Not everyone will agree with what I am about to present, in fact very few likely will. It is a thought experiment with ideas that may be controversial, yet I believe worth exploring. In the political climate that has led us through Bush, Obama, Trump eras, and soon Biden, it is obvious that something is broken in how our leaders on all levels are elected. All these Presidents, even Trump, and the President-Elect, with the backing of a willing congress, have had at least some positive impact while in office, but they all share the same attributes that have pushed us as a country further to the brink: growing debt, increasing spending, and expanding the size of government, leading us to the erosion of our liberty and making us much poorer. Two common sayings are debt is slavery and taxes are theft. Our government’s debt requires high taxes to pay off. Our government is not responsible for that debt, we the taxpayers are, essentially making us slaves to that debt. Our politicians also enact legislation that results in indirect taxation, such as the Affordable Care Act, that either has changed absolutely nothing for some, raised the costs and limited the choices of healthcare for many, and at best lowered costs for very few. Taxation, direct or indirect, deprives us of money we would otherwise have to free ourselves from the dependence on government and limits our choices of how we spend the money we earn. We are allowing our government to steal our money and enslave us by burdening us with debt.
Politicians pander to their base and twist the truth, and sometimes outright lie, to those outside their base to buy votes. They promise compassionate conservatism, change we can believe in and to make America great again. Invading other countries at a cost of over 100,000 Iraqis and 4,000 American lives, and almost a trillion dollars in U.S. taxpayer’s money, does not seem compassionate. Rising healthcare costs and using a phone and a pen to bypass Congress is not change I can believe in. Boisterous inflammatory language, bullying and increasing spending will not help make America great again. And I sincerely believe a Biden/Harris administration, along with our other elected federal and state leaders, will continue this trend.
This has been allowed to happen, because we as voters allow it to happen. We vote based on party, race, charisma, a single issue or solely because we hate the “other candidate” so much we are willing to sell ourselves and the soul of our republic. Rarely, as an electorate, do we do any research or look beyond sound bites, headlines, or our issue du jour to decide who really is the best to lead us. Many assume that everyone on one side is full of nothing but socialists, communists, and baby killers, or that the other side is nothing but science denying religious zealots with racist Hitleresque leanings. Those running for office often encourage and foster those beliefs knowing that very few will call them out on their misrepresentations and lies and that they can rely on the media and pundits who support them to repeat and exaggerate those mistruths.
I used to blame the politicians themselves and they deserve a large share of the blame. But more and more it has become obvious that it is a flaw in us and in our election process. We, the voters, are to blame more than any politician, since we are the ones who elected them. We allow ourselves to believe the lies because we are too lazy or care too little to take the time to learn the truth. We are an ignorant electorate who refuses to educate ourselves. Too often we only read headlines or listen to pundits, some of whom openly admit they are entertainers. Politicians are like magicians and fool us with words to distract us from what they are doing with their hands. We only listen to what our preferred candidate says and do not look at what they are doing. We use our bias as an excuse to vote blindly for the wrong reasons.
How do we change this? Many think that making it easier to vote is the answer. They believe that automatic voter registration, sending mail-in ballots to everyone regardless if they requested one or not, and encouraging everyone to vote is the key. They justify this by saying voting is a right. I disagree. I am not saying voting is not a right, but that rights come with responsibility. I have a right to free speech, but if I want to reach an audience to exercise that right, I must take the time and effort to find someone to listen to me and pick up the phone. Or to reach a larger audience I need to invest my time and resources to create a social media page, join an organization, etc. If I want to exercise my right to assemble, I must get myself to a rally, invest my money or volunteer my time to a cause that I believe in. Contrary to some misinformation, if I want to exercise my 2nd amendment right, I must pass a Federal background check to purchase a gun from a dealer and in almost every state I must register it. Many rights cost time, effort, and money if we choose to exercise them. Voting is arguably the most important thing we can do as a citizen and your vote affects the lives of millions. Sure, there should be exceptions for the disabled, elderly and, hopefully rare, times of pandemics, but in the normal course of events there should be some responsibility on the part of the voter.
