A sign directs voters in State College, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Capital-Star photo)
Outsider Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, a multi-millionaire pharmaceutical entrepreneur, has a lot of bold ideas, like visiting college campuses and inner cities, seeking to expand the GOP base.
He also has another controversial idea: tying mandatory military service to voting for Americans between the ages of 18 to 25.
While military service, or any national service, is a good idea for Americans of any age, withholding one’s right to vote in America’s elections goes against what some think of as the spirit of Memorial Day, where we commemorate those who gave their lives in the service of this country, many by choice, and some who were forced into it.
It’s worth noting that Politico reported this year that even Ramaswamy’s own campaign staff didn’t like the idea. The Washington Post reports that younger conservatives don’t like it. And lots of Southerners tell me of how terrible the Northern Civil War draft was (though the Confederate States of America started one a year earlier, which also wasn’t very popular).
Ramaswamy’s defenders could argue that military service alone is not required, and one could be a police officer or a first responder.
This presidential candidate could point to a 2017 Gallup poll showing nearly half of Americans support the idea of national service. But it’s important to point out that the survey didn’t ask Americans how they feel about a mandate such service to one’s right to choose those who will govern us.
It’s worth noting that powerful U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, a New York Democrat, repeatedly worked to get national conscription brought back for decades. One of the few times he was successful at inducing a vote, it lost by something like 2-402. I’m not being anti-Republican in this column. My disdain for such a policy is bipartisan.
According to Business Insider, Ramaswamy bases this policy on his belief that Generation Z doesn’t like America, so he’s going to increase people’s love of country by forcing them to serve, having to wait until their service is done before getting to participate in elections, while others older than 25 who haven’t had such a service (just an estimated 7% of Americans have served in the armed forces) don’t have to jump through such hoops to vote.
Ramaswamy also suggests that people could get out of such military or law enforcement or first responder mandates by waiting seven years, or taking the same civics test that all immigrants who want to become Americans must pass before they can be citizens.
So if that’s the case, then why single out one group, the way African-Americans were forced to take unfair “Literacy Tests” while whites were “grandfathered” in without needing to face the same examination? There must be some reason Ramaswamy isn’t considering citizenship tests for all a fair solution.
Republicans are upset by findings that show the 18-25 demographic voted Democratic by a wide margin.
But solutions calling for banning those under 26 from voting or calling for policies like Ramaswamy’s which single out younger people for restrictions, but not imposing the same standards on older voters, the GOP will further lose younger voters.
Though they disdain Mitt Romney, MAGA leaders forgets that Romney won a majority of voters with a college degree. Indeed, Trump was the first GOP candidate to lose the white college vote in 60 years. It’s time for the Republicans to look at what used to work, instead of repeating what’s failing now, or make things worse in the coming years.
This Memorial Day, let’s remember those who volunteered to give the ultimate sacrifice.
We also celebrate those who were conscripted unfairly into combat, and yet made the same heroic sacrifice, so that later generations were free to decide whether to enlist or not. Service seems best when it comes when chosen freely, and not as a compulsory task or some quid-pro-quo deal just to enjoy the same political rights as all other Americans.
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