Has there ever been an election like this one? The 2016 race is ferocious, rude, ugly, with parties and coalitions fracturing before our eyes. It’s also the first contest in years where public anger is trained on how government works and not just what it does. The state of democracy is on the ballot. Bernie Sanders denounces the “billionaire class” and demands campaign finance reform. Donald Trump snarls, “Washington is broken” and brags that as a self-funder, he cannot be bought. Hillary Clinton, more muted, rolls out detailed plans for campaign finance changes and automatic voter registration. To add to the intensity, the looming Supreme Court nomination fight will tap public anger over Citizens United, the Court’s most reviled recent decision. All just two years after an election in which voter turnout plunged to its lowest level in seven decades.
It might seem strange that the state of democracy itself might loom large as an election issue. But today’s arguments are not new. In fact, raucous debates over who should vote and how have always stood at the center of American politics. Intense focus on how Americans can improve their democracy seems to happen every half century or so. Outsiders find a way to crash the political system, often through key elections, with inequality of wealth or power spurring a sharp move forward.
These battles have always been about more than formal rules. Voting laws have been seen as entwined with issues of the power of money in elections, gerrymandering, and other ways the system distorts decisions. For more than two centuries it’s been a raw and often rowdy struggle for power. Some of the heroes would have been more at home in House of Cards than in Selma. At times the breakthroughs came when sharp-eyed operatives realized that greater participation was in their enlightened self-interest. The fight for the vote has always been deeply, properly political.
Full Article: The Right to Vote? Don’t Count on It – The Daily Beast.