I really need to buy a house. Lest I lose my right to vote.
Recently, Judson Phillips, President of the Tea Party Nation was involved in a pretty telling on-air exchange about the ability to vote in our country. In his commentary, he discussed changes that he felt should be made to voting rights, stating how the Founding Fathers originally placed restrictions on non-property owners. To wit, he stated “…one of those [restrictions on the right to vote] was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.”
Straight from the horse’s mouth:
For a split second, I’m going to sidestep Phillips’ main point about land ownership as a requisite condition to voting and focus on his contention that owners are more “vested in the community.” On that notion, I actually agree. I’ve been arguing for years that one of the (MANY) reasons why my hometown of Flint, Michigan is in such decline is because of the clear lack of community investment. I believe -with limited exceptions – that there is a direct relationship between pride of ownership and the vibrancy of a community. To put a fine point on it, when people own stuff, they usually take better care of it. In a city where close to 70% of the residents rent (including the humble host of this blog), don’t expect much of the community interest referred to by Phillips. To be sure, there are still numerous areas of interest not unique to homeowners…concern for safety, the need for jobs, quality education, etc. But at the core, Phillips makes a good point.
For Phillips to suggest that a property ownership requirement to voter is (or once was) sensible is to advocate the worst kind of voter disenfranchisement. While it is indeed true that land ownership was once a requirement to vote, that discrimination was ultimately banned. Fast forward to as short of time as fifty or so years ago: civics-literacy tests were used to weed out voters…and were thankfully abolished by the Voting Rights Act of 1964. Before that, there were requirements that voters had to pay a poll tax in order to vote, also eventually banned. As you can tell by this timeline, it took years – generations, even – to ensure that one of the most basic tenets of our democracy was allowed for everyone (save, in some states, allowing felons to vote. I’m torn on this). By Phillips’ logic, it would make sense that I – and millions of Americans who don’t own a home – be prohibited from voting. This would include many people serving in the Armed Forces – people defending this clown’s freedom to suggest such stupidity – who may not own a home.
Take a look, America. These are the kinds of people you put in office. While Phillips is not an elected official himself (nor should he measured by the same standards by which we would measure elected officials), he does represent a segment of the Tea Party’s pseudo-informed thinking. Promoting a populist view of less government and more fiscal conservativism is one thing. But invoking Constitutionalist principles once based on social and economic inequality or treating our slave-owning, pompous, middle-aged, white, male founders as perfect figurines who could do no wrong is farcical. Even they understood that they’d make mistakes along the way, hence the ability to AMEND the Constitution.
I’m pretty confident Phillips’ thinking will never see the light of the day. No elected official in their right mind would be brave enough to draft an amendment like this, much less to vote for it. But it’s still pretty scary to think about how many fringe thinkers will soon be found roaming the Congressional Halls. Thanks, America. Egh.