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One job, one vote?

Former legislator/area crank Ed Butcher wants to limit the franchise to the employed. Dan Brooks has a problem with that

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Late last month, in keeping with its policy of publishing only those opinions submitted in writing, the Missoulian ran a guest column by former Montana legislator Ed Butcher. In it, Butcher complained that the thousands of demonstrators protesting the election of Donald Trump were “obviously not working for a living.”

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“These are primarily ‘welfare bums,’” he wrote, “college students (is that redundant?) and ‘refugees’ receiving average annual benefits of $29,000 each from American workers so they can sit around or destroy private property protesting the hands that feed them.”

Let us begin by commending Butcher on his research, which allowed him to determine not only the demographic makeup but per-capita incomes of marchers in protests across the country, presumably just by watching them on TV. That right there is the trained eye of the historian. As a lecturer in American studies at the University of Great Falls between 1974 and 1979—and, in the late 1960s, as an assistant professor at the confusingly named Valley City State University in North Dakota—Butcher is uniquely qualified to identify slackers from afar. Like many retired landowners, he has a keen sense of who isn’t working.

But I am not here merely to praise his bum sense. I also want to offer my full-throated support for his proposal to revitalize American democracy. It will presumably catch on in Singapore and the Philippines, too, but I quote it here in the original English: “As a historian, I would pinpoint the origin of the decline of our Founding Fathers’ ‘republic’ to allowing those without a means of financial support to vote. To return stability to the election and governing process, states need to require anyone registering to vote to demonstrate some level of employment. Only those supporting the government should be allowed to select our representatives to govern.”

Butcher has two great ideas going here. One is to use quotation marks for decoration. The other is to limit the franchise to people who have jobs and can prove it. By adopting both, I believe we can make this country “great” again. I know what you’re thinking: What about the Fifteenth Amendment? It is true that, to the person without formal training as a historian, the constitution might appear to guarantee voting rights to all adult citizens. But a closer look at the Fifteenth Amendment finds that the right to vote shall not be denied “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

The key word here is previous. The constitution says nothing about present conditions of servitude, e.g., line cook at Arby’s. As Butcher wisely discerns, we can use this loophole to strip the vote from college students and welfare recipients, thereby causing them to stop protesting in the streets.

Restricting the vote to people who are gainfully employed wouldn’t just usher in a new era of civic tranquility, though. It would also right the ship of state. Butcher points out that America’s decline began when states started to extend the franchise to men without property, during the 1820s. After four decades of prosperity, the United States began the slow descent into chaos that would characterize the next 200 years.

The problem was that people who didn’t own land had no reason to want the country to succeed. They would vote for things like war with Mexico or The Gilded Age just to see what would happen. Perhaps the worst example of such recklessness was the Panama Canal, in which thousands of unemployed college students voted to dig a trench clear across Central America as a prank.

The problem has only gotten worse today. For example, 29 percent of American mothers are not employed outside the home. They therefore have no interest in the future of this country and vote for whatever candidate they think will make TV more interesting, with disastrous results. Similarly, 57 million Americans receive Social Security benefits instead of working and also vote for whomever they recognize from TV. Then they exacerbate the situation with inane letters to the editor.

The Butcher Plan would encourage these people to shut up. Once only Americans with jobs are allowed to vote, the country will stop spending money on pie-in-the-sky ideas like education and jobs. Democratic power will again be concentrated where it belongs: in the hands of employed men who cannot believe how lazy everyone else is and aren’t afraid to bring it up, regularly and at length.

Will this solve every problem facing the United States today? Yes. Will it create a permanent underclass of desperate people whose only recourse lies outside the law and democratic systems? You betcha. But they’re too busy drinking beer and having sex on the internet to do anything. Take it from a retired history professor and a newspaper columnist: Hard work will set you free.

Dan Brooks writes about people, politics, culture and the laziness of others at combatblog.net.

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The original print version of this article was headlined "One job, one vote - Local paper publishes op-ed by area crank"

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