The NRA Votes … do you?

21 May

By Lanny Morgnanesi

The bumper sticker said something like, “I’m the NRA and I vote.”

It was similar to messages from an assortment of special interest groups on both the left and right. It could have been Planned Parenthood or the American Association of Retired People or the teachers unions.

No mater what the group, the intention is to express political power. What is obvious but unstated is this: People who get off the couch to vote have influence because most people don’t vote.

Democracy, after all these years, has never quite caught on. We’re happy it’s there, like an exercise machine in the basement, but don’t mind that it has gathered substantial dust.

Our country started out more as an aristocracy than a democracy. The leaders, including George Washington, were land speculators who owned hundreds of thousands of acres on the other side of the Allegheny Mountains. As long as the British controlled things, that land was essentially worthless.

So the aristocrats started filling the heads of artisans and common workers with ideas of democracy and revolution. They actually gave them guns and taught them to kill the British. After proving victorious, the artisans and common workers still had the guns and still had ideas of democracy – even though they remained obligated to tip their hats when passing a gentleman.

But throughout the land they formed Democratic Societies, which were looked upon by the elite like the American Communist party was looked upon in the 1950s.

The Democratic Societies, run by armed individuals, were frightening.

Historian John Ferling, in “A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic,” says James Madison reacted by designing the Constitution to preserve liberty while making it extremely difficult to bring about substantial change.

Ultimately, in the long run, the group once referred to by Washington as the “grazing multitudes” settled back and continued grazing (if you don’t count the Civil War).

Now, for the most part, they don’t even vote.

Requiring photo IDs to vote, as is done now in my home state of Pennsylvania, will mean even fewer voters.

At times, winning high office seems more about collecting money than votes. Had Madison put that in the Constitution, the Democratic Societies might have taken up arms again.

We don’t need anybody to take up arms today. But like the NRA and Planned Parenthood, the AARP and the teachers unions, we really should vote. Democracy must be preserved before it truly withers away, or, like the exercise machine, someone puts it out in the trash.


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