Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Who Really Deserves the Right to Vote?

People often proudly--and incorrectly--refer to America as a "democracy".  While there are democratic (small "d") elements to the way we undertake our government, we nonetheless have many safeguards within our Constitution and our form of government that keep us from becoming a true democracy.  However, overlooking the fact that most of our Founding Fathers would have been horrified at the possibility of our nation becoming a true democracy, many Americans--of all political stripes--take great pride in the democratic (small "d") elements of our government.  We consistently hear our fellow citizens discuss things like the 15th Amendment (granting Blacks the right to vote), the 19th Amendment (granting women the right to vote), and the 26th Amendment (reducing the voting age to 18) as positive aspects of American history, and even as examples of American Exceptionalism.

As a nation and as a people, we often take for granted the idea that our Republic works best the more people that take part in it.  Everybody in the political world talks glowingly of potential ways to increase voter turnout (even if some of them only pay lip service to it...while others who actually take the idea seriously seem to do so for only the most cynical of reasons--see Democrats and their efforts to allow Illegal Aliens to be able to vote).  On the other hand, nobody ever speaks positively about restricting voting or about reducing voter turnout (at least not publicly...I might humbly suggest that I'm one of the few writers or commentators who will talk about such topics publicly and without reservation).  It's almost a universal idea in America that the expansion of voting rights has always been--and further expansion will be in the future--an overall positive for our country.

However, when one strips away all of the feel-good sentiments, and even some of the national pride in our history...does it make sense?  Is it really sensible that the more people who vote, the better off we all are in the long run?  Is there any other meaningful area of life in which we expect a better job to be done if every Tom, Dick, and Harry takes part?  Would you prefer to go into surgery in the hands of a good, accomplished surgeon...or would you rather have your surgery performed by all of the random people from all walks of life who happened to show up on that day?  Would you trust your taxes to be done by a CPA or financial professional who thoroughly understands tax law...or would you be better off having your taxes done by a few thousand random people, most of which will have no background in doing taxes, and most of which could not care less if your tax bill ends up being as low as it can legally be?  Think of your it better that they be raised by you and your spouse, or would they be better off taking their life lessons from millions of random people across the country (one look at the kids who have been largely raised by pop culture should tell you the answer to that question).

Clearly, for a great many important concerns, quantity of input is not nearly as important or beneficial as quality of input.

Let's take this from generalities and into specifics--the Twentieth Century was a period in which we as a nation focused on expanding the vote.  From granting women the right to vote, to efforts in the South to make sure the 15th Amendment was fully adhered to, to the effort to lower the voting age and encourage young people to vote ever since that time...there is no doubt that expanding voter participation was a key focus area for much of the last century.  But what else did we see during the last century?  We saw large-scale expansion of the Federal Government (far more profound than any expansion seen at any other point in our history). We saw the constant expansion of a "Social Safety Net" that has not only placed our nation on the brink of bankruptcy financially, but which has brought about a moral  bankruptcy among our urban areas that has been even far more devastating.  We saw the legalized murdering of our babies in the womb, and an entire class of politicians taking office who have kept their power by promises to keep this "right" ensconced.

In other words, while it is true that we won two World Wars and had--for a period of time--one of the great economies the world has ever seen...much of the Twentieth Century sucked in America.  It sucked quite badly, indeed.

Now, is the expansion of the vote during the Twentieth century entirely to blame for all of these ills?  No, that would be way too simplistic and there were a multitude of other factors, of course.  However, I don't think we can discount the expansion of the vote as a factor in the rise of what could be called, for lack of a better term, the "constantly get re-elected by giving free stuff to my constituents and excusing their bad behavior" politician.   Hence, I think we need to take an honest look at the impact (mainly negative) of the expansion of the vote.

Now, does this mean that I want to repeal the 15th and 26th Amendments and take away voting rights from Blacks and Women?  No, not at all.  To me, denying voting rights strictly based on race or gender would not address the root causes of America's voting problems.  For example, according to exit polling in the 2016 Presidential election, 42% of women voted for Donald Trump (including 53% of White Women and 47% of Married Women). With respect to Blacks, 8% voted for Trump (including 13% of men).  In addition, these numbers are right in line with the percentages of those groups that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and for Republican candidates in prior elections (the idea that Trump would turn off female or black voters turned out to be a red herring, statistically speaking...Trump maintained roughly the same ground with these groups that GOP candidates before him had maintained).  So clearly, some people within these groups are making good, sound voting decisions.  Taking away voting rights from those 42% of women or 8% of Blacks that voted for Trump would not have a positive impact--either at the polls or in culture in general.  You wouldn't be getting to the root cause of the problem--you would end up treating the symptom, and not the disease.

It is not race or gender that creates a bad voter--instead it is attitude, culture, and character.  In short, it has been the expansion of Liberal voters who have done us harm over the Twentieth century.  So when it comes to addressing the problem, how do you do so?  I mean, it would be comparatively easy to say "we should take away the right to vote from women and blacks", but it's far more difficult to construct an environment where you take away the right to vote from Liberals.  That will take far more subtlety.  In fact, it would be impossible to simply take away the right to vote from those who claim they are Liberals, because after all, they could simply lie and claim to be of another political philosophy.  So instead, perhaps it would be more beneficial to focus on certain other factors and behaviors that are indicators of Liberal attitudes.

