Some Enfranchised Evening…

There was a time when only people of the male persuasion who owned land could vote. I suppose a general disdain for the mental faculties of women in Europe in the 1700’s carried over to their disenfranchisement on these shores during the same time, but for whatever reason, that’s the way it played out. I also suppose owning land was seen as important in that it tended to make a stakeholder out of the voter; it is neither profitable nor easy to divest oneself of land holdings in a hurry. So — voters originally tended to be at least tolerably educated and rooted fast to their local environs, supporting a reasonable expectation that they would cast ballots intelligently with an eye to their community’s long-term benefit.

This is not to say that every voter back then was either intelligent or selfless. Education is no certain mark of smarts, nor is holding real estate any indicator of a sense of civic duty. I feel sure that no small number of educated, land-owning morons could be produced in short order with only moderate effort. Similarly, the mere possession of a Y-chromosome is hardly an accurate barometer of wisdom. I only wish to convey that the requirements for voting back then rested on the assumption that a literate voter pool with substantial ties to the community would be more likely to produce intelligent, altruistic voters.

Fast-forward to the present.

Everyone can vote. Sure, there are restrictions barring convicted felons and minors (which are too-often overlapping categories, sadly), but this is mitigated somewhat by fictitious and/or dead people casting ballots, depending on how close a particular contest is and which political party is losing. The problem is, there are huge swaths of folks who tend to vote themselves color televisions — or at least, for whichever liar convinces them s/he can deliver said consumer electronics (Feel free to substitute any bauble in the place of a television; health care/welfare/retirement benefits, it matters little). There is no sense of civic duty, there is no sense of responsibility, there is no sense of what might be good for the Republic; just a nagging notion that cookies remain in the cookie jar, and if you don’t get your share, somebody else will.

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” — ┬áThomas Paine

A wide range of endeavors require some demonstration of proficiency before they may be pursued. Doctors’ offices and day-care centers, plumbers and pest-controllers, attorneys and air-conditioning installers, all have to be trained and pass examinations confirming their competence to perform work in their respective fields. What would be so horrible with requiring prospective voters to demonstrate a basic understanding of what a constitutional republic is, what this particular republic is all about, with maybe a little national history thrown in so voters won’t be fooled into supporting things that have already been tried and failed? Would it be so bad to require a little investment from the populace in time and effort to become eligible voters, instead of just being declared eligible by dint of reaching an arbitrary age while simultaneously avoiding prison time?

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