And by ‘you,’ I mean old people and conservatives
16 August 2018
There has been a certain asinine idea floating around ever since the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. In both cases, disgruntled voters have been coming up with ideas about how to stop such results from occurring in the future. So what’s their plan? Get more people out to vote? Convince others to vote for their agenda? Put forward good arguments?
Seeing as ‘old people’ were some of the primary supporters of Brexit and Donald Trump in their respective countries, the natural inclination of many has been to question the voting rights of senior citizens. Because that’s a good idea: when someone doesn’t think the way you want them to, take away their right to act. How could that go wrong?
I struggle to understand the mind of someone who sincerely believes it is right to take away millions of people’s freedoms just because they’re being used in an ‘unintended’ way, not illegally, not in a way that hurts anyone, not in a way that cheats the democratic system. And sadly but unsurprisingly, this dangerous rhetoric is coming from the mouths of millennials.
It’s unsurprising not because my generation has a penchant for bad ideas but because young people are the only ones who could feasibly adopt this position with a straight face. What old person would relinquish—presumably by vote—their right to elect leaders and contribute to referendums? Even the senile aren’t brain-dead enough to suggest such an idea.
We say old people are the ones who are shortsighted, yet we’re trying to make a decision that all of us are bound to regret when we turn 60. To enact such an affront to democracy is arrogance and foolishness at its finest.
A GQ article titled, ‘We should ban old people from voting,’ argues that as young people are most likely to be affected by long-term decisions, we should be justified in trampling the civil liberties of the old. But believe it or not, you’re allowed to have an opinion on an issue that doesn’t directly affect you. In the words of Martin Luther King, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’
The elderly have garnered life experience and wisdom unmatched by any other age group. Our leadership is made up of those who have lived the most and arguably know the most. The goal of every human being is to leave the world in a better place than they found it, not give up all power as soon as their mortality nears and the next generation rises.
The rest of the arguments range from attacking the apparent reading habits of older individuals to comparing them to State prisoners, effectively assuming that if convicted felons can’t vote neither should senior citizens.
I don’t need to tell you why that’s wrong.
There are no good reasons for why we should remove the most basic democratic civil liberty from anyone. In the United States, any suggestion based on such prejudice would be shot down by the 26th Amendment. Everywhere else, if not law, it’s common sense and common decency.
This idea is hollow on pretty much every level—it is worthless. It would be impossible to pass, seeing as we live in a democracy that gives every voice a platform to create change. That system is incongruent with a society where a large swathe of people aren’t able to participate simply due to their identity. We fixed that inconsistency decades ago when we gave women and black people suffrage.
No uncontrollable factor, be it age, race, or sex, should define your role in society.
The real goal being pursued here is political silencing and oppression. After all, the best way to force your agenda and candidate is to eliminate the other side’s ability to participate. Older voters just happen to lean conservative.
If you truly believe that older voters are screwing over the young, maybe you should encourage more millennials to get out and vote their conscience rather than deny that same privilege to others. With that, perhaps you’ll find that not every young person agrees with you anyway.