Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason




Not far from the vineyards of the Edna Valley, you will find the SLO "whinecountry," where you are sure to hear lots of complaints by local Democrats over supposed "voter suppression" by Republicans. This strident kvetching is used to explain away any electoral loss that they suffer, and has been operating in overdrive ever since Trump's election.

Democrats seem to have a deep-seated need to rationalize their rejection by the electorate, and must find the charge of suppression soothing, as it avoids the need to confront the fact that a large portion of the voters think that their agenda is, well, just plain nuts. Just as Hillary Clinton attacked fellow Democrat Tulsi Gabbard and Green Party candidate Jill Stein as "Russian assets" to explain the Democrats' difficulties, they find it easier to assign blame than to engage in introspection and to question sacred dogma.

While the Democratic narrative of voter suppression seems to cover a lot of different iterations, one common theme is the claim that these Republican efforts somehow prevent Democrats from voting, while imposing no such impediment on other voters.

Most recently, we have heard the Democrats claiming that the refusal of the Supreme Court to allow the Democratic governor of Wisconsin to unilaterally delay a recent election due to the pandemic, was suppressing the Democratic vote. It was never really explained why the pandemic would deter Democrats, but not Republicans or Independents, especially since Republicans tend to be older and more vulnerable to the virus.

Before that, also in Wisconsin, the Democrats were complaining that an effort to update the voter lists by writing to voters who had not voted in recent elections, and asking them to return the enclosed card verifying that they still lived in the same address, was somehow suppressing the Democratic vote. They argued that dropping unresponsive voters was suppression, since younger and more liberal voters tend to move around more often, conveniently disregarding the fact that when you move, you are no longer eligible to vote in your old district and must re-register.

And Democrats have long argued that requiring a voter to produce identification somehow suppresses the Democratic vote. And to the extent that it discourages dead people and illegal immigrants from voting, they might have a point. But, it is hard to see how requiring an ID, something that is needed for almost every other aspect of modern life, from collecting welfare to buying a gun, targets Democrats. They like to pretend that there is a vast population of potential Democrats just itching to vote but who live too far "off the grid" to be able to obtain any sort of identification. They have yet to actually produce these folks, and like Bigfoot, we are asked to accept on faith that they really exist in significant numbers. Perhaps they can produce some sort of grainy photographs or footprints for us.

Generally, anything that requires voters to put out even a slight degree of effort or thought to exercise their franchise is depicted as Democratic suppression, even though Republicans and Independents somehow manage to overcome these burdens. These cruel burdens include formulating an interest in voting before the actual day of the election, and taking a few moments to drop by a post office or library and fill out a registration card. Thus, we have the Democrats demanding same-day registration, and directing the DMV to automatically register everyone who obtains a driver's license.

What is it that makes Democratic voters so easily deterred from voting, while Republicans and Independents somehow manage?

Claiming suppression allows Democrats to avoid confronting the embarrassing reality that many of their potential voters are just not all that interested in voting and are disinclined to go to any effort to do so. Many find politics boring and unworthy of their attention, and the need to update their social media status more pressing. Thus, Democrats struggle to engage voters and must seduce them by providing exciting, sexy candidates, or by buying their votes.

It isn't surprising that a party that bases its platform on free stuff might attract a lot of passive voters who lack the drive and initiative to do anything that doesn't offer them instant tangible gratification. If someone finds the expectation that they must work to support themselves to be unreasonable, and feels entitled to have government take care of them, you can't really expect too much from them.

Conversely, older voters, who tend to vote Republican, are more likely to really want to vote. We geezers sit around watching the news and political discussions, and sputtering indignantly at the appalling state of things. I have voted in every general election since 1972 when I voted to throw out Nixon, and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

The larger question is whether the votes of disinterested people who need to be cajoled into voting are truly a benefit to democracy? This is nonpartisan, as there are plenty of voters on both sides who pay attention to the issues and who truly want to vote. There are plenty of committed and informed liberals, and, admittedly, probably some conservatives who are only in it for the MAGA hat.

Should we be dragooning the reluctant into voting? Do uninformed and disinterested voters of any party serve democracy well? Δ

John Donegan is a retired attorney in Pismo Beach who frequently shouts at his TV during the news and commercials, and is deadly with a remote.

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