Bill Murchison

Donna Brazile, the Democrats' all-purpose spokeswoman for civil rights, was at it again the other day, flaying "Republicans" for conspiring to suppress the voting rights of black and minorities.

"Republicans," as she put it in a USA Today column, "are pushing restrictive voter ID legislation in states around the country that will make it more difficult for people to make their voices heard."

She singled out North Carolina for "an extreme law" requiring students attending college outside their home counties to tender government-issued identification -- e.g., drivers' licenses -- instead of student ID cards.

She didn't mention Texas, but that's OK, as the state's Democratic Party did the job for her, castigating a law that provides free IDs to non-drivers who don't have passports, concealed carry licenses or naturalization papers. What's the problem with free? A party spokeswoman argued that applying for and procuring the free ID took time that could more profitably have been spent in other pursuits.

Perhaps if the state hand-delivered the ID in response to a text message and allowed the voter to mark his ballot while lying in bed, sipping a cold beer? That could be next.

The moment seems right for a word, quixotically uttered or not, concerning the privileges and the duties of citizenship.

It seems recently to have escaped notice that for centuries, privilege and responsibility were intimately linked. Yes, one could do thus and so, but whoever took up that invitation needed to remember such obligations as went along with the right. One could drive a car, for instance, but only at certain speeds in certain places, with the duty of halting at red lights.

The right to vote -- on which modern democratic institutions rest -- is a glorious privilege. Don't certain obligations accompany it, if only by implication? Such as the obligation actually to (SET ITAL) care (END ITAL)? Right: The Constitution mentions no such obligation. Does it not follow, even so, from the centrality of the suffrage to our government and institutions that choosing a candidate can't be logically equated with selecting a TV channel?

Where does voter ID come in here? At the point, I'd say, where a voter insufficiently motivated to pick up a free ID card can't be pointed to as a citizenship model on the level of Donna Brazile. Or even Anthony Weiner. Weiner, who admittedly has unique ideas about personal identification, would doubtless run 10 miles through traffic in 20-degree weather to replace a lost or misplaced ID card. We're to suppose, down in Texas, that taking a few moments to drop by a government office amounts to rank displacement of constitutional rights?


Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
 
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