Pro­posed vot­ing changes are about power, not prin­ci­ples

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY VIC­TOR DAVIS HAN­SON Vic­tor Davis Han­son is a clas­si­cist and his­to­rian at the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion, Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity. Email: au­[email protected]­torhan­son.com. Tribune Con­tent Agency dis­trib­uted this col­umn.

Pro­gres­sive can­di­dates and new Demo­cratic rep­re­sen­ta­tives have of­fered lots of rad­i­cal new pro­pos­als lately about vot­ing and vot­ers. They in­clude scrap­ping the 215-year-old Elec­toral Col­lege. Pro­gres­sives also talk of ex­tend­ing the vote to 16- or 17-year-olds and ex-felons. They wish to fur­ther re­lax re­quire­ments for voter iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, same-day reg­is­tra­tion and vot­ing, and un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants vot­ing in lo­cal elec­tions.

The 2016 vic­tory of Don­ald Trump shocked the left. It was en­tirely un­ex­pected, given that ex­perts had all but as­sured a Hil­lary Clin­ton land­slide. Worse still for those on the left, Trump, like Ge­orge W. Bush in 2000 and three ear­lier

win­ning pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, lost the pop­u­lar vote.

From 2017 on, Trump has sought to sys­tem­at­i­cally dis­man­tle the pro­gres­sive agenda that had been es­tab­lished by his pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama — of­ten in con­tro­ver­sial and un­apolo­getic style.

The furor over the 2016 Clin­ton loss and the new Trump agenda, the fear that the Trump could be re-elected, and anger about the Elec­toral Col­lege have mo­bi­lized pro­gres­sives to de­mand changes to the hal­lowed tra­di­tions of elect­ing pres­i­dents.

The Elec­toral Col­lege was de­signed in part to en­sure that can­di­dates at least vis­ited the small and of­ten ru­ral states of Amer­ica. The gen­er­a­tion of the Found­ing Fa­thers did not want elec­tions to rest solely with larger ur­ban pop­u­la­tions. The Elec­toral Col­lege bal­ances out the pop­u­lar vote.

The founders were also ter­ri­fied of rad­i­cal democ­ra­cies of the past, es­pe­cially their fren­zied ten­den­cies to adopt mob-like tac­tics.

In re­sponse, the Elec­toral Col­lege was de­signed to dis­cour­age crowded fields of all sorts of fringe pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in which the even­tual win­ner might win only a small plu­ral­ity of the pop­u­lar vote.

Vot­ing re­quire­ments have also re­flected dis­dain for rad­i­cal democ­racy. Law­mak­ers have ar­gued that young adults who are at least 18 years old have more ex­pe­ri­ence, are more in­de­pen­dent and take on more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties than do younger teenagers liv­ing at home. There­fore, they are likely to make more reasoned de­ci­sions. Some pro­gres­sives want to lower the vot­ing age.

Sim­i­larly, most states con­sider the judg­ment of felons who have com­mit­ted se­ri­ous crimes sus­pect com­pared with those who have fol­lowed the laws. Th­ese states have pro­hib­ited felons from vot­ing by first re­quir­ing com­ple­tion of their sen­tences or pa­role or pro­ba­tion, de­pend­ing on the na­ture of their crimes. Many on the left sup­port mea­sures that would ease vot­ing re­stric­tions on ex-felons.

Pro­gres­sives have de­lib­er­ately con­fused res­i­dency with cit­i­zen­ship, as if a per­son liv­ing in Amer­ica, pay­ing some sales or in­come taxes, should have the same vot­ing rights as those who are le­gal cit­i­zens.

All th­ese pro­posed mod­i­fi­ca­tions are aimed at chang­ing the na­ture of the elec­torate and the method of vot­ing in or­der to change re­sults. In re­duc­tion­ist terms, new rules and new vot­ers re­duce the rel­a­tive vot­ing clout of law-abid­ing adult cit­i­zens.

Left­ists as­sume that Amer­i­cans are not sym­pa­thetic to their new ad­vo­ca­cies. In other words, the cur­rent 2019 pot­pourri of pro­gres­sive is­sues might not war­rant 51 per­cent sport among the ex­ist­ing vot­ing pub­lic in the next elec­tion.

Most Amer­i­cans are skep­ti­cal of repa­ra­tions. They do not fa­vor le­gal­iz­ing in­fan­ti­cide. They do not want open bor­ders, sanc­tu­ary ci­ties or blan­ket amnesties. They are trou­bled by the idea of wealth taxes and top mar­ginal tax rates of 70 per­cent or higher.

Many Amer­i­cans cer­tainly fear the Green New Deal. Many do not fa­vor abol­ish­ing all stu­dent debt, U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment or the Elec­toral Col­lege. Nor do many Amer­i­cans be­lieve in costly ideas such as Medi­care for all and free col­lege tuition. The masses do not unan­i­mously want to stop pipe­line con­struc­tion or scale back Amer­ica’s boom­ing nat­u­ral gas and oil pro­duc­tion.

A cynic might sug­gest that had Hil­lary Clin­ton ac­tu­ally won the 2016 Elec­toral Col­lege vote but lost the pop­u­lar vote to Trump, pro­gres­sives would now be prais­ing our long-es­tab­lished sys­tem of vot­ing.

Had cur­rent un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants proved as con­ser­va­tive as past waves of le­gal im­mi­grants from Hun­gary and Cuba, pro­gres­sives would now likely wish to close the south­ern bor­der and per­haps even build a wall.

If same-day reg­is­tra­tion and vot­ing meant that mil­lions of new con­ser­va­tives with­out voter IDs were sud­denly show­ing their Trump sup­port at the polls, pro­gres­sives would in­sist on bring­ing back old laws that re­quired vot­ers to have pre­vi­ously reg­is­tered and to show valid iden­ti­fi­ca­tion at vot­ing precincts.

If felons or 16-year-old kids polled con­ser­va­tive, then cer­tainly there would be no pro­gres­sive push to let mem­bers of th­ese groups vote.

Ex­pand­ing and chang­ing the present voter base and al­ter­ing how we vote is mostly about power, not prin­ci­ples. With­out th­ese rad­i­cal changes, a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­can vot­ers, in tra­di­tional and time-hon­ored elec­tions, will likely not vote for the un­pop­u­lar pro­gres­sive agenda.

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