What types of factors, other than the imperfect factors of race or gender, could we restrict in an attempt to increase the quality of American voters instead of the quantity?   It is a vexing question, to be sure.  And while I don't claim to have all the answers, the following suggestions could at least be a decent starting point.

Eliminate Voting & Congressional Representation from Major Cities

On one hand, this might seem a bit harsh.  But consider--when you are in a job interview, your potential employer considers your previous track record of employment as a key factor in whether or not he will hire you.  When you begin a new romantic relationship, you ask questions of your potential mate about their previous relationships and history (perhaps even asking mutual friends and accquantainces as well) in order to determine if there are any red flags that would indicate you should not engage in a relationship with them.  When you hire a plumber, contractor, or landscaper, you ask for references and examples of their previous work before you decide to allow them into your home.  Why should voting be any different?  We have a curious phenomenon in this country--a phenomenon in which our most impoverished, crime-ridden, corrupt, destitute cities have been under Democratic control for decades (Here is an article where I discussed this very concept, complete with examples).  You can drive through any of these cities (but please, make sure you lock your car doors before you do so) and see the track record and the results of the decisions those city dwellers made.  Again--these places haven't been under Republican control for any problems or issues (or, potentially, any successes...though there haven't seemed to be many) are entirely a reflection upon the citizens, their politics, their decision-making, their priorities, and their morality.  Given the shape that most of these Democratically-controlled (big "d") cities are in, it should be clear that these people do not have the decision-making ability, or morality to make good decisions (politically or otherwise).  Therefore there is no "upside" to allowing them to vote or to have Congressional representation.  Let's start working toward taking those rights away from those who live in our major cities (make no mistake, I know it will be a LONG road, necessitating one or more Constitutional Amendments...but looking at the track record of the people that live in our cities, doing so is the only rational way forward).

Religious Tests

The onset of mass secularization has played a significant role in the violence and cultural rot that our nation has seen over the last century--not coincidentally the same period of time that so many of our political problems have come about, along with the constant pressures to expand the voter rolls. For much of the Twentieth Century, we have given the "old college try" to the idea that morality is relative, and that all moral and religious viewpoints should be welcomed and have a seat at the disastrous results.  If history teaches us one thing, it demonstrates that Christian values and a Christian culture are the best roads to lead to a peaceful, productive, society (see American History prior to 1950 for a rather profound example).  But what about the First Amendment???  Doesn't that demand a "separation of church and state"?  No, actually it doesn't.  Wouldn't religious tests be prohibited under the First Amendment?  Nope--in fact, early in our history, most states had such tests for holding public office, and it was never a Constitutional issue.

Doubt me?  Here's a video I did back in 2014 discussing our misinterpretation of the First Amendment and "separation of church and state". Prepare to be blown away if you haven't been exposed to these facts before.

At the end of the day, it is clear that only committed Christians have the morality, mindset, and mentality necessary to make good decisions at the polls.  So using religious tests to determine voting rights, or the right to hold public office, is a completely logical step forward.

Raising the Minimum Voting Age

Remember that earlier in this article, I said that I had no interest in repealing the 15th or 19th Amendments.  I do not have such trepedation about repealing the 26th Amendment, however.  For those of you in your 30's, 40's or older, take yourself out of the political realm for a moment and just think of life in general--did you make more bad decisions in your teens and 20's, or today?  Unless you are an absolute freak of nature, you answered that you made far more bad decisions in your teens and 20's.  As we hit middle age, we so often look back on those days and realize how lucky we were to escape them with minimal damage from our poor decisions (and, sadly, many people in that age range who make bad decisions never get the chance to make it to middle age and look back on those days to engage in such introspection).   

Even those of us who managed to stay away from the drugs, STD's, and other dangers still look back on our lives and recognize areas where our decisions fell short.  Speaking politically, I can honestly say that I never voted for a Democrat for the Presidency in my 20's...but as I look back, I wasn't nearly as attentive and involved in politics as I am today--because I didn't yet realize the vital importance of the politics in our society.  In 1996, for example, I just sort of tuned out of the primary process and just started paying attention around time for the general election (and even then, I really only paid a cursory amount of attention).  I pulled the lever for Bob Dole...but as I've gotten older, that decision nearly makes me ill.  I sure do wish that I'd have been a lot more involved in 1996 and backed Pat Buchannan during the primaries rather than just tuning out and "accepting" the inevitability of Dole.  Had the Travis Cook of today--in his early 40's with life experience and wisdom today that I could never have conceptualized back then--been around in '96, I sure would have done things a lot differently.

So raising the voting age is sensible to me, even as I look back on my own political decisions from my 20's.  What would be the best cutoff?  Different opinions abound, of course...but I think that the age of 30 gives most people enough life experience and responsibility to have the "skin in the game" necessary to make good political decisions.  Some would complain that this plan would keep young people in the military from being able to vote--and this is a valid concern.  So perhaps he have a caveat that if you are in the military (or honorably discharged), you can vote at 18.  After all, a 25 year old soldier certainly has life experience that most people twice his age could never compare with.  Also, this would encourage more young people to join the military--something that our society will need going forward into the future, as Muslims, North Koreans, and other assorted enemies (both foreign and domestic) are gathering on our doorstep with the worst of intentions in mind.

No doubt the ideas I've put forth will seem radical--perhaps they are.  But the seriousness of this problem demands that we think outside the box, at least to some degree, in order to resolve it.  One thing is for certain--the direction we have been going in terms of voting rights during the 20th Century has been an abject failure.  It is time to re-think that approach entirely.