Voting Rights are the foundation that all Rights are built on
When discussing voting rights, or the lack thereof, it is necessary to also discuss the Supreme Court and its historical tendency to narrowly interpret any law that grants the ordinary citizen any right, freedom or liberty, especially the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Historically, the Supreme Court sides with the viewpoint that most restricts an individual’s freedom while expanding the liberties and power of those who already enjoy great power, either through position, money, or both.
Unfortunately, whether by design or unintended consequence, the Constitution, when framing the Judiciary and Supreme Court, set our country on a path wherein the ultimate arbiter of Law and Order is an unelected body that serves for life. Whereas many refer to the President as an elected Monarch, in truth the Supreme Court acts as and holds much of the power of the monarchy. Decisions are handed down that effect, for good or ill, large swaths of the American population, whether or not we notice or feel the effects in our daily lives.
Examples of egregious, illogical, politically tilted and outright wrong decisions abound throughout our country’s history. It’s bad enough when a State-level or Federal court gets it wrong. It’s even worse when a bad legal decision finds its way to the Supreme Court only to be upheld. The ill effects are usually exacerbated by an uninterested Congress, or at least one that requires decades to right these wrongs.
As I began writing this it is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the Senate is poised to take up two immensely important voting rights bills. Legislation that will do more good for our fragile Democracy than most anything I’m seeing at the State level. A large reason we as a nation find ourselves in such a precarious position, one in which the minority is actively working to cement its power and rule for decades to come, where our political and social divisions are as bad as or worse than antebellum America, is because of a combination of weak federal voting rights guarantees and the Supreme Court.
Now, don’t get me wrong, on occasion the Court gets some things right, though the tendency is for the Court at a later date, and usually at the urging and prodding of those who despise multiculturalism, to want to revert their good legal decision or at the very least weaken and water it down to the point that it no longer holds any weight.
Largely, though, unless the Court’s hand is forced either through active political pressure or Congressional legislative action, the decisions handed down tend to benefit a power structure and dynamic that is neither democratic nor fair. From curtailing (and shortly more than likely reversing) abortion rights to continuously tilting political power to favor corporations and the wealthy, the Supreme Court not only finds itself on the wrong side of history, but so far behind the curve of justice and social change that Congress looks downright sprightly.
There is a lot of chatter and good ideas on how to fix the Court. But, it all starts with Voting Rights. For all rights in a democracy rest on the shoulders of Voting Rights. If each and every citizen of voting age has their voice heard and if politicians can’t pick and choose who they represent then we become a true representative Republic. Anything less and we are anything but a true democratic representative Republic.
With the right to vote guaranteed across the board, with each State having to abide by a common set of minimum, but comprehensive, standards the long repetitive struggles our nation sees will be so much closer to finding serious long lasting resolutions. Only then will the voice of the majority be heard on issues that have long plagued our society and nation as a whole. From criminal justice to abortion. From social safety nets to stronger consumer protections. From corporate oversight to real and comprehensive climate action.
We must secure our Voting Rights if we care to have real, permanent change. Only when our voices are heard, not just at protests and rallies, but at the ballot box, reliably and repeatedly, will what We the People wants become real. Only then will the much needed Court reform become truly meaningful. Only then will we be able to look up to our leaders, from mayors to city council members, from our State representatives to our representatives in Washington, D.C. and know that they are in fact listening to and acting on our behalf.
Without Voting Rights guaranteed and federally protected for every citizen there are no other rights. There are no guarantees that incongruous and outright partisan Court decisions will be rectified. There will be no abortion rights, no freedoms and liberties guaranteed. If government’s power is derived from the People, then our voices must be heard. For without our voice, without our vote, the government is beholden to no one but the loudest, wealthiest voice.