The universal franchise

At this moment in history a lot of Americans are expressing their deep dissatisfaction with our political system. So I am going to utter a forbidden sentiment here and say that I think this whole debacle shows us — or should show us — the folly of the universal franchise. It was not a good idea to extend the right to vote to anybody and everybody. And it was not the idea of the Founding Fathers, so we can’t curse them for getting us into this mess, as a lot of Americans are doing right now, saying the Founding Fathers were wrong, and ignorant, they should have foreseen this and prevented it, etc.

But they were not fools and bunglers, though they were human and fallible as we are — but wiser I think than we are. They believed the vote should be limited to property owning, tax-paying males over the age of 21, and the linked website describes other restrictions — all of which the writers of the article object to. The writers of the article says we still have a ‘long way to go’ in extending voting rights. Just how they imagine we can expand the franchise to other deserving people or life forms I am not sure; can we offer the vote to aliens visiting from space? If not, why not, according to their logic? How about extending the vote to everyone on the planet? I would bet that you could find a lot of people who would cheer for that idea; why shouldn’t all terrestrial beings have the right to vote in our elections?

As for me, I would support returning to the Founding Fathers’ ideas, and let the franchise be restricted to the same group of people. But wouldn’t that be discrimination because we excluded some people? Then we have to allow children to vote, or people who are legally insane or convicted felons — oh, yes, in some places felons are now allowed to vote, just as law-abiding people do. And it seems many people find nothing wrong with that.

During the years when ‘suffragettes’ — oh, excuse me, I mean ‘suffragists agitated for the vote — they marched, chained themselves to fences, went on hunger strikes in jail, and in one case a suffragette ran onto a racetrack during a horse race and was killed. A little extreme, wouldn’t you think? Why was the vote so important? There are other ways to influence society than measures like these attention-seeking means; the vote was not the be-all and end-all, nor is it now. In retrospect ithe sensationalism of the suffragettes seems like the actions of those people during the Vietnam war who set themselves on fire to protest the war: rather overwrought and extreme.

We’ve allowed the vote to be cheapened, and put it in the hands of as many people as possible, knowing that a certain percentage of these voters are not informed about the issues at stake; many do not know the basics of how our system works, or should work. Quite a few vote on emotion rather than by an objective approach, vote for selfish interests, especially nepotism or ethnic loyalties, or worse, might be inclined to ‘sell’ their vote.

We do not have a single culture anymore, rather a hodgepodge, or a crazyquilt made up of a lot of differing, often conflicting and contradictory ”values” and cultural practices. How can this kind of chaos work to our benefit when our country faces a decision at the polls?

As far as women voting, too many women vote based on emotion or sentimentality, the desire to ‘take care’ of the world’s basket cases when we cannot do that, nor were we ever given some kind of commission to be responsible for everyone.

Universalists and nationalists are two opposite ends of the spectrum.

A male reader, presumably wanting to be chivalrous to ladies, accused me of being ‘hard’ on women, at which point I had to inform the critic that I am a woman. And I do know my own sex.

Our country was not meant to be a ‘democracy’ despite the constant use of that term to refer to our system of government. It was meant to be a constitutional republic, as our founders often stated. However the term ‘democracy‘ has won over the American mind and imagination, and Americans seem to believe in the idea of equality across the board — an impossible ideal. Along with that ideal, there’s the idea that we must be ever pushing towards some kind of ideological perfection involving making everyone absolutely equal. It can never work, and it seems our current situation is one example of how this endless crusade for equity ‘for all’ is a vain cause.

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