The other day George Will countered the claim that high voter turnout is a sign of civic health by reminding everyone that Nazis came to power as a result of high voter turnout. An observant commenter at Media Matters noted correctly that Hitler’s party lost the 1932 Presidential election 53-36. More telling, however, is how the Nazis won a majority of seats in the March 1933 election:
Six days before the scheduled election date, the German parliament building was set alight in the Reichstag fire, allegedly by the Dutch Communist Marinus van der Lubbe. This event reduced the popularity of the KPD, and enabled Hitler to persuade President Hindenburg to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree as an emergency decree according to Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution. This emergency law removed many civil liberties and allowed the arrest of Ernst Thälmann and 4,000 leaders and members of the KPD shortly before the election, suppressing the Communist vote and consolidating the position of the Nazis. The KPD was “effectively outlawed from 28 February 1933”, although it was not completely banned until the day after the election. While at that time not as heavily oppressed as the Communists, the Social Democrats were also restricted in their actions, as the party’s leadership had already fled to Prague and many members were acting only from the underground. Hence, the fire is widely believed to have had a major effect on the outcome of the election. As replacement, and for 10 years to come, the new parliament used the Kroll Opera House for its meetings.
They won, in other words, by voter suppression (more on that later). Anyway, an even more silly part of Will’s argument comes earlier:
The poet Carl Sandburg supposedly was asked by a young playwright to attend a rehearsal. Sandburg did but fell asleep. The playwright exclaimed, “How could you sleep when you knew I wanted your opinion?” Sandburg replied, “Sleep is an opinion.”
So is nonvoting. Remember this as the Obama administration mounts a drive to federalize voter registration, a step toward making voting mandatory.
What to call this move? On the one hand, it’s a slippery slope: “a step toward making voting mandatory.” But that is silly, as having an election is a step toward making voting mandatory. A step toward making voting mandatory as such would be something like this: The Obama administration will now require proof of voting in order to qualify for a gay marriage. Since obviously gay marriage will be required of everyone who shows proof of firearm non-ownership, and proof of firearm non-ownership will be required of everyone, ipso facto, you get the idea.
Aside from the slippery slope, Will is attacking a hollow man: no one has advocated making voting mandatory. So why does he say this? Here’s his justification:
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of Holder’s civil rights division, rightly says that voting too often is “an endurance contest” involving a long wait in line, frequently because of questions about voters’ registrations. But the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, says:
“One of the reasons that state voter registration rolls are in such poor shape today — with large numbers of voters who are dead, have moved or are noncitizens — is because of the restrictive standards imposed by the federal government in 1993 by the National Voter Registration Act. That law made it very difficult to remove ineligible voters. Local jurisdictions were sued so often by the Justice Department when they tried to remove ineligible voters, many stopped trying to clean up their lists at all. That is why there are many places around the country where the number of registered voters is greater than the Census says there are individuals of voting age.”
Notice the perverse dialectic by which Washington aggrandizes its power: It promises to ameliorate problems exacerbated by its supposedly ameliorative policies. Notice, too, the logic of Perez’s thesis that “our democracy is stronger when more people have a say in electing their leaders.” Therefore the public good would be served by penalizing nonvoting, as Australia, Belgium and at least 10 other countries do. Liberals love mandates (e.g., health insurance). Why not mandatory voting?
No, that is not the logic of Perez’s thesis, that’s Will’s distortion of his logic. But look at the claim about the insurance mandate. For Pete’s sake, the health insurance mandate originated with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and it was implemented by Mitt Romney, when he was Republican Governor of Massachusetts. This is evidence that liberals love mandates. Worse, and returning to the theme of voter suppression, Will’s authority that the voting system is a wreck is the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky: the very fraud responsible for the myth of voter fraud.