Donna Brazile, the Democrats’ all-purpose spokeswoman for civil rights, was at it again the other day, flaying “Republicans” for conspiring to suppress the voting rights of black and minorities.
“Republicans,” as she put it in a USA Today column, “are pushing restrictive voter ID legislation in states around the country that will make it more difficult for people to make their voices heard.”
She singled out North Carolina for “an extreme law” requiring students attending college outside their home counties to tender government-issued identification — e.g., drivers’ licenses — instead of student ID cards.
She didn’t mention Texas, but that’s OK, as the state’s Democratic Party did the job for her, castigating a law that provides free IDs to non-drivers who don’t have passports, concealed carry licenses, or naturalization papers. What’s the problem with free? A party spokeswoman argued that applying for and procuring the free ID took time that could more profitably have been spent in other pursuits.
Perhaps if the state hand-delivered the ID in response to a text message and allowed the voter to mark his ballot while lying in bed, sipping a cold beer? That could be next.
The moment seems right for a word, quixotically uttered or not, concerning the privileges and the duties of citizenship.
It seems recently to have escaped notice that for centuries, privilege and responsibility were intimately linked. Yes, one could do thus and so, but whoever took up that invitation needed to remember such obligations as went along with the right. One could drive a car, for instance, but only at certain speeds in certain places, with the duty of halting at red lights.
The right to vote — on which modern democratic institutions rest — is a glorious privilege. Don’t certain obligations accompany it, if only by implication? Such as the obligation actually to care? Right: The Constitution mentions no such obligation. Does it not follow, even so, from the centrality of the suffrage to our government and institutions that choosing a candidate can’t be logically equated with selecting a TV channel?
Where does voter ID come in here? At the point, I’d say, where a voter insufficiently motivated to pick up a free ID card can’t be pointed to as a citizenship model on the level of Donna Brazile. Or even Anthony Weiner. Weiner, who admittedly has unique ideas about personal identification, would doubtless run 10 miles through traffic in 20-degree weather to replace a lost or misplaced ID card. We’re to suppose, down in Texas, that taking a few moments to drop by a government office amounts to rank displacement of constitutional rights?
The right to vote takes on these days the look and smell of a social entitlement: mine, gimme, never mind what I know, never mind what I care. All our democratic republic seems to need right now is the appearance at the polls of slobs who don’t give a flip about responsibilities generally judged to have a solemn character.
There was never in our human saga a golden age of votes cast with maximum wisdom and minimal irreverence or indifference. Since the first ballot was cast, bosses of one kind and another have been buying, selling, stealing, bribing, horse-trading for the highest advantages. A Texan needs no pinprick to recollect how Lyndon Johnson and Friends, when they needed votes in Jim Wells County, in the 1948 senatorial contest, found just the number they needed.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 — still generally in place despite misrepresentations by Democratic partisans — rightly opened polling places unconstitutionally closed to Negro Americans (as the conversational currency had it back then). The passage of nearly half a century diminishes in no way the need for an honest, serious-minded electorate. Reducing the franchise to an exercise as easy and automatic as taking a drink of water debases not only the right to the franchise but also the governmental framework resting on that franchise.
That’s today’s sermon. The way things are going, it won’t change a thing. Just thought I’d mention the matter out of — what’s that old-fangled word? Responsibility.
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William Murchison, author and commentator, writes from Dallas. To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.Creators.com.