I WISH MY FATHER were here just now. I wish I could ask him what he thinks about the so-called "advocates" who are patting each other on the back, now that Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson invalidated a provision of Pennsylvania's voter-ID law. I'd love to know how he feels about Pennsylvanians who didn't care enough about a right they profess to revere to seek an appropriate form of photo identification, or if he's as angered as I am by the bumbling, stumbling of state agencies and their inefficient attempts to comply with the law.
As anyone who reads my column knows, Ted Flowers spent some long, hot summer months in 1967 registering voters in Mississippi. It was a dangerous time, and a dangerous place, and there was no question that trying to vote could get you killed. Three young men in another city called Philadelphia found that out. So did many other civil-rights workers, of all creeds and colors. My white, Irish-Catholic father stared down some putrid pieces of humanity when he walked with his black clients through hostile crowds. The risk of disenfranchisement, and things far worse, was very real then.
But Daddy is gone, and so is that ominous threat to the franchise. The NAACP, the Advancement Project and all the other liberal advocacy groups that challenged the Pennsylvania law are very much like those unwashed Occupiers, trying to piggyback onto the struggles of the worthier ones who preceded them. Despite what state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said, there was no concerted effort to deprive the "first black president" a second coronation in the Keystone State. Most of us who support voter ID do so because we remember what Ted Flowers and others went through in order to ensure that the right to vote, that sacred ability to change the future one person at a time, was protected. We don't want some dead person in Laurel Hill Cemetery to turn the tide of an election, or some undocumented alien to pull the lever for an immigrant-friendly candidate.
We also don't want to screw Granny out of her chance to vote for the fellow who'll protect her Medicare, or condemn the disabled to the sidelines if they can't get to the polls. This was all the sort of rhetoric that left-wing apologists use, and in doing so they poison the debate. Just because I want someone to prove his identity with a publicly issued ID does not make me Bull Connor in hosiery. The crazies on the left will try to turn Simpson's decision into some kind of slap-down for the GOP, but they'd be very wrong to even try. It would simply show that Democrats want to win at all costs, even if that means desecrating the principle of one (breathing) person, one (legal) vote. It would lead to the suspicion that most of those challengers to the Pennsylvania law have Obama bumper stickers on their hybrids, and that the only reason they really cared about voter ID in the first place was that the people who either couldn't or didn't care to "say cheese" were likely Democratic voters.
It's exactly what Turzai was implying when, while munching on the toes of his recently inserted foot, he mentioned that the Pennsylvania law would make it easier for Republicans to win in the fall. But if you tell a Democrat that he or she was trying to hold onto some partisan advantage, they get so offended. After all, liberals don't cheat. They don't have to, when the graveyards are filled with registered voters.
The point is this: The right to vote is sacred, and it is indeed a right. But that doesn't mean that you get to exercise it by saying "pretty please." It is completely legitimate to demand that voters in Pennsylvania make an effort to obtain documentation to prove that they have the right to cast a vote in a country that has been watered with the blood of patriots.
But the procedures set up by the state to provide ID were fatally flawed. Friends told tales of waiting in line for hours and not being able to convince a stressed and overworked clerk that they were who they said they were.
Judge Simpson rightly said "hold on." But the liberals didn't win here, even if Obama (gulp) might. We now know that you can force someone to "say cheese." You just have to do it the right way.
Wherever he is, Ted Flowers is smiling.