Nathan on Education: Will Minnesota go forward or backward in history?

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

Forwards or backwards, which will it be for Minnesota? Having marched for civil rights in the 1960’s, and having taught government , politics and American history since 1971, I hope we see Minnesota’s better side this fall when we decide about whether to restrict or retain our current approach to voting rights.

Recently I’ve heard people saying, “Since we have to show ID for buying booze, why not for voting?” Equating the two seems to misunderstand what America is about.

Recently I wrote about walking along a “D-Day” beach, and honoring thousands of fallen heroes in a nearby cemetery.  Several dozen readers responded.  One explained, “When I walked into the American Cemetery at Arromanches, I felt the greatest religious feeling of my life.  No church or synagogue has ever affected me that greatly.  I described it to my wife as ‘an outdoor cathedral’.  I thank God for their enormous sacrifices.” Or “At times it seems as though people forget how many lives were given so we can continue to enjoy all the freedoms of our beautiful country.  My Dad and two uncles were in WWII and I know freedom is not free.”

Did they fight and in some cases die, for the right to drink?  Of course not.  Drinking is allowed, of course.

But is it one of democracy’s fundamental freedoms, like the right to vote?  Of course not.

Students sometimes are surprised when they learned in classes I taught that when the country was born, only white men with a certain amount of property were allowed to vote.  Students often are surprised on learning that it took about 150 years of American history before women were allowed to vote.  And of course, we learned what Dr. Martin Luther King called “the long walk toward freedom” before African American and other minorities gained the right to vote.

I remember very well when African Americans were attacked, and some killed, for trying to register to vote, or trying to encourage others to register.  This did happen within the life time of some of us who are still alive.

Whether it was with Washington and his rag tag army, or a family member fighting at Iwo Jima. The right to vote is sacred.

There seems to be no such widespread evidence of voter fraud here.

I think we owe those thousands of guys who died at Normandy Iwo Jima, or (fill in the blank) more than we can ever repay.  But in their memory, and in their honor, I think we should not tamper with one of the fundamental freedoms they fought for – the right to vote.

— Joe Nathan, formerly a public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, joe@centerforschoolchange.org.

  • Calling it like it is

    What a bunch of overblown hooey. Sorry Joe, but you missed the mark by a whole lot on this one.

    Yes, the right to vote is sacred, but no more sacred than the expectation people have of a vote with integrity. You need an ID to see an R rated movie (if you are of a certain age), to drink, to drive a car, and even to attend a presidential fundraiser. You can barely function in this nation without an ID and now we are to believe that having one to vote is just to big a hurdle to stomach?

    The author makes the claim that there is “no widespread” evidence of voter fraud in Minnesota. Oh really? Al Franken won his recent race against Norm Coleman by 312 votes in an election that saw roughly 2,000 ineligible felons casting votes. That sounds like a problem to me.

    This has nothing to do with ancient history and absolutely NOTHING to do with racism, as I believe Joe is trying to imply in this article. NO ONE will lose their freedom to vote in Minnesota. These kinds of scare tactics are beneath a respected editorial writer.

    Right now GOPers in Florida are receiving letter en masse advising them falsely that they are ineligible to vote. Democratic Representative Jim Moran’s son resigned from the campaign yesterday after video evidence showed him giving tips on how to commit voter fraud.

    During the Bush years, it was liberals screaming from every rooftop that voter fraud was a major issue (how else could a Republican win?), Diebold was part of a conspiracy, and evil Republicans were disenfranchising voters. All of it nonsense of course, but it did get people thinking about elections and fraud. For those same liberals to now claim we don’t have voter fraud issues (at least ones that don’t benefit Democrats), is pure silliness.

    I, for one, intend to vote for voter ID, because the integrity of our elections is as sacred as our right to vote. Anyone who tells you different (ahem…Joe) is doing nothing more than protecting what they view as “acceptable” fraud.

  • Calling it like it is

    Sorry, that should have read “roughly 1,100″ not 2,000. My bad.

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