If anyone has ever had any doubt that the goal of conservatives is to reduce voter turn out, check out today’s column from Jonah Goldberg. After discussing how uninformed voters are, he writes:
So, maybe, just maybe, we have our priorities wrong. Perhaps cheapening the vote by requiring little more than an active pulse (Chicago famously waives this rule) has turned it into something many people don’t value. Maybe the emphasis on getting more people to vote has dumbed-down our democracy by pushing participation onto people uninterested in such things. Maybe our society would be healthier if politicians aimed higher than the lowest common denominator. Maybe the opinions of people who don’t know the first thing about how our system works aren’t the folks who should be driving our politics, just as people who don’t know how to drive shouldn’t have a driver’s license.
Instead of making it easier to vote, maybe we should be making it harder. Why not test people about the basic functions of government? Immigrants have to pass a test to vote; why not all citizens?
In the abstract he might have a point. There would be value to having a higher percentage of voters be people who have a basic understanding of how the political system works. (It would be even more ideal if they also had the background to see through the usual spin of the right wing noise machine). While perhaps sensible in principle, the idea raises serious problems should it ever be put into practice. Once someone has the power to decide who does and does not have the right to vote, the risk of corruption becomes too great. Voter suppression has already become a Republican tactic which might have influenced some election results It would be far too dangerous to institutionalize the practice of deciding who is allowed to vote. Besides, allowing everyone to vote, with all its faults, is a cornerstone of modern democracy. There have been too many battles to expand the vote to groups such as blacks and women to backslide on universal suffrage.
Reading this column makes me think that testing of columnists as opposed to voters might be a good idea–especially as this is the second time today I’ve commented on poor ideas from Goldberg. As tempting as it is I would no more back that, out of respect for freedom of the press, than I’d go along with Goldberg’s idea to test voters. I bet Goldberg would turn out to be as misinformed as the typical viewer of Fox News.