Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Franchise This: On Voting . . . or Not

The founders had an end game in mind when they structured their government the way they did.

No king.  Check.

No tyranny of the one.  Check.

No vote for people of color . . . people without land . . . women . . . check.

Perpetuation of their vision of utopia.  Check.

The only problem with vision is that when it comes to eyes, it can be a correctable thing.  So, too, should it be with governments, but alas, that is easier said than done.

And so it is –

We might be wrong for future times, so allowing for change.  Check.

That provision is that within our constitution which allows for change via amendments to that self-same document.

They did not see perfectly by any measure.

But they did have some wisdom.

And we are foolish to forget that.

So many today feel that the deal has been struck, the wheel fixed before it is spun, to such a great degree that there is literally no point.

I struggle to understand why we are so far apart.

Maybe it is because I’m just more political by nature, but I don’t think so.

I think it’s more likely they’ve just seen too many times when making a difference was nigh on impossible.  Too many times when the fix was in, the game thrown.

But I also suspect that those who do not vote have become victims of the very hyperbole in the public arena they so decry – believing that power is a centralized thing, believing in the claims of absolutes that so many make for themselves or about others.

What do I mean by that?

When an entire electorate votes, things actually do change.  The successful campaign is the one that has convinced those who pose the greatest threat to simply opt out of the game.

Seen thus, it is no accident that the young, that people of color, that the poor, the less educated, are the largest groups absent from the voting booth.

And it is no accident that provision for the elderly is so prevalent in our public systems, while provision for the poor, for young adults, for people of color, for those with less education, is under such attack and/or largely absent.  The reason seems obvious to me: old people vote.  Regularly.  It is practical politics rather than altruism that motivates public officials to be responsive to the constituencies of the elderly.  Because they vote.

Literally, public officials have found that their jobs depend on being responsive to elder voters.  They have often not found such to be the case with other groups.

The other thing to remember about power is that concentrated power does not surrender itself voluntarily or easily.  When resisted, it fights back.  And it doesn’t fight fair.  Resistance is difficult.  And costly.

We should never be surprised (or disheartened) by that.

The fact is, the more that power is exerting itself, the more threatened it is.  My point is this: if you are witnessing more and more efforts to suppress your vote, that actually is telling you that  your vote really does matter – if it didn’t, the powers that be would simply ignore you.

When roadblock upon roadblock is put before you, the only trick to succeeding is perseverance.

Voting is not the only thing a citizen can do to effect change.  But participation in the political process is a key component to lasting change in our public life together.

The efforts giving rise to increased rights for people of color and women used the collective power of their voices, expressed in the ballot box and elsewhere, to make real differences in the lives of real people.

Yes, in many ways, we live through the looking glass in an absurd world where dollar bills and pieces of paper (corporate legal entities) have speech and voting rights.

And yes, economic power is a force to be reckoned with.  And yes, there is much to despair of in our government.

And yes, unconditional surrender is always an option.  Perhaps one with no shame.

But it is always a choice.  You may not pretend that someone took from you that which you so willingly gave away.


  1. In today's political climate, one does begin to wonder if "my" vote counts. I continue to bat my head against a brick wall and vote anyway. I read where 119 countries have larger voter turnout than the U.S, Even two of the African states turn out better than we do. Maybe we Americans just haven't suffered enough to really demand change. We may do so after this election (bought by big bucks!)..


  2. Marilyn, I continue to be hopeful (maybe that's it's own sickness, eh?) - today a friend asked me to reassure her ACA would not be repealed and I pointed out that the president still has a veto and it takes a supermajority to overcome a veto and even more, I am thinking that if ACA is out the window, the road is paved towards single payer. That's just me, thinking out loud. Hope it helps - my buddy said it felt like she'd been to therapy - made me smile. Hugs, Beth