It goes without saying that today\’s conversations are often constrained by the evolving feelings of the aggrieved. What someone could get away with saying in the 1950\’s often won\’t fly in 2008 – primarily, because people aren\’t used to being talked to bluntly and directly.
Given today\’s debate about the integrity of the voting process in Wisconsin, this article from the 1958 Wisconsin Blue Book seems shocking in its bluntness. The Blue Book, the state\’s almanac of government and politics, is known for its impartial description of legislative issues in the time it is released. Normally, the Blue Book is considered an effective cure for insomnia. Yet, clearly, an impartial article about voting in 1958 seems downright inflammatory in 2008. See the first page below:
Basically, the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau had no problem essentially calling people dopes if they either made an ill-informed vote, or threw their vote away as a \”protest.\”
Supporters of a law requiring photo ID at polling places often point out that one needs an ID to rent a movie, go to a bar, or cash a check. They argue that if people are expected to use identification for those relatively insignificant actions, they certainly should be asked to verify who they are before voting.
Those who are anti-photo ID (Governor Jim Doyle, for instance), counter that voting is a \”right,\” and therefore different than those other actions which require identification. Yet, clearly, the idea that voting is a \”right\” is a new concept. As stated clearly above, voting was traditionally considered a privilege, exercised by those who display a modicum of civic responsibility and knowledge.
Perhaps most amazingly, the Blue Book offers up this strong quote, which – despite its common sense meaning – would today seem to be partisan fighting words:
For many centuries, and even today, in parts of our world people have struggled and died for the privilege of voting, and it therefore behooves those of us to whom the privilege has come so easily by reason of birth in this state that we treat this privilege with the dignity to which it is entitled.
Clearly, what was once common sense has now been twisted to the advantage of certain people looking to influence elections. People in 1958 were proud of the integrity of their elections, and recognized the civic responsibility inherent in the privilege of voting. Today, voting is less an act of civic responsibility and more an act of gaming the system for partisan advantage.