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Get Up, Stand up: VOTE!

Vote - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

image by Personalincome.org

Finally. I found a way to be able to talk about this crazy election. I’ve been dying to, but I haven’t been able to. You see, the problem is that I try to stay neutral here, and the fact is that it’s virtually impossible these days to say one word about anything online without being accused of being partial to one side or the other.

I mean, even when I write about the “God of All Things Conservative” for the past few decades, Antonin Scalia, and say what a great writer he was, or how sweet it was that he was able to be BFF’s with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or how much I loved to read his opinions, or how important some of his opinions were, (e.g. masterpieces like Crawford or Blakely or Johnson), along comes my Marine Colonel brother in law describing my blog as “left leaning” (sorry Chris, but I owed you that.)

One of the fundamental rules of blogging for me is trying to stay neutral. Except that I do not know a single person who is neutral about this election. That’s the first time in my adult life that has happened – which got me thinking. Thinking about what the heck is going to happen once we get to the actual election. Of course, I’ve been wondering that for months.

I have finally found a very obvious framework to analyze this all in a legally oriented way that works. And if anyone calls it “left leaning” I give up. That would be hopeless. But there is hope.

My hope starts with the fact that lots of legal (especially constitutional) issues have been put on the table during these campaigns. For example, early on there was a good dose of the Second Amendment and gun control vs. gun rights – in both parties, for once.

Then, Scalia’s death got people talking about Originalism and the implications of the newly elected President making Supreme Court nominations and how that might skew the Separation of Powers for decades to come. That one can make your head spin.

Of course, the First Amendment is all over the place. It includes issues raised during Trump rallies (again, on both sides) and “microphone time” allotted to all candidates during the debates. It also informs media coverage every which way.

At least it should.

But all of these constitutional rights are loaded with political overtones, unfortunately. So I try to avoid them in the interest of maintaining an appearance of neutrality. But I now have to speak out, because I have finally found the most important aspect of this election that has appropriate and (ironically) neutral legal overtones: VOTING.

One thing that has become clear from comments to my posts on constitutional rights is that many people find it all very simple and clear. (I guess I must be stewpud, since I don’t.) Most people believe that it is a no-brainer that there is a constitutional right to vote.

Guess what? Just saying that there is a constitutional right to vote draws fire. Try googling this and see what you find:  “constitutional right to vote”. 

See?  It’s all a bit complicated. But this is one issue that should be simple. Everyone should vote.

Let’s get back to the fact that it’s so rare that no one is being neutral.

When I was ten, watching Huntley and Brinkley Nightly News, while trying to figure out how come 3,000 Vietnamese were killed and only one G.I. had suffered a hang nail in one skirmish or another, or why hippies were burning flags and throwing Molotov cocktails at cops all the time, or the constant hot summer riots in the big cities, I zeroed in on the coverage of the ’68 election. I was blown away by what was going on. People were rioting with impunity, right there at the Convention, waving placards and screaming at cops and getting violent.

Today?  Déjà vu all over again.

In 1968, I was too young to talk to people about who they were voting for. I was busy playing baseball every day and hanging out at the swimming pool, doing crazy dives and holding onto the drains in breath-holding contests. Politics was heady stuff for my age group, especially since we were too young to vote. We were mainly worried about getting into trouble with the lifeguards.

But I was within driving distance of Chicago, and that summer, as the whole world blew up all around us, down there in lil’ ol’ Central Illinois, far removed from Watts and Paris, a bunch of long-haired white kids were wreaking havoc in the streets at the Presidential Convention. They were now throwing bottles of lye (or so our parents told us) and chanting “The Whole World Is Watching!”

Frankly, to be brutally honest, it was exciting. And scary as hell. We really worried that the Armageddon going on inside our black and white Motorolas (my dad was too cheap for a new fangled color TV) was about to materialize right there in our living rooms.

I’d point out that it was the Democratic, not the Republican Convention, but believe it or not if I did there are people out there who would say that that would be taking sides.

But now? Today? I am encouraging everyone to take sides. By voting.

Voting. The American Way. Regardless of whether or not it is written down somewhere, clearly and simply. You know, the simple obvious straightforward constitutional way, the one that causes so much confusion and disagreement. Sorry, Originalists. But sometimes you just put yourselves in the cross hairs of constitutional debate.

Of course we have a right to vote, clear and simple or not.

One thing that has bothered me since I was a kid is the number of people who don’t vote. It seemed incredible to me, sitting there like ducks, as we all were, waiting for the protestors to show up to loot and burn down our little town, as strange and dangerous things were happening in Indochina and college campuses and ghettos. How was it possible that only a small percentage of Americans voted?

What stuck with me for years after that was those darn numbers. The pathetically small percentage of Americans, the ones who were arguing all around me, that actually went out in early November and voted. What gives?

The current election is a prime example of how voting might change history.

The entire model for polls and whose vote counts how much and the rest of the sordid and dreaded “metrics” of an election has been turned upside down this time. How else can we explain the rise of both Trump and Sanders? (BTW, equal time here, therefore neutral).

It has been said that Obama won in ‘08 because he energized a previously passive part of the electorate to get out and vote. Sanders is saying the same thing now. He says that if a lot of Democrats come out and vote, then Democrats will get elected. Pretty basic. Trump is saying that he is bringing lots of first time voters and new converts to the Republican Party. I don’t want to argue, because it is hard to argue with either of those positions. If you ask me, they both have a point.

This led me to the obvious, neutral, legally valid, elegant, wonderfully “small d” democratic concept that there is only one way out of this whole thing. EVERYONE WHO LEGALLY CAN, MUST ALL COME OUT AND VOTE. PERIOD.

Can you imagine what would happen? I can’t. It is almost unimaginable. Everyone who can vote, actually voting? Think about it.

No one knows how that would turn out.  Because it has never happened before.

In most elections in the past century barely half of the eligible electorate has voted. Sometimes it has been less. Put another way, half of those who can vote, don’t.

It is how every single President has been elected during our lifetimes. Frankly it is sad. Especially for the country that is supposed to be the holy grail of freedom and democracy. Isn’t democracy, first and foremost, all about the right to vote? Am I missing something here?

Just to make sure I’m not, and to cement my neutrality, I want to point out that Kasich, Clinton, Rubio and Cruz are all deserving of full voter turnout from their supporters as well.

However, I focus on Trump and Sanders for two related reasons: first, they have both specifically stated that increasing voter turnout is instrumental to their strategies, in a way the others haven’t. Second, the constant confounding of the pundits by their respective unexpected successes is arguably the result of this fresh voter base turning out in the primaries.

Whether we are talking about these two surprise picks, or some obscure candidate (Roque De La Fuente or Jill Stein anyone?) the only way democracy works in the end is if we all do our part and fully participate.

So imagine if the half of voters who never vote actually voted? Anything could happen. Those predictive models and polls are all based on only half of the voters turning up. We have no clue who the other half might vote for. Trump? Sanders? Heck, even Stein and De La Fuente might have a shot. It is a YUGE unknown.

Ironically, a full voter turn out would be radical and traditional at the same time: traditional since voting is so rooted in our system, and radical because it would take this election outside the traditional lines clearly marked out by the political pundits. It is also exciting. And a bit scary, to be honest. But it is how it is supposed to be.

We all need to go out and vote. For whomever we choose. I’m not here to take sides, other than the side of democracy and civic responsibility.

So, get up off your couches and leave CNN and Fox and MSNBC alone long enough to stand up for your rights. All of them. And go out and vote.

And please excu-uuse me if that is not neutral.

 

 

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