Have you ever wondered if the political bickering could ever stop long enough to just “be reasonable?”
I have been hearing for weeks now criticism of the Department of Homeland Security’s consideration of plans for postponing the elections for a few days in the event of a terrorist attack. The charges are usually made that this is another effort by the Bush Administration to steal an election, and that it is an effort to subvert the democratic process. Scary and heady stuff, if true. (And yes, I heard the most scathing criticisms come from the Air America gang–Al Franken, Janeane Garafalo, and that “Morning Sedition” bunch, but there was also a hue and cry from members of Congress–people we expect to be reasonable, to reason, to be “deliberative.”)
A couple interesting tid-bits from history. Let’s start with recent history. It wasn’t that long ago, actually about 4 or 5 years ago, there was concern that we would end up with a national crisis that would require the suspension of the constitutional process, so that another President could remain in office. I, for one, always get nervous when discussions about setting aside the Constitution occur, and I had my issues with that particular President, but I did not in any way expect him, or any other President, to do such a thing.
Now, something a bit “longer” out. If you all will recall, we are Constitutionally required to have the election on the first Tuesday of November. The “electoral college” then? The electoral college members meet in each State on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December” (see: Electoral College Information). Why is there such a long delay? The inauguration is then set for later in the following January. Simply because when we first started as a nation, the vast physical distances were also vast distances in time. People did not get the “exit polling results” from around the nation tipping the electorate off to the outcome of the election before polls had even closed in the western part of the nation. Each person (then, white male) would vote their conscience, without any insight into the voting practices of the other members of the voting population, and would not find out the final outcome for months. There was no angst, no nashing of teeth, no complaint that they failed to have instant gratification.
This brings us back to today. What was the proposal that generated so much anger, and venom, towards President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security? The proposal was to, if necessary, delay the election for a few days to ensure a fair election following a terrorist attack. The election would still be held with more than enough time for the electoral college to meet, and most certainly wouldn’t interfere with the Inauguration held a short 2 1/2 months following the election.
Is the plan so unreasonable? Let’s think about this for just a minute. Who is most likely to benefit from an election held under the cloud of a recent terror strike? I would posit the Republican candidates would regardless of incumbency. Why would I say this? Assuming conventional wisdom from the 2000 election is still true (and there is some question about this, for Florida this fall) then the vast majority of absentee ballots are cast by conservative military members, and cast for conservative candidates–most likely the Republican candidate. If a terror strike was within a day or two of the elections, people would perhaps be afraid to go to the polls–who wants to go gather in large groups? Large groups are terror targets! This would then have the effect of reducing voter turn out, and place far greater emphasis on the absentee ballots.
Let’s be reasonable. Let’s all work together, as Patriots, seeking the good of the nation, to ensure that all citizens are given the opportunity to vote. Let the citizens choose to vote without fear. Let the citizens have a few extra days to go to the polls if necessary. If you vote Absentee, we give you quite a long time to make your decision–it just has to be received before election day.
Think of it as “absentee voting” on the flip side, and for those that choose to actually appear at the polls.
Oh, and your homework assignment? Read up on the electoral college, and the history of our Federal election process. Did you know that the Senate used to not be elected by popular vote? Check it out!