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Perspective: When The Ideas Aren't Good Enough

Jennifer Griffin
Mural by Chicago artist Mac Blackout, 2020

I’m reading The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President, by Noah Feldman, which takes a deep dive into Madison’s role in creating the Constitution, the tall task in getting it ratified, then figuring out how to take that plan and put it into governing practice. The process was messy, contentious and in great danger of failing to provide a stable replacement for the Articles of Confederation. 

Some may find this surprising, but there was also a legitimate and prescient fear of overheated political passions and divisions poisoning the system. Now, 230-plus years later, we are still wrestling with that problem and one of its many unseemly manifestations: voter suppression. 

The core idea behind voter suppression is a deeply undemocratic one: the need to win versus truly representing the interests of all constituents. Suppression is an easy work around when a party’s ideas are out of step with the majority citizens to be represented. If one can’t win with ideas, the next best thing is to make it much harder for those who don’t agree with those ideas to cast a ballot. 

The irony in the current political pogroms going on in various states is the warped idea that in order to safeguard a democratic republic, make it more undemocratic. What keeps getting forgotten, though, is that good government is the function of representing the interests of the majority of its citizens, not the narrow interests of a one party or ideology. 

I’mAndrew Nelsonand that’s my Perspective.

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