I was discussing politics with a group of people the other day when a middle-aged woman told the group, “All of this talk about the war is meaningless. The tax talk doesn’t matter. If our country does not have a strong moral base, God will not have us under his protective covering. If we spit in God’s face with the removal of prayer from schools, the legalization of abortion, and destroying the sanctity of marriage, why would God favor our nation? If we do not have God’s favor, we are nothing as a nation. I’ll never vote for a man that isn’t disgusted that thousands of babies are being killed in this country every month.”
In a CNN exit poll taken for the 2004 presidential election, they gave six options for which issue was most important to the voter. These issues were: health care, Iraq, the economy, morality, education, taxes, and terrorism. Morality was the number one issue that influenced the election with 22% of the voters. If you look over the history of elections, a twenty-two point swing usually affects the outcome of an election. Obviously it would not affect every outcome, but if you look in this particular instance, 80% of the moral issues voters cast their ballot for Bush. If you take out those voters, it’s a landslide victory for Kerry. For perspective, the area that was second most important to voters was the economy with 20% of the voters; 80% of that portion voted for Kerry. This is how many elections are decided all throughout the government, not just the presidential election.
These are the people that don’t have to pay close attention to the election. They don’t need to study the nuances of the stances of different candidates. The only issues that they care about are extremely easy to find out. A large portion of this moral issue faction are the extreme voters who will never cast their ballot for someone who is either for or against abortion, gay marriage, cloning, stem cell research, animal rights, homosexuals in the military, gun control, death penalty, etc.
I’m not going to disparage the moral values of others. It is a good thing that people care about social issues. People can believe what they want and if there are ever enough of them that vote in such a way that my life is greatly impacted in what I feel to be a negative way, I’ll find somewhere else to live. That is supposed to be the point of a republic.
My problem is that somehow political parties have melded a certain set of moral values with fiscal and war values. Why is it that a majority of fiscally liberal politicians are for more gun control? Why is it that almost all fiscally conservative politicians are against the legalization of abortion? I cannot find a logical link as to why these moral and fiscal values would be linked.
This union of social and fiscal issues has created a weird result where people that either don’t care or don’t know enough to have an opinion about financial issues are unwittingly changing the outcome of elections that will greatly affect the nation financially. This voter often does not feel the need to educate himself because they are voting about the issues that they care about. This has to be remedied.
My suggestion is twofold. First, government needs to be split up into the social and fiscal sectors. Isolating social issues from financial issues will stop the incidental effects of people voting on moral issues when they do not have a preference on fiscal issues. It will also allow for people that are more specialized as financial analysts to run for office. There are some officials whose background is mainly social issues who do not have the technical knowledge to know how certain bills will affect the economy. Those people can still run, but they’d be in a branch that better suited their area of expertise.
The fiscal branch would set the budget for schools and the social branch would decide whether they could pray in school. If the social branch of the government voted through legislation that legalized stem cell research, the bill would then be passed on to the fiscal branch who would decide what kind of financial assistance should be given to researchers. If the social branch voted it down, the financial branch would not vote on issues that dealt with stem cell research because any kind of research would be illegal. Some things, like taxes, would never be voted on by the social branch. Other things, like partial birth abortion would never come before the fiscal branch.
Morality can never be completely removed from fiscal decisions because morality often shapes financial ideals. There would doubtlessly be conflict from time to time on whether a fiscal bill has social implications. For these occurrences, there should be an equally split portion from each branch that come together and vote on whether the social branch gets first crack at the bill. For military decisions, there should also be a combination of the two groups. The only office to not be fractured would be the executive branch. The president would not be split into a dual office.
Elections between the two branches would be staggered so as to discourage people from voting just because they are there. I’m tired of everyone trying to make it easier for people to vote. It’s time to make it harder.
This leads us to my second suggestion which is a mandatory test that people have to pass to vote. It would not be an IQ test. It would not gauge the predictive power of the voter. It would be a simple test put together from an equal number of constituents from each party where the voter had to identify the relevant issues for whatever election he was planning on voting for. If it was a fiscal election, each candidate would have to clearly and simply outline their plans and philosophy. The voter would have to pass this test before being allowed to vote. Its design would only be to make sure that voters knew the basic philosophies of the candidates.
This would likely weed out a great deal of voters. This would not be a bad thing. There is a great deal of emotional support for everyone having a voice through their vote. The problem is a great deal of the population doesn’t have a voice. They are too busy working to familiarize themselves with the current issues. If they do not understand the issues, how is their vote beneficial to the United States?
The reason that only white, male, landowners were allowed to vote in America until the last two hundred years was because at that time, those were the only people that had the opportunity to have a good education. The founding fathers were trying to filter out the votes of people who did not understand the issues. As social progress allowed for women and black people to gain access to the education that they always deserved to have, the more logical it seemed to give them the right to vote. The miscarriage of justice was not that women and black people were not allowed to vote. The miscarriage of justice was that they were kept ignorant on the issues. It was not the intention of our forefathers to have a system where ignorant people decided elections. They were obviously wrong in holding those groups from progressing, but their reasoning for not letting them vote was good: ignorant people make bad decisions.
There is basically no way my plan could happen without some sort of catastrophic event happening. Americans are too apathetic for this kind of change to occur. The NAACP would go crazy over the racist implications of a mandatory voting test. Nevertheless, this plan makes much more sense than the current setup we have now. It would give us the best republic possible.