What would you do to get the right to vote, if you didn’t have it?


Following up a bit on my last post, about political demonstrations and whether they’re worthwhile…

I mentioned something about having seen the film “Suffragette,” and wondered about how wise it was for those women to break shop windows as a way of persuading men that they should be allowed to vote. Seemed kind of self-defeating, to me. Like, “I’m a rational, responsible, thoughtful human being who would make a great voter because I make good decisions! And to prove it, I’m going to break that window with this rock!”

Later, I got to thinking…

Just how precious is the right to vote? It’s a biggie, no question. Very important, even though it’s a little hard to fully appreciate it in an election year such as this one. Hard to have a representative democracy without it.

Interestingly, a 1913 film about suffragettes also emphasized the rock-throwing.

Interestingly, a 1913 film about suffragettes also emphasized the rock-throwing.

But is it the most essential right? Is it the one from which all others spring? Not really, I don’t think. I think the ones entailed in the First Amendment come higher, speak more to the essence of liberty — the ones that add up to freedom of conscience.

What would I be prepared to do to get suffrage if I didn’t have it? March? I suppose so. Break windows? I don’t know about that

But I would definitely use the other rights I just mentioned. I’d write about it; I’d speak about it. I’d peaceably assemble, and petition the government for redress. And I’d be very glad that I had all of those rights, which I would see as the key to getting the others.

The question may seem silly — of course, the right to vote is essential in a representative democracy.

But if you had to choose the lesser of two weevils — would it be the last right you gave up, or are others more precious?


16 thoughts on “What would you do to get the right to vote, if you didn’t have it?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Google Analytics tells me that at the moment we have a reader in Vegas, baby, Vegas.

    We’re gonna be up five hundy by midnight. They’re gonna give Daddy the Rainman Suite, because we are SO money…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And now I see there’s a reader in Oshkoh, b’gosh!

      The reason I keep looking at Analytics today is because I’m wondering where everybody is…

      Google tells me that there are readers out there — and most of them here in SC, as usual. It’s just that, apparently, everybody’s just lurking today…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Hmm… I don’t normally look at it that way (I normally just look at Realtime), but let’s see…

          Recently, the most sessions out of Pennsylvania have been 15 out of Philadelphia, 8 out of York, and three each out of Carlisle (I think I know who that is), Greensburg and Pittsburg. Then there are a bunch of twos,… tell you what, here’s a picture:


          Based on the length of the sessions, I’m going to guess you’re in York. Am I right?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        By the way, just for fun, speaking of the Curtain: Who coined the term, “Cold War?”

        It was South Carolina’s own Bernard Baruch, and he did it of all places in a speech to our Legislature right here in Colatown, on April 16, 1947.

        “Iron Curtain,” of course, was Winston Churchill. Y’all remember — that dude that Obama sent back the bust of, thereby causing the Brits to ignore his advice and vote for Brexit. 🙂

        Oh, and how else are these old dead white dudes related? Churchill was guest for a time at Baruch’s place down at the beach, Hobcaw Barony (an ADCO client).

        This will ALL be on the final exam, by the way…

  2. Karen Pearson

    If you lose that right, you put yourself in a position to lose all your rights, with no way short of violence to address it.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, I can see looking at it that way…

      But does the ballot or the First Amendment put me in a better position to defend my rights? I’m thinking the First Amendment, but then I’ve had a bullier pulpit than most people for most of my life…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The thing about the ballot is, it only has an effect if thousands of other people agree with you.

        The nice thing about the First Amendment is it you get to say exactly what you want, exactly the way you want to say it. Of course, it doesn’t mean anyone has to agree with you. At least with the ballot, if a majority agrees with you, you have an actual effect…

        1. Karen Pearson

          Yeah,but without the vote the people who make the laws can repeal the 1st amendment and you have no recourse. That is why the colonists were so upset about the taxes, the quartering of soldiers, and the forced tithing to the C of E. They had no say in it.

  3. Assistant

    Sometimes windows need to be broken, but that works only when the cause can be presented (and accepted) as right and proper. It worked for the Suffragettes because the status quo was not only rotten, it was silly. Their application of a little violence was like a slap in the face that knocks a bit of sense into folks capable of reasonable behavior who are too used to thinking unreasonably.

    But if you can’t vote your preferences, what good is free speech to convince others of the correctness of your views? Folks usually either suffer in silence or vote with their feet when a machine controls the candidates and vote-counting. That’s been the case in Chicago as well as some areas along the East Coast and in the South.

    Breaking windows was but one of the features of the Battle of Athens, a rebellion led by citizens in Athens and Etowah, Tennessee, in August 1946. Returning WW II (the Big One) vets had been stirred up by letters from home about the oppression – a predatory policing, police brutality, political corruption and voter intimidation – practiced by the Crump / Cantrell machine. Heck, they even controlled the schools and the press. Arriving home, vets were preyed upon and peaceably organized and funded the campaign of their own slate of candidates, but did not realize at first that the machine controlled the vote counting.

    It’s a great story, the vets – several hundred to as many as 2,000 – were upset at the shenanigans on election day, so they broke into the National Guard Armory, carried out firearms and ammo, and laid siege to the jail house where the machine had had the deputies haul all the ballots. Fortunately good sense and several hundred rounds fired from the rooftops of surrounding buildings, along with a dynamite bomb or three, caused the deputies to surrender.

    A fair count of ballots ensued, the vets’ ticket was successful, and everybody was happy for a bit. Eventually regular political order descended on the region.

    As for folks who vote with their feet, I knew a quite wealthy, successful man, Jim Moran the Courtesy Man, who had the largest car dealership in the world right there on Grand Avenue in Chicago, gave to local charities, and all the rest. A model citizen, he found himself and his organization subject to the machine’s insatiable demands for money.

    As one guy, he could break windows all day long, all year long, but to no effect. He just voted with his feet, leaving Chicago for Florida in 1965 to recover from cancer. But he’d in fact already recovered and proceeded to build an even greater auto empire. Never heard of him? He taught Toyota to sell cars in the US in return for what’s now Southeast Toyota Distributors. If you buy a new Toyota in South Carolina and five other states, his family company is handling the sale. He left Chicago a millionaire and died a billionaire. Ask any long time car dealer about Jim Moran – he created the model that all successful dealers now follow.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Hey, the Crump machine wasn’t all bad — I recently wrote about how my wife’s Irish-Catholic grandfather and a Jewish friend made a ballot box disappear on behalf of Crump, in order to prevent a KKK guy from getting elected…

      But that reminds me of a little-known fact from Tennessee history, that I learned from the late John D. Graham of Jackson.

      Graham was one of those rare whites who voted Republican in Tennessee long before Strom Thurmond started leading white Southerners out of the Democratic Party over the Civil Rights Act. We’re talking about when my mother-in-law was growing up there, and later told us she remembered there was this one man in Jackson everyone referred to as “the Republican.”

      John D. once explained to me why he and a very few others went against the grain — it’s because they had an unusual devotion to integrity. They refused to have anything to do with the Democratic Party, as corrupt as it was in the Crump days…

  4. Lynn Teague

    The right to vote is absolutely fundamental. It would be nice if SC weren’t so terribly gerrymandered that this basic right is neutered.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And the congregation said “Amen!”

        I wish I could make every American understand the extent to which the way we do redistricting is responsible for SO much of what they hate about politics and government…


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