The photo ID bill that caused such a flap in the House yesterday is one of those classic issues that partisans make a HUGE deal over, and which seems to me entirely undeserving of the fuss.
The way I see it is this:
- It's ridiculous for Democrats to act like this is some kind of insupportable burden on voting, even to the point of walking out to dramatize their profound concern. Why shouldn't you have to make the kind of basic demonstration of your identity that you have to make for pretty much any other kind of transaction?
- It's ridiculous for Republicans to insist that we have to have this safeguard, absent any sort of widespread abuse here in South Carolina in recent elections. Where's the problem necessitating this big confrontation with the Democrats? I don't see it.
Some of you defend parties by telling me that they legitimately reflect different philosophies and value systems. Well, when you scratch the surface and get at the values that inform these two overwrought partisan reactions, it doesn't make me feel any better either way. In fact, it reminds me why I can't subscribe to either party's world view.
Democrats believe at their core that it should be EASIER to vote. I look around me at the kinds of decisions that are sometimes made by voters in this country, and it seems to me sometimes that far too many people who are ALREADY voting take the responsibility too lightly. Look at exit polls. (Or forget the exit polls, just try going up to people on the street and asking them a few pointed questions about public affairs.) Look at what people actually know about candidates and their positions and the issues, and look at the reasons why they say they vote certain ways, and it can sometimes be alarming. Hey, I love this self-government thing, but it's not perfect, and one of the imperfections is that some folks don't take their electoral responsibility seriously enough. So why would I want to see the people who are so apathetic that they don't vote NOW coming out and voting? Yet that seems to be what many Democrats are advocating, and it disturbs me.
And beneath all that sanctimony from Republicans about the integrity of the voting process is, I'm sorry to say, something that looks very much like what Democrats are describing, although Democrats do so imperfectly and in overly cartoonish terms. There's a bit of bourgeois disdain in the GOP position on these things. There is a tendency among Republicans to think of themselves as the solid, hard-working citizens who play by the rules, and to be disdainful of those who don't have their advantages — which Republicans don't SEE as advantages at all, but merely their due as a result of being so righteous and hard-working and all. There's a tendency to see the disadvantaged as being to blame for their plight, as being too lazy or immoral or whatever to participate fully. The idea is that they wouldn't have these problems if they would just TRY. What I'm trying to describe here is the thing that is making sincere Republicans' blood pressure rise even as they're reading these words. It's a tendency to attach moral weight to middle-class status. Republicans seem to believe as an article of faith that there are all these shiftless, marginal people out there — relatives of Cadillac-driving welfare queens of the Reagan era, no doubt — wanting to commit voter fraud, and they've got to stop it, and if you don't want to stop it too then you don't believe in having integrity in the process.
So basically, I'm unimpressed by the holier-than-thou posturing from either side. And I get very tired at all the drama over something that NEITHER side can demonstrate is all that big a deal. Democrats can't demonstrate that this is a great injustice, and Republicans can't demonstrate that it's needed. And yet we have to put up with all this drama.