By J.D. ALT
Happy New Year. Now let’s get to work. There is much to be accomplished. The first order of business, from my perspective, is the issue of reinvigorating our democracy—specifically:
What are zealously proactive progressives thinking about? Instead of hauling the Republicans into court over their voter I.D. statutes, we should be exuberantly embracing the very idea of a voter I.D. Yes! Let’s take conservatives at their word: The purpose is not to make it more difficult to vote, or to discourage certain classes of citizens from actually casting ballots—the goal is to make certain that only qualified, living and breathing voters vote, and that they only vote once. We agree wholeheartedly! And to ensure this is what happens, we propose that every qualified U.S. citizen be issued a VOTE AMERICA I.D. card—and that a concerted, organized, federally funded, national effort should immediately be commenced to implement this goal.
Think about it. There is much to be gained in this approach (in addition to forcing disingenuous conservatives to play defense against their own offense).
First of all, there is something democratizing itself in requiring every U.S. citizen to go through an identical (but very simple) process to obtain an official personal voter I.D. card—a VOTE AMERICA CARD. Whether you are a poor southern share-cropper or a Wall Street financier, you have to go to your local Post Office, or Church, or Elementary School, or Starbucks or Whole-Foods (the registration mechanism is merely a smartphone App which can be administered by any VOTE AMERICA volunteer anywhere) have your photo taken, your thumbprint scanned, and your birth-certificate or naturalization papers searched on the data-base of Vital Statistics maintained by each State—and, voila! Your VOTE AMERICA CARD is issued by a small laminating-micro-chip-recording printer attached to the volunteer’s smartphone via a USB connection. (Google are you listening? Google, you can figure out how to make this happen in a heartbeat.)
Second, there are suddenly all kinds of ways to incentivize those American citizens who are lazily disinclined to go to the trouble of either registering or voting—to re-energizing, that is, our democracy itself. If you open the free IVoTE app on your smartphone, you’ll find a long list of special discounts and purchasing options offered by participating patriotic merchants—“coupons” which you can uploaded directly to your smartphone when you enter your VOTE AMERICA I.D. code.
Third, while you’re musing over the IVoTE app—waiting for your free hot-chocolate latte—you can review the next upcoming local and state elections, who the candidates are, read a short position statement from each, note what referendums are being considered for the next ballot, and read op-eds supporting different positions. Maybe listen to testimonials from local or nation celebs about the issues. At least the possibility is there to register a blip on your private political radar screen.
Fourth (and best of all), on Election Day, your smartphone will automatically ring the TIME-TO-VOTE jingle alarm (sung by whomever you’ve chosen as your favorite rapper, vocalist, or hip-hop performer) once every hour, until you cast your vote—whereupon all your coupons are automatically renewed!
All this may sound tongue-in-cheek, but of course I’m completely serious. (Google, are you listening?) The biggest danger we face right now is that our American democracy—the process of our democracy—will become discredited, untrusted, dysfunctional, and overtaken and manipulated by authoritarian power structures. This is not an idle threat: Read a history book about the 1930s, or look at what’s happening in North Carolina or Poland as we speak. At the same time, our biggest opportunity lies in actually strengthening and enabling the process of our democracy—making it function so it accomplishes what it is intended to do: express the actual thinking and will of the majority of American citizens. A universal VOTE AMERICA CARD could, in fact, go a long way toward accomplishing that goal. I have to say it one more time: Google, are you listening?
One last thought: the kind of system I’ve outlined will also come in handy when, at some point in the not-to-distant future, politicians begin explaining and debating their positions on the proper management of modern fiat money. This is going to take a lot of repetitive reinforcement, and something like an IVoTE app―a kind of political You Tube―could be extremely useful in breaking down the cognitive barriers.