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Voting



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Concerning my trip to the polls this morning, a few observations (remember how WFB would begin a column that way?):

1) I guess that, if I live to 112, I will always have the same memory, when waiting to cast my ballot. It is of the first time I voted. I was a freshman in college. I voted in a university building, that had dorm rooms, classrooms, auditoriums, and so on. A multi-purpose building. We were all lined up, and a professor walked by — very left-wing (obviously). And from Texas. Therefore, triply left-wing. You know the type? If you’re from the sticks — or what others perceive as the sticks — you have to be the most left-wing guy around. Something to do with an inferiority complex, I guess.

Anyway, he remarks to the person walking with him, “There they are, everyone exercisin’ his right.” It came out, “. . . everyone exercisin’ his raaaahhht.” He said it in an incredibly snide tone: a tone that said, “Aren’t they silly, thinking they are doing something genuinely democratic? They’re just pawns in a system controlled by money.”

At the time, I was no conservative (though I was trending). But I greatly appreciated America and its democracy. I knew it was no sham. And I thought, “You’re damn right we’re exercising our right. You could, too.”

I loved voting this morning — and not merely because this is supposed to be a big day for my “side.” My side, if I may get ultra-gooey for a second, is America and its democracy.

#more#2) At my polling place, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the chief concern seemed to be the accommodation of Spanish-speakers. Signs and forms in Spanish were everywhere; a Spanish interpreter was on hand. And I thought this seemed a little screwy — or at least a bit much. Why would anyone who can’t handle the voting experience in English even want to vote? Why would anyone so disengaged from mainstream American life even think to vote?

Have I just committed hate speech? (Come and get me, copper.)

Consider this with me: If you moved to a foreign country and became a citizen, would you expect to be able to vote in your native language — if that language was not the language of your new country? I wouldn’t. What a strange sense of entitlement.

The ballot this morning included two initiatives or proposals. And you were supposed to mark Yes or No. Under the Yes was “Sí”; under the No was “No.” Let me engage in some more hate speech: Should anyone who doesn’t know what Yes and No mean be voting in America? Do you really have to have a “No” under the No? Really?

I’m reminded of an experience I had at a workplace many years ago — I recounted this once in a piece for National Review on Spanish in America. We were told to mark trash items “BASURA.” And I rebelled against this. I insisted on writing, at a minimum, “BASURA/TRASH.” It was my one, pathetic blow for integration, assimilation, and E pluribus unum.

I talked with our Hispanic janitors, who said, “They think we’re so dumb. They think we don’t speak any English at all. Even if we didn’t speak English, don’t you think we’d know what ‘trash’ was, after working as janitors for all this time?”

Condescension, thy name is White Liberalism; White Liberalism, thy name is Condescension.

One more thing: I wonder whether anyone, at my polling place, will need the Spanish interpreter. Or even the Spanish forms. Perhaps no one will. You know how they have signers, at certain conventions — at big public meetings? I wonder whether there is any deaf person in the audience. I think that having the signers simply makes others — hearers — feel good. Which is all right, I’m sure.

3) No one asked me for identification this morning — not a stitch. I just waltzed in, voted, and waltzed out. How did they know I was me? Would it have been an act of bigotry, fascism, racism, to ask me for ID? A few years ago, a friend of mine voted in Philadelphia, where he was then living. He insisted on showing the pollworkers his passport. They acted like glancing at it would be a hate crime — a torch to the Constitution.

The Left is always looking for ways to make voting looser; I am one of the few, I guess, who would like to make voting tighter. It’s not hateful, you know, to ask for an honest vote. Actually, it’s quite kind, to the democratic process.

4) I filled out this strange form, where you blackened ovals. Was I taking the SAT? You then shoved the form into a computer. There were different lines for these activities. It all seemed kind of . . . involved. And I really miss pulling levers. “Pulling the lever” will always be my expression for voting, no matter where technology takes us. We still call certain golf clubs “irons,” though they haven’t been made of iron in generations. We still speak of “dialing the phone” — do we?

Does “Don’t touch that dial” still have any meaning?

5) In the days of lever-pulling, you could pull one big ol’ lever, I recall, to vote the straight party line: all Democratic or all Republican. I never did this. I preferred to pull the lever for each Republican, one by one. I did it with a snap and with relish — perhaps even with a little anger or defiance: bam, bam, bam, bam (I sound like a character on The Flintstones, I know); R, R, R, R.

6) Walking away from my polling place, toward the office, I passed a block — indeed, walked along a block — known as Peter Jennings Way (or Place or something). It’s where ABC News is. He used to vote at my polling place, after he became a citizen. (He was from Canada.) I thought of him as my cancellation — and of myself as his.

And speaking of the late Jennings: I sure hope the electorate has a “tantrum” today.



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