So, where the hell am I going with all this? OK, so the times did an editorial today championing the Obama administration's commitment to enforcing the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the requirement for voter registration at state food stamps and welfare offices. Popularly known as the "Motor Voter" act, it mainly focused on registration at DMVs, and thusly was widely praised. The welfare part, not so much.
I remember as a young man in the mid-90's working for a company that delivered meals to people with AIDs, driving around the streets of San Francisco listening to conservative schlock-jock Michael Savage. A memorable moment came - oh, but weren't there many?!!! - when during an interview with then Republican presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan, the two just couldn't seem to get over the idea that we should actually be trying to get poor people to vote. I suppose that there is a logic to the fact that poor people tend to vote Democratic, especially in the city, and that you wouldn't want to support your political opponent in any way. But if your ideology depends at least in part on the disenfranchisement of certain sectors of the public, you may need to rethink your ideology.
Well the fangs came out in the NY Times commentary section today. The first 20 responses were almost entirely along these lines:
"Maybe everyone should quit trying to find employment and just go down to the blasted welfare office...
The Democrats need to start caring about working Americans...
Every voter needs to remember that our very freedom is at stake...
The Democratic Party - the party of dependency....
I think that spoon feeding registration to citizens who are otherwise unwilling to independently pursue it dilutes an electorate that seems only marginally civic-minded as it is...."
You get the point. (Remember, part of my writing this blog is the hope that by inflicting my witness to insanity on you, dear readers, knowing that you've now experienced the insanity might give me catharsis. Is there a word for such a thing? Schadenfrarsis?) But I was taken aback by the sort of FOX-frenzyishness that apparently had penetrated my New York Times. I thought this was my bastion of liberal elitism? Anyway, it's not usually quite this bad.
But just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I came across a particularly eloquent comment that seemed to say what the others wanted to, but likely lacked the proper combination of historical ignorance, anti-democratic illiberality, and crude hatred:
I totally agree with all the posters saying that voting should be a conditional right. In fact, I think votes should be earned and apportioned in exactly the following way: 1) No job or education -- 1/5 vote.Talk about taking it old-school. This guy is going medieval. I mean, to his credit, this is an improvement on the Magna Carta. Hey, Republicans may not be aiming very high, but no one can say they aren't classy.
2) Get an education through college -- 2/5 vote.
3) Have a job but no education -- 2/5 vote.
4) Have education and a job -- 3/5 vote.
5) Have a job and don't own property -- 4/5 vote.
6) Have a job and own property -- 1 vote.
7) In prison, on the street, mentally ill, 0 votes.
Then there are the situations where people contribute more than their fair share, and therefore have more of a stake in ensuring things go correctly. Of course, these people should have more than 1 vote. So I suggest this:
1) One vote per every post-graduate masters degree earned (not including professional degrees).
2) Two votes for every professional degree (MD, JD, MBA, etc). Obviously someone with a professional degree has a higher stake in ensuring the government runs smoothly.
3) One vote per home owned. So if a person owns 2 homes they get 2 votes, 3 homes 3 votes, etc.
4) If a person owns a business where they employ other people, they get 1 vote for each employee. So a person with one hundred employees gets 100 votes, one with a thousand employees gets a thousand, and so on.
*** Interesting to note, there is much in this argument that conservatives extend into free speech, specifically with regard to money and politics. Unfortunately on that issue this logic has been taken seriously, by no less than the supreme court. Just as corrupting and undemocratic when applied to free speech, this argument has similar consequences: by allowing unlimited money in politics, the outcome is no less than mass-manipulation of the process of democratic enfranchisement.