I thought I was beyond the point where conservative blogger Matt Walsh could surprise me, I really did. But apparently I’m not. Matt Walsh just wrote an article arguing for voter suppression, headlining the issue on Facebook as follows:
It’s very simple. When masses of oblivious, clueless, noncontributing people are allowed and actively encouraged to vote, the results are and have been disastrous. There is virtually no chance of anything positive happening when the people steering the ship are blind, drunk, and distracted.
Just look at the sort of ignoramuses we usually elect — and the ones we are threatening to elect — to major political offices. Compare that with the sort of men they elected back in the early decades of America, when few people had a say, and I think it becomes clear that we need fewer people to vote. High voter turnout does not equal better voting results.
So today I’m proposing a three point strategy to fix our voting process. None of this will ever happen, I realize, but I’m just trying to establish how things ought to be.
The centerpiece of my plan is to require that all voters take and pass a 5th grade civics exam. Again, there is NOTHING good that can come, or has come, of allowing adults who can’t name the branches of government to make decisions about who will populate those branches.
Another part of my plan is to grant the vote only to taxpaying citizens. If you are not paying into the system, you should not be allowed to determine how the system works. You should not be empowered to vote yourself money from a treasury you are not contributing to. The fact that we enable this sort of behavior is a travesty and an injustice. In fact it’s a form of taxation without representation, and it’s precisely the sort of thing the colonists revolted against.
What I’m saying here may seem outrageous to you, but remember that our Republic was never meant to be run by the lazy and the ignorant.
I am utterly and completely gobsmacked.
Look, this country has a long history of voter suppression efforts like this one. For a century, states in the South used civics tests and literacy tests to prevent people of color from voting. I understand that Matt wants to make sure voters are educated, but you know what? That’s why we have compulsory education. I mean really, literally, that is why we have public education. Public education was created to ensure that we would have an educated citizenry, because an educated citizenry was seen as necessary for of our form of government.
What does Walsh want on this test, exactly?
I’m not suggesting every voter should have a degree in American History or Political Science. I’m merely saying every voter should be able to stroll into any fifth grade social studies or history class on exam day and at least escape with a passing grade. I’m saying, as an adult, you shouldn’t be able to walk into an elementary school cafeteria during lunchtime and discover that the discussions of politics and current events are flying over your head.
In other words, you should not be among the majority of American adults who can’t describe the purpose of the Constitution, or identify the Speaker of the House, or name one of the senators from your home state, or name your governor, or give a brief explanation as to the function of the Judicial Branch. And you certainly shouldn’t be one of the ignoramuses who constantly pop up in dumb-guy-on-the-street videos reacting with confusion when asked to name the winner of the War Between the States, or the century of our country’s founding, or which side America fought on during World War II, or who our nation’s capital is named after.
I would suggest a simple 10-question quiz, covering the questions listed above, administered at the polls on voting day, with an exceedingly generous five minute time limit. Answer seven out of 10 correctly and, after showing your photo ID, you can vote. Answer four to six correctly, and your voting privileges will be suspended for a period of two years. Answer zero to three correctly, and you’ll be exiled to an island in the Pacific.
Perhaps that last step is a bridge too far for some, but at a minimum we need to prevent these people from inflicting their willful ignorance on the electoral process.
I hate to be the one asking this, because I am all for people being politically aware and following the news—and all for people knowing history—but why exactly is it critical for voters to know the name of the Speaker of the House, or the century in which our country was founded, or who Washington D.C. was named after? How does knowing these things inform their vote? I’m not seeing it. Even knowing the name of your governor and senators isn’t all that important, strictly speaking, to your ability to vote. In order to vote, all you need to know is what candidates (or what party) you’re voting for—and people tend to make this decision for reasons, whether or not we agree with those reasons.
I should also note that not all of these questions have just one simple answer to check off. Who is going to be grading the description of the function of the judicial branch? Because actually, I disagree with some people on that one. Constitutional conservatives think the judicial branch has overstepped their bounds. I don’t. So who exactly is grading that? This is important because this is how black people were denied the vote for an entire damn century. It didn’t matter how people of color did on the tests, because the people giving the tests would de facto decide they were wrong and deny them the ballot box. What, exactly, would stop that from happening now?
Next, Walsh doesn’t want non-taxpaying citizens voting. This brings to mind Romney’s statement about the 47% of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes, but Walsh never says what taxes he’s talking about. What he’s seemingly unaware of is that anyone who ever buys anything pays taxes. Additionally, everyone who drives a car pays gasoline taxes. Hell, even renters pay property taxes, in a sense—it’s passed along to them in their rent. This idea that we have a whole segment of our population getting a free ride on others’ backs is nonsense. We all pay taxes, and people that go on welfare or unemployment generally do so short-term.
Let’s look at this quote from Walsh’s article:
It’s absurd to think that a 19-year-old college sophomore who lives in a dorm and spends his evenings getting drunk with the booze money his parents gave him has the same voice and the same vote as a grown man with a wife, three kids, a house, two cars, a job, a mortgage, and a PTA membership. These two people are not equal contributors. They are not equal, really, in any practical sense.
So, interesting story. There was a while when my dad got more back in federal taxes than he paid, because of all of the child tax credits he got for me and my siblings. In other words, he was a grown man with a wife, twelve children, a house, a job, a mortgage, and yet the government was giving him money. Does Walsh think he shouldn’t have been able to vote during those years? If yes, then the issue isn’t about whether or not one is paying taxes, the issue is about what sorts of people Walsh thinks are worth more. And if we start down that road—weighing who is “worth” enough to vote—we’re headed in an extremely dangerous direction. Our rights are not dependent on our subjective “worth.”
Also, I’m curious—what about the elderly? What about the disabled? If Walsh doesn’t want people who don’t pay federal income taxes—which I’m assuming is his criteria—to be permitted to vote, does he want to prevent everyone who doesn’t have a job from voting, including retired people, disabled people, and stay at home parents or partners? What about people who had jobs and worked for decades, and then got laid off due to a bad economy? Do these people get no say in how our politicians go about righting the economy? I get the feeling Walsh hasn’t really thought this through.
Walsh also wants to abolish early voting—yes, really. What he seems not to know is that early voting is especially important for people of color and other disadvantaged populations who may not have easy transportation to polling locations or who may work long hours or multiple jobs. By abolishing early voting, he is preventing some number of people from being able to vote at all, and putting an added burden on many others. But then, Walsh seems to be aware of this, at least on some level, and is very honest about the fact that he is trying to make it harder to vote. “Our country would be better off if only the folks willing to make the sacrifice and the effort participated,” he wrote. What he seems oblivious to is the fact that ease of voting isn’t a level playing field as it is, and making voting harder will affect some populations more than others.
The truly ironic thing is that Walsh’s anger is not a result of anything on the Democratic side of this year’s primarily elections. His anger is motivated by Donald Trump’s runaway success in the Republican primary. Walsh has written deeply critical posts of anyone who would vote for Trump, and appears to genuinely believe Trump voters are destroying the country. This is why he wants to prevent “the lazy and the ignorant” from voting. I share Walsh’s distaste for Trump, but I don’t share his distaste for the democratic process.