Its frustrating how many current political controversies can be summed up as politicians choosing to talk past each other. That is the state of the debate over voting rights and standards.
It is not a stretch to say that Democrats have migrated closer to socialism. In doing so, they have adopted a socialist view of voting: a useful tool to show that the broadest possible sampling of “the people” support the social programs handing out important infrastructure, subsidies and services paid for by the taxpayers. In that function, “voting” is much like it is on America’s Got Talent – get the most votes and you go on to the next round: the carving up of the public pie.
Republicans view voting very differently. Rather than the act that sets in motion “government,” a “vote” is what Republicans do last, when you do not have consensus and need to place the issue before those impacted to find the greatest degree of agreement possible. To Republicans, the vote is a contract, demanding as much from candidates as from voters: “I will vote for you to decide how to spend my tax dollars, but I expect you to spend them wisely, frugally and efficiently.”
Placing such a vote in front of someone who does not live in the taxing district, or who is too young to be among the potentially taxed, or who has shown through commission of a felony that they do not respect the “contract,” is to violate the whole purpose of the vote. Therefore, Republicans expect voters to prove where they live, that they are who they claim they are, and that they do, in fact, have a right to vote on the leaders and issues on the ballot placed before them.
What is entirely disingenuous is to ignore these fundamentally different views of “why vote,” and to, instead, summarize the debate as purely an attempt to gain voting advantage. Democrats claim Republicans want voter identification to “intimidate Black votes” (a somewhat racist argument itself). Republicans say Democrats are driving illegitimate voters to “steal an election” (an unprovable claim).
Neither of these should be the basis for changing how we vote. That fact would be clearer if both political parties pursued their legitimate differences with integrity. Democrats should reach out to mobility-challenged elderly and rural poor voters whose electoral strength is frequently suppressed. Republicans should make a greater effort to get valid and secure IDs into the hands of minorities and the inner-city poor. Both such efforts run the risk of generating more votes for the opposing party, but at least we could then move on to a debate about voting with both parties standing on higher ground.