Whether you favor or oppose last week's Supreme Court decision regarding the Voting Rights Act, it's worth considering that the furious debate back and forth over the wisdom and morality of the ruling is completely overblown because, quite simply, voting isn't all that consequential. Yes, it's theoretically important to have a say in the government by whose rules you must live. But when democracy boils down to little more than choosing the bastards who get to kick you in the ribs for the next couple of years, the process becomes little more than picking your poison. As Jim Bovard points out at the Washington Times, who administers government is less important than what government does under their administration, and elections have been remarkably ineffective at reining-in the abuses of American politicians.
The Voting Rights Act is part of a modern catechism that sees voting as practically the alpha and omega of freedom. In a speech when he signed the law, President Lyndon Johnson assured the audience: "This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies." But permitting people to vote, however, provides no assurance that citizens will not be ravished after the polling booths close.
Earlier in 1965, in a phone call to Martin Luther King, LBJ declared, "I just don't see how anybody can say that a man can fight in Vietnam, but he can't vote." The fact that people could vote did nothing to nullify LBJ's dictatorial power over draftees. Tens of thousands of conscripts died in an unpopular war that occurred largely because the president had unlimited power to commit them into a pointless foreign conflict on false pretenses. Regardless of how many lies LBJ told about the war, young Americans were still obliged to follow his orders to the death in the jungles and rice paddies.
Bovard continues, "the worst violation of 'voting rights' is the notion that election winners should have unlimited power. Nothing personifies that power more than Mr. Obama's drone assassination program by which he claims a prerogative to kill anyone in the world whom he labels a threat."
It's unquestionably true that we live in a functioning democracy in which the power and intrusiveness of the state grows with every passing year, no matter the results of ritualistic marches to polling places. That's never been more apparent than now, under a Democratic president who continues the security-state policies of his Republican predecessor even as he demonstrates that he can wage pointless wars, spend untold sums and abuse executive power with an enthusiasm that reveals only differences in emphasis from the opponents he defeated in the last two elections.
More important than voting is restraining the state so that our liberty survives no matter who emerges triumphant from the next exercise of our voting rights.
Jim Bovard's full piece, "The Voting Rights Mirage," is worth a read.