What Would Voltaire Do?

11/1/2004

The French philosopher Voltaire famously said, “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.” Were he alive today, I’m sure he’d find the behavior of BOTH major U.S. political parties reprehensible.

It’s becoming abundantly clear that both Democrats and Republicans would be perfectly content with the results of a stolen election–so long as their man was the one left standing.

That attitude friends is a cancer on our democracy. And it has become malignant.

In Ohio, a Democratic voter registrar is arrested for swapping crack for new registrants; in Nevada and Oregon, Republican registrars are caught trashing Democratic forms; in Ohio, new voters receive forged letters from “election officials” telling them that they won’t be able to vote if they were registered by Democrats; and in Florida, well just insert your favorite outrage here.

Across this great land signs are being stolen and defiled, protesters are being silenced and both parties are resorting to intimidation at the polling place–consigning tens of thousands of “observers” to watch over the process. Perhaps the most ironic act of subversion of the democratic process occurred earlier this month at a Bush event in Cedar Point, Ore., where three Americans were thrown out for wearing T-shirts with “Protect Our Civil Liberties” printed on them.

The saddest part of this is that “we the people” were more incensed when phone-in balloting went awry on American Idol 3 earlier this year.

The Muse will cast his vote for John Kerry tomorrow but I would give a Bush voter a ride to the poll if his car broke down. We have to live together again on Nov. 3. If Afghanistan can hold a relatively glitch-free election, one would hope America can do the same.

Voltaire’s declaration that he’d die to defend an opponent’s freedom of speech is wisdom for today. And so is another of his famous aphorisms. When asked on his deathbed to forswear Satan, Voltaire replied: “this is no time to make new enemies.”

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