[Discuss-sudbury-model] on universal suffrage

From: jon kelland <harmony7074_at_yahoo.com>
Date: Sun May 18 15:01:00 2003

--- David Rovner <rovners_at_netvision.net.il> wrote:
> Item 4: Universal Suffrage
> This is the idea that everybody, every
> citizen has a vote. It is really a simple idea. The
> American experience has been an inexorable march
> toward universal suffrage, which hasn't stopped yet.
> This has been a root trend in American democracy. In
> the early years, voting used to be subject to all
> sorts of race and property and age requirements.
> Slowly, unpropertied males, then blacks, then the
> females were added, and recently the age has been
> reduced to eighteen. It's just a matter of time
> before people start asking why it the direction of
> universality.

though the historical trend is clear, i think it is
dangerous to assume this is the current direction of
American Democracy.

first, what i see as the most obvious current trend in
voting is the revocation of rights from felons. this
problem is doubly heinous due to the race and class
implications tied into who is losing the vote as even
the US Department of Justice has reported that the
criminal justice system disproportionately targets
young, non-white males.

second, the 2000 election raised a host of concerns
for public scrutiny: the value of the electoral
college; the federal vs. state electoral debates (both
for reasons within the courts, as well as very
problematic voting systems that tend to have higher
error rates in non-white and poor regions); even the
ability of political action/acumen (james baker
defining how the process would work) in
counting/tabulating the vote.

third, the role of money in politics. it is commonly
perceived, and backed by studies, that much voter
apathy is caused by the role of money in politics.
what is the worth of a vote if it tends to be
determined by the money that shapes who is able to
run, the messages of those who run (and whatever
interests they might feel obliged to represent),
whether or not a race is even contested. the reality
of running for office is highly determined by money.

in all, it seems to me that suffrage is not only
literally on the decline (repeal of the felon vote, as
well as the possibility of patriot act II fall-out
allowing for the repealing of citizenship), but the
economics of voting and elections effectively both
reduces suffrage and perhaps more importantly, the
meaningfulness of suffrage.

clearly, democratic schooling is a fine model of
democracy in action, though i question the worth of
these islands of democracy if they too do not step
forward to protect the democratic process for others
in their communities and country.

jon kelland
chicago

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Received on Sun May 18 2003 - 15:00:56 EDT

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