws that do...

Cartoonist's view
R.J. Matson / Cagle Cartoons

It’s probably not true that conservatives hold voting in such little regard. It’s the Democratic votes for which they have contempt.
They’ve shown it in their actions in recent years - first, through a series of state-level voter ID laws that do very little to solve (almost nonexistent) fraud at the polls, but do make it harder for traditional Democratic constituencies like the poor and minorities to get out and vote. They’ve worked hard to shrink the number of states and municipalities where early voting is available, thus ensuring the act of voting is inconvenient and (because it comes during the workweek in most places) ill-timed.
And, oh yeah, they were for the Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, despite Congress’ determination it was still needed. And yes, all of these activities seemed geared to suppressing Democratic turnout.
So comments that voting is the “least consequential” act of citizenship seem like more of the same.
You know who would’ve disagreed with that assessment? The hundreds of thousands of African-Americans who participated in the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, enduring beatings, dog attacks and imprisonment in order to gain the democratic power that their white neighbors already had.
You know who would have disagreed with that assessment? The many white sheriffs, policemen, business leaders and others who unleashed attack dogs, fire hoses and murder upon those Civil Rights protesters. They didn’t commit such atrocities because they thought voting was meaningless or nearly so.
And you know who else probably would have disagreed with that assessment? The Founders, who started a revolution over some blather about “no taxation without representation.”
It is true that voting is not the end-all, be-all of citizenship. But it is a foundational act of citizenship in a democratic society. Those who tell you otherwise? They probably have an agenda that depends on you staying home.

Joel Mathis is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. He can be reached at joelmmathis@gmail.com .

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