As Ben Franklin departed the constitutional convention he was asked, “what have you given us?”
“A republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it.”
We have managed to keep the Republic for over 240 years, although many would say that we are slipping farther from the original concepts held by the founders of this nation with each passing year. To what degree such a view is accurate is debatable but it is undeniable that our country faces grave internal problems.
There have always been partisan differences and racial disparities but there was a time when we had a government that worked across party lines to solve our problems. We had a concept known as “the loyal opposition” by which the minority party attempted to sway the majority through reasoned argument. That has been replaced by division and acrimony to a point that persuasion is all but impossible. America has never been so divided.
A variety of factors are working toward upending the American experiment, cultural differences, racial animosity, corruption in government being among them. In my opinion the most dangerous of the challenges we face is one that would be defended by nearly every American if anyone suggested bringing it to a halt, that factor is universal suffrage.
The only criteria for voting is citizenship, proper age and in many cases not being a convicted felon. Financial situation and literacy have long since been disavowed as requirements for voting. To the detriment of the election process the low information voter is encouraged to cast a ballot without regard to whether or not they have a clue as to what they are voting for or, for that matter, any idea of how the government actually works.
The solution is not to disenfranchise anyone but, rather, to educate the voter. As a whole our country is woefully ignorant in civics while the right to vote (an exercise in basic civics) is the most powerful tool the citizen has to shape and control the ship of state. It is a terrible indictment of our educational system that the average newly naturalized citizen has a better grasp on how our government works than does the native born American.
It is past time to bring civics and patriotism back into the classroom with age appropriate lessons at each grade level. The right to vote is a cornerstone of our form of government and it should not be taken lightly. It matters not to me who anyone votes for, only that they have a genuine understanding of and reverence for the process in which they are engaging.
If you love your country but happen to be lacking in civics then educate yourself on the workings of government and learn all you can about the people running for office or do the right thing and stay away from the polls.