Well, if this isn’t stupidity on stilts what is? Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips has gone so far as to suggest that it could be a good idea if the right to vote in America were once again restricted to the owners of property. To wit: “The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote,” Phillips said. “It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today,” he continued. “But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.”
Okay I see the logic here. If you don’t own property then you have little or no interest in safe streets, efficient and honest government, the quality of education, national defense, workplace and product safety, clean air and water, ad infinitum. Mr. Phillips points out that the founding fathers put in place “restrictions” that “you obviously would not think about today.” Well that is certainly true but is this man so naïve as to think that the founding fathers in their infinite wisdom and their knowledge of world history expected that the country would never change and that the Constitution would not be subject to interpretation and amendment at some future date? Surely they knew enough about history to have understood the rise of world civilization, its ebb in Europe during the Dark Ages and its rebirth, renaissance and expansion thereafter. Does Mr. Phillips think for a moment that the nation’s founders perhaps felt that they had arrived at the end of history in 1787 and that the world would remain static thereafter? Thus this astute Tea Party political operative thinks it could be a good idea to disrupt the unbroken link of democratic development in English-speaking societies that extends all the way back to field of Runnymeade and the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and which has continued to expand freedom to ever larger groups of people. Or is this a veiled plea to alter voting rights so as to preclude the political enfranchisement of millions of illegal immigrants now living here that may or may not become citizens in the next decade?
With the abovementioned commentary in mind, what then would be the political rights and obligations of the roughly one third of American households that rent rather than own their homes and apartments. Would they become second-class citizens? In a national emergency would they be exempt from military service or subject to a lesser commitment due to not having the same level of investment in American society? Would it be ethical to ask the guy who rents his home to fight and die for America even though he could not vote for its Commander in Chief? Would they be entitled to lower levels of Medicare coverage and reduced payouts from Social Security? What about the big property owning families in New York, Chicago and other major American metropolitan areas, would they be entitled to more votes as they own far more property than the single family home owner in the hinterland? What about all of those who live in mobile homes where they own the trailer but not the land beneath it, would they even have a vote?
I could go on with the hypothetical questions but I am sure you can plainly see just how absurd Mr. Phillips is in promoting this idea and how out of place in time is his theory on political suffrage. So not to be too glib, but is this supposed to be one of intended policy products of the great Tea Party effort to “take our country back”? Do members of the Tea Party Movement actually think they will expand their appeal within the body politic with leaders who advocate the political disenfranchisement of one third or more of America’s households? I know there are many within the Tea Party Movement who believe that the 2010 election was “only the beginning” and that the best is yet to come. I for one think 2010 may more likely represent the high water mark of the Tea Party Movement and that comments like those of Judson Phillips will only work to undermine the appeal of the “Movement”. Ideas such as these can only contribute to the idea that the Tea Party Movement is little more than a passing fad at best or that it is a collection of bizarre and disaffected political personalities at worst.
Steven J. Gulitti