I was shocked to find that New Hampshire’s speaker of the house is sponsoring a bill that will limit the ability of students to vote in the area in which the attend college in New Hampshire. For a group that already sees lower number of voter turn-out as it is, such laws might prove detrimental for the voting rights for students, for in the end shouldn’t we be looking to make the electoral process easier, not harder?
Although voting rights are under assault, a greater threat is occurring here: the destruction of a local community which does include students. From the right, these bills are being justified because it will protect against voter fraud, and that these students are not permanent residents; they could vote for a tax rate increase and you would be stuck with it while they could leave. It seems rather hypocritical that the towns relied on these students to swell the towns population during the 2010 to bring in federal money but are now telling them they cannot have a say in how it is spent. This very act is a assault on the community as a whole. Instead we should be building our communities pushing everyone, even the local college student, to be involved in public issues. Alexis de Tocqueville had written that the backbone of the American democracy is the local community, and today the far right looks to dismantle it by disenfranchising the local college student.
The local community, as Tocqueville noted , is often the place where we learn democratic principals, and can most fully practice them. It becomes ironic that New Hampshire’s speaker of the house made this at a tea party meeting; since the tea party claims to be a populist right movement. Yet, they seek to do is counter to that message and is only hampering the power the local community has.
What we are seeing here is a breakdown of the Madisonian principals that our country was founded on and the a betrayal of Rousseauian ideals that help form the bedrock of modern republicanism. Madison had hoped to prevent the worst form of government by putting factions against each other, a form of government called pluralism. Here he attempted to keep a majority of people from gaining a permanent majority and always legislating to the minority. With the attempted hindrance of college voters in a local community, the far right is forcibly breaking down this ideal our country and the constitution was founded on.
Even more odious is the attack on republicanism that has been the spirit of America since its foundation. Rousseau had wrote about what makes a government legitimate, and what he claimed is when it acts upon the general will of all its citizens, not just a select few or of a few groups. The point of Rousseau’s republicanism was to bring people together as society to fix its problems and establish its needs, and only when its acts upon that can it be a legitimate government. For New Hampshire to try and undermine the ability for college students to participate and be a part of the solution to the problem is a betrayal to the spirit of our government, and whats more it makes the government of New Hampshire or the local governments illegitimate.
This is a dangerous step. The rights of the students to have a voice in the local community of their college or university must be protected.