Nov 01

How many times have we written that we love “liberalism” in international relations? Dozens of time?

Normally, we focus on the international relations aspect of it, because as a blog devoted to the study of war and global affairs, that made the most sense. Other people covered domestic politics; we covered (less popular) foreign affairs stuff.

Still we celebrated classical liberalism, which we defined as the love of democracy, free and fair markets, the rule of law, and human rights. These naturally lead in the international sphere to global cooperation, international institutions and free trade, generally. That has led to a statistically safer world and we celebrated the decline in violence globally, and especially inter-state war. Things are getting better and liberalism is the cause.

The rise of President Donald Trump, Brexit, far-right parties in Europe and China/Russia have led the entire world to question that thesis. And not just international relations liberalism, but “Liberalism” in a broader sense. Here’s The Economist making a huge deal of it on their anniversary. They’ve been followed/inspired The Atlantic, New York Magazine, The Financial Times and others to ask if this is the fall of Liberalism. This has inspired conservatives to ask the same questions.

In short, there is no shortage of people waiting to toss dirt of the grave of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History.

The Economist probably said it best: we’ve grown complacent with Liberalism, especially in wealthy, democratic countries. The Economist focused much of their coverage of the last half year on this fact, noting the fall of democracies or the rise of “illiberal democracies”, a la Fareed Zakaria. Worse, some authoritarian nations are doing well—China—or mucking up the world system—Russia.

So today’s post is a reminder that we need to fight that complacency. And in America it starts with voting.

Over the last two years—via phone calls, not via posts on this site—Eric and I have focused more and more on the founding principles. And one principle of Liberalism rises above the rest. [Cut:It’s the one that we fall back on more than any other. Here it is]:

Democracy is the greatest right of the people.

The right to vote to elect the leaders of a nation is THE core principle. When that goes, everything else falls. You can’t have capitalism or the rule of law or freedom of speech if you can’t vote on the people who represent you. And if the world isn’t filled with democracies, it likely won’t have peace or human rights or free trade. Democracy—the right to vote on government—is the singular right that protects the rest. (To ape an incredibly false slogan from the NRA.)

To be blunt, one side of America’s political spectrum--represented by one party, the Republicans--do not believe in granting the right to vote to all people. This must change.

Republicans (and conservatives) no longer believe in democracy

It is easy to make the case—though we may write an entire post on it as well—but here’s a quick list of ways that the Republican party has tried to restrict the power of Democrats:

- Gerrymandering states to ensure that a minority of voters gets a majority of state and federal legislative seats.

- Enacting Voter ID laws, that often target Democratic, minority or lower-income voters.

- Trimming voter rolls of eligible voters, that often target Democratic, minority or lower-income voters.

- Protecting the Electoral College for Presidential elections.

- Closing or decreasing the number of polling places, that increases the wait times, especially in Democratic-leaning urban areas or rural areas with minority voters

- Ending or restricting early voting and vote-by-mail.

- Refusing to support an “election holiday”, all of which would increase turnout generally.

- Refusing to allow the American citizens of Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico to have representation in the US Senate and House of Representatives.

There are multiple books, comprehensive reports and articles on how voting is getting harder, not easier, in America. There are many, many articles on how the playing field of American politics is now fundamentally tilted against one particular party, but notably this will mean a minority of citizens will rule the majority.

I expect that after the election, we will marvel at how turnout has increased over past midterms. At the same time, we’ll note—by we, I mean people on Twitter and political journalists—that the percentage of eligible voters is still incredibly low in America compared to Europe and other democracies. These political journalists, though, won’t acknowledge the obvious fact: one political party wants smaller participation in elections, and they work to engineer laws, regulations, policies and administrative behavior to encourage this.

The Solution (for this week)

Normally, we can’t solve problems. 364 days in most years, you can’t help solve the problem. But on Election Day, you can. You can vote.

I don’t care if anyone wants to not vote, to be clear. That’s a right too. But I want every person in America—and the world—to be able to freely and easily vote. Waiting in line for three hours is not easy. Not having polling places open on weekends is not easy (or even historically accurate). Having to show a voter ID when you don’t have a birth certificate isn’t easy either. (Also, voter ID laws make zero sense if you allow vote-by-mail, which every state should.)

We need to bias all policies that make voting as easy as possible. Anything otherwise is trying to take a person’s right to vote away. And if elected officials work to change election laws to deliberately disenfranchise voters then they should be held to account by laws punishing this unconstitutional behavior. If new regulations have the effect of decreasing voter turnout, they need to be reversed. If this costs money, fine. It’s well worth the cost.

We can’t solve the difficulty—and unfairness/bias—in American voting behavior in one fell swoop on election day. But we can vote for the political party that will reinforce and expand voting rights. That’s the Democratic party.

Even if you disagree with the specific policies of Democrats, you should vote simply to protect the right to vote. The political gains of one party in one election—or even multiple elections—pales in comparison to the harm to the political system when one party works to actively disenfranchise voters.

Again, Liberalism is supported by Democracy. Having democratic systems is what starts the entire Liberalism engine of progress.


So vote for Liberalism, vote for Democracy, this election. That means voting for Democrats.