Monday, April 21, 2014

One person, one vote. Yes, still.

This AlterNet column by Heather "Digby" Parton nails something that amazingly isn't spoken of more often. Here's the applause line:

[Republicans] often explain that they actually won — it was just all those young nonwhites who messed up the proper results.

Digby's talking about how the GOP marginalizes minority votes as mere gadflies. But really, she could be talking about any vote Democrats attract.

I attended college from 1998 to 2005. That's a swing from Bill Clinton to pre-Katrina George W. Bush. Starting with the 2000 election, most of my classmates and teammates knew my political views. From 2002 on, I was the liberal voice for the university newspaper. Also, I was a political science minor at a school in south Louisiana. So you can imagine how many times I heard, "When you get older and wiser, you'll come around." (Sometimes I heard this from people younger than me.) There was also that oft-spoken old line about how if you're under 30 and conservative, you have no heart, but if you're over 30 and liberal, you have no brain. (Again, sometimes spoken by conservatives and libertarians under 30, which was often an accurate, if inadvertent, self-assessment.) 

They were telling me that I was a misguided person. That because I was young and liberal, I obviously hadn't matured into the kind of voter who doesn't botch electoral results with my earnest ignorance. It was a phase that I'd grow out of, I was assured. All I needed was time, a paycheck and the right education — then, perhaps, I'd lay off the desire to get something for nothing that I'd apparently expressed to the Men in Black. Or, I could become a Young Republican and instantly be mature enough in their eyes.

Minority voters are also accused of voting out of ignorance, and out of greed. That is, if they vote for the party more likely to salvage the social net that so many rely on. But if they vote for the party that consistently tries to revoke their voting rights and blows other racist dog-whistles, and otherwise offers nothing to them but condescension, that's apparently wise.

In other words, these critics see every progressive vote as the province of ignorant youth. Or of greedy, lazy minorities. Or of white adults who refuse to grow up. Basically, a bunch of demographics who are getting it wrong, so they should count less. Hence the alternate-universe recounts that favor Republican candidates — taking the pulse of Real America, unencumbered by the votes of idiots.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the "idiots" are increasingly the majority in this country. Population estimates consistently show that we will be a majority-minority nation in a not-far-off decade. Younger people of all races are consistently more liberal on social issues, even if some are conservative economically. Oh, and they aren't idiots; if anything, they're very smart about their vote — as smart as the right wing claims can only describe their bloc. The GOP must change to reflect American diversity, because its old guard is rapidly dying off, taking its most outmoded and poisonous ideology with it. The party will have to adapt if it wants to win any major election other than through twisted hypotheticals.

A fine start to re-establishing the party's good graces as a necessary counterpoint in our political system would be to acknowledge the world as it is. Or, short of that, to stop slamming all votes that don't go their way as functions of unenlightened races, age groups and/or economic classes. Or, short of that, at least acknowledge the subconscious urge to consider only conservative, affluent white votes as legit. Because that goes beyond ideological disagreements. That's embarrassing. And the wrong way on history's highway.

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