A Dress Code for Democracy

Cowboys at the Rusty Spur in Scottsdale, AZ

With less than two weeks left before Americans decide on who will become the 45th President of this grand old Republic, I will once again try to wrestle with the paralysis of the pen that has plagued my armchair political punditry for the better part of this election cycle. After all the mindless and mundane chatter mixed in with a boundless measure of mercurial shape shifting, neither candidate has done all that much to move the ball down the field. And while I must apologize for my overuse of hackneyed sport’s metaphors, as we come around to the homestretch this really does appear to be a bona fide horse race.

Unfortunately, I suspect that if there were not those troubling tendencies that continue to cause a segment of the population to make their decisions based upon race and religion, the poll numbers would be very different. Added to that the fact that neither candidate has adequately articulated a clear or attainable vision of  how one might govern a nation in the grips of  ongoing economic and geopolitical peril–we are left with yet another presidential contest that will be decided by pandering to the disheartened and disenchanted mob on the extremes, and a handful of undecided voters in a few key counties around the country. So it is not much of a stretch to suspect that both parties might resort to a bit of chicanery in order to affect the final tally.

I happened to grow up in an area of New Jersey where the local Democratic machines had a propensity toward bribery and outright bullying if the usual promise of patronage was not enough to swing the vote in their direction. Thankfully, these transgressions against democracy were  mostly isolated local events, and did not have national implications that might determine the outcome of a presidential election. And while I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next gullible Gus, I tend not to believe that our fates have been altered and decided by the likes of the Illuminati, Free Masons, or those children of privilege that perform clandestine rituals while worshipping the remains of Geronimo’s cranium in the darkened bowels at Yale’s Skull and Bones Society. But at this particular moment in time, I might acknowledge the possibility that there was indeed a well orchestrated effort by Republicans to put in place a national policy of voter suppression in those potential battleground states that embraced a majority of like-minded governors and legislators. 

While the idea of having to provide a valid photo ID in order to exercise ones franchise in these times of heightened security threats and concerns about illegal immigration seems reasonable on the surface, take it from someone who has spent over forty years in the tavern trade–if you want to discourage certain clientele from gaining access to the bar simply initiate a dress code. The call for top hats and tails after six will certainly eliminate  those whose resources limit them to Levi’s and Stetsons. This allows those in charge to be selective without appearing to be discriminatory. So in the case of massaging voter turnout, one need not suggest something as offensive as a poll tax in order to statistically impact an election. Consider this political engineering a type of dress code for democracy.

Heard's Brigade at Re-enactment of the Battle of Monmouth

And now that some thirty states have enacted some form of voter identification law, it is more important than ever that we rise above our collective national inclination to sit out the game when someone attempts to make the path around the bases a little harder to negotiate. We owe it to those that have lived up to a much more serious code of  dress and decorum from the fields of Concord to the streets of Kandahar. Honor their service and sacrifice–Vote!

Posted by Chris Poh

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