If we allow such easy access to voting maybe there should be a civics test or some other prerequisite along with that access to be able to vote. Many voters do not even know who their senators or congressperson is. If they do not know who represents them, how can they know how their representative stands on the issues important to them or how that representative will vote in Congress? Many voters do not know how our government works or that it is a republic, not a democracy. They assume the president has dictatorial like powers and do not understand the checks and balances and state’s rights built into the Constitution. Without a basic understanding of how our Federal government works or an understanding of state’s rights, we cannot expect anyone to make an educated decision on how to vote. Like other rights, voting must come with some responsibility and knowledge. We need to think about ideas such as civics tests, requiring someone to request a mail in ballot or voting in person.
One very controversial idea is a requirement that you must pay income taxes to vote. Intellectually that makes sense. Benjamin Franklin once said, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.” We see this time and time again in the expansion of the welfare state, politicians giving our money to foreign governments, programs we do not agree with, or organizations that should instead be funded by the private sector. People vote for those giving them money or giving money to their favorite causes. Politicians buying our votes is unsustainable, eventually the bill will come due and even those not paying taxes now will have to pay that bill. One way to avoid such a possible solution would be to implement The Fair Tax. Replacing our current tax code with The Fair Tax would make everyone eligible to vote as everyone would be paying taxes and it would discourage vote buying from our politicians. Voters would be very conscious of how their elected officials spent their money if they saw an over 20% sales tax on every item they purchase.
Voters who do not educate themselves or who vote for money for themselves elect poor leaders. Would you want someone with no knowledge of finance, and who can’t read a balance sheet, manage your money and make investments for you? Would you want to work on the 20th floor of a building designed by someone who failed math? Would you take medical advice from Granny Clampett who thinks your gizzard needs to be removed? Do we want those that have little or no knowledge of the political process and the issues voting? I do not.
Those who vote, but do not take the time to educate themselves on the issues or how our government was designed to function, are the reason we have poor candidates and why we are losing our democratic/representative republic and falling straight into a democracy. Those who vote and have nothing to lose (taxes) but everything to gain (free money) lead us further down this path. It has been well documented that democracies do not survive. Democracies strip our rights and devolve into mob rule. It is a well-worn saying but it stands up to the repetition, “Two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.” Diffen.com explains democracies perfectly, “In a republic, a constitution or charter of rights protects certain inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the government, even if it has been elected by a majority of voters. In a “pure democracy,” the majority is not restrained in this way and can impose its will on the minority.”
History is riddled with examples of our Constitution protecting us from unpopular views. In modern times we see examples of flag burning, Lenny Bruce and NWA all protected under the 1st amendment while polling showed the general population held an opposite opinion. 2nd amendment rights have been upheld many times, often against popular opinion. Gay marriage through states’ rights have been upheld by the Constitution against popular opinion at the time. Democracies can take away those rights at any time at the whim of the voters and public opinion and voters are very fickle.
Socialism, the Green New Deal and repealing section 230 of the Communications Decency Act are gaining popularity but many do not know what any of them really are or how they would affect our freedoms. No truly socialist country has survived. The Green New Deal will hinder our economy and tax us into a lower quality of life. Repealing Section 230 would be a blow to our 1st amendment right to freedom of speech. Our recent, current, and future president or those in Congress have all endorsed at least one or more of these things.
Eventually all democracies collapse, and the void is almost always filled by the same type of totalitarian and abusive government that those democracies were created to escape from. In modern history Venezuela, once one of the richest countries in the world, is a prime example. Venezuelans voted themselves money and it ended in dictatorship. Rights, diversity, and freedom all eventually disappear in democracies. Our Founders knew this, they studied millenniums of history and saw the same thing happen to Rome, Greece, and other democracies. Eroding states’ rights by the passing of the 17th amendment mandating direct election of senators and the push towards abolishing the electoral college are propelling us towards a pure democracy. Without any safeguards to protect our republic and responsible voting, we will lose everything we claim to believe in.
