Rational Discourse 1. A sign in front of the Baptist Church in Palermo, Maine: “The Big Bang. God Said It. Bang It Happened.” I must admit, that is simpler to grasp than Higgs Boson. Rational Discourse 2: Ron Christie, a former aide to Dick Cheney, defended the voter identification laws recently passed in 10 states by reminding us that “voting is a privilege, not a right.” While the effect of the laws will disenfranchise millions of poor and minority citizens, Christie told NPR that their intent is to “preserve the integrity of the ballot box.” So it must be a coincidence that the laws were passed by Republican-controlled legislatures and the vast majority of those who will be turned away have traditional Democratic profiles.
Christie’s position, however ethically obtuse, has been upheld by the Supreme Court, which has granted the states broad discretion to determine voter eligibility. In the early days of the Republic, most states limited that eligibility to white male property owners over 21. But over the years, we have extended the vote to blacks, women, 18-year-olds, etc. – and we have made “free and fair” elections the cornerstone of our foreign policy. Both here and abroad, people have shed blood for the “right to vote,” and our landmark legislation on the matter is the “Voting Rights Act” of 1965.
A privilege is something that somebody grants me. A right is something that inheres to me as a member of the community. And if voting ought to be a fundamental right for everybody else in the world, it certainly should be one for me as well.