Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Knock The Vote

"You need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car. Hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.”

So said Keanu Reeves' character in Ron Howard's underrated 1989 dramedy Parenthood. These days, they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a voter.

I didn't vote until I was in my 20s. My rationale was this: I was not informed enough to give a politician the power to make decisions that would impact the rest of the world. So I got informed and immediately regretted the elections I skipped because I was too occupied with meaningless shit to take advantage of a privilege that people in other countries die for. Immediately, I became one of those guys who pushed voting on everybody. I was outraged that half the U.S. population that could vote didn't. Why didn't these fools want to take part in democracy, the greatest form of government of all time?

I've since flip-flopped. In the very entertaining current issue of Rolling Stone, Bill Maher is quoted as saying that "there should be some sort of test" people need to pass in order to vote. It's an excellent idea, and not because I have been saying the same thing for the last seven years. Close to three million people voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, and I bet most of them never once researched George Bush's political record before they did so. Had they, they probably would have voted against Bush rather than for Nader. (They deny that, of course.) Four years later, Nader got less than half a million votes. What was the difference? People were now educated about Bush and made their decision based on that knowledge.

What got me thinking about all this was yesterday's elections in Philadelphia. A man named Willie Singletary got about 150,000 votes in his bid to be a Traffic Court judge. That was enough to ensure that he'll be presiding there for six years, making $480,000 over that period. I don't know much about Singletary, but here's what I do know: His driver's license is suspended through 2011. He won the Democratic primary while owing more than $11,000 because of violations including reckless driving, driving without a license and driving without insurance. (His dad paid the fines, so Singletary wasn't arrested.) He was captured on videotape trying to raise money with the line "you're all going to need me in Traffic Court, am I right about that ... Now you all want me to get there, you believe I'll hook up, right?" He has no law degree. I only know these things because they were in -- on multiple occasions -- the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

I know it would be unconstitutional to not allow people the privilege to vote because they don't read a newspaper. But I do hope that the 150,000 people who elected Singletary end up in his court. But even that won't be that bad. After all, he'll hook them up, right?

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