Having to register to vote, requiring one to request a mail-in ballot, or going to a polling station is not a roadblock or infringement of your right to vote. It does not disenfranchise us to be required to educate ourselves on the issues and basic civics. It protects us from the wolves of mob rule. We disenfranchise ourselves by not educating ourselves or sacrificing our time to vote. We need an electorate educated in civics, the issues, and the history of our republic and why it has been so successful. Politicians thrive on an ignorant electorate; it gives them the license to promise miracles while never delivering them with no accountability.
Making it as easy to vote in an election as it is to vote for the next American Idol can have serious consequences as many of those voters do not understand what they are voting for, ill informed, or only vote for what is most popular at the moment. Voting may be a right, but it is a responsibility that can affect the lives of everyone and like all rights and responsibilities voting requires sacrifice to exercise that right.
4 thoughts on “Not Everyone Should Vote”
Regarding a civics test to vote… I see how that would compel someone to learn about the government to secure their rights. However, I worry about the large groups disenfranchised on day one. Not to mention, I am not certain who I would trust to create an objective, unbiased, nonpartisan test. What body of politicians or bureaucrats would you entrust to draft an unbiased, objective, nonpartisan civics test? This is a dangerous power to give.
I honestly don’t know who I would trust to create such a test. But we already give many dangerous powers to our government or those whom our government empowers. Powers such as, who can or can’t own a gun, decisions on healthcare, how our children are educated and much more. Just look at the powers we given our government during the current pandemic. I would argue those powers are just as dangerous to us.
Disenfranchisement on day one could be diminished by greatly by enacting such a law immediately after an election, thereby giving potential voters up to 2 years to achieve a level of understanding to pass such a test. I’m not suggesting a test on the level of a doctorial dissertation, but why not at least a simple written or even multiple choice test similar to a driving test that many states require when renewing a drivers license.
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The idea of the ideal voter as one that is informed and educated in civics is clear and compelling. Very interesting thought experiment!
The title of the article is “not everyone should vote”. Are you suggesting that forcing people to vote in person would somehow cause people to educate themselves and get informed? Do you have evidence that absentee voters, which I have both done for many years, are less educated and informed? I find that I agonize over the ballot and make highly informed and researched choices, because I do not have to stand in the polls and vote in person.
You don’t really make the downside to easier voting clear, and, instead, simply focus on whether you have a right to easy voting, which I agree is not a thing.
If there is no correlation between in person voting and your voters educating and informing themselves… introducing friction simply risks disenfranchising citizens.
I am not suggesting at all that people should be forced to vote in person or that it would make them more informed. I was trying to convey that a requirement such as going to a polling station, requesting a mail in ballot, or even test is not a disenfranchisement, or friction as you termed it. Many ill-informed people would still go to the polls, but many who are uninformed would be less likely to take time out of their day to stand in line or take the trouble to request a mail in ballot.
I am not suggesting making voting more difficult, only that rights come with sacrifice if you want to exercise them to their fullest extent and if voting is a right it should be no different.
The downside to automatic registration and sending mail in ballots to all registered voters is the potential for voter fraud. Voter fraud is real. Has it ever been widespread enough to change the outcome of a national election, including the one in Nov 2020? Extremely doubtful. But mail in ballots being sent to pets, the deceased, and people that have moved is not all that uncommon. Having to request a mail in ballot or going to the polls and show an I.D. would go a long way towards minimizing any potential fraud and keep voter rolls clean and accurate.
Yesterday we witnessed an abominable and shameful display in our nation’s capital from voters that did feel disenfranchised as they no longer trusted our election process. You may believe they were treasonous, ill-informed, and led by a lying demagogue, but trust me, they believe exactly the same about the other side, and their belief that the election was stolen is very real to them. A big part of why they feel that way is due to the potential of voter fraud by making it as easy to vote in an election as it is to vote for your favorite on a reality show. Whether you believe they were rioters or patriots, they lost faith in the electoral process and there are millions more that feel the same as those in D.C. yesterday. They are not all stupid, ignorant, racists; they are our fellow citizens, and many are intelligent thoughtful people of all races who lost faith in our leaders and our elections. Testing and putting the burden on voters to show up in person or having to request a mail in ballot for every election would go a long way towards restoring faith in the process and make sure yesterday’s display never happens again.