Talk about your strict constructionist, the founder of the Tea Party Nation thinks renters should be denied the right to vote.
As Judson Phillips explains, the Founding Fathers “put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.”
The comment above was recorded by the good folks at ThinkProgress.org and raises a question: Is Phillips right or wrong?
According to the Census Bureau, in the first quarter of 2011 the US had 131 million households. Of these, 37.7 million were rentals. Were we to adopt Phillips’ argument then better than 38 million adults would lose the right to vote.
And not just any 38 million adults. It turns out that whites have a homeownership rate of 74.1 percent while the rates are much lower for African Americans (44.8 percent) and Hispanics (46.8 percent).
In other words, were we to return to the standards of the 1700s so favored by Mr. Phillips the biggest losers would be not just renters, but minorities.
But why stop there?
At the time of its founding the United States denied voting rights to women. So, if we are to follow the logic offered by Mr. Phillips, the ranks of the unrepresented would be expanded to include more than half the population.
Of course, the founding documents also allowed the practice of slavery, and nope, slaves did not have the right to vote regardless of gender.
“Whilst America hath been the land of promise to Europeans, and their descendants, it hath been the vale of death to millions of the wretched sons of Africa,” wrote St. George Tucker, a Virginian who proposed the abolition of slavery — and thus much of his personal fortune — in 1796.
“The genial light of liberty,” he continued, “which hath here shone with unrivalled lustre on the former, hath yielded no comfort to the latter, but to them hath proved a pillar of darkness, whilst it hath conducted the former to the most enviable state of human existence. Whilst we were offering up vows at the shrine of Liberty, and sacrificing hecatombs upon her altars; whilst we swore irreconcilable hostility to her enemies, and hurled defiance in their faces; whilst we adjured the God of Hosts to witness our resolution to live free, or die, and imprecated curses on their heads who refused to unite with us in establishing the empire of freedom; we were imposing upon our fellow men, who differ in complexion from us, a slavery, ten thousand times more cruel than the utmost extremity of those grievances and oppressions, of which we complained.”
Mr. Tucker — author of the Americanized version of Blackstone’s Commentaries — also explained that “with regard to the property of women, there is taxation without representation; for they pay taxes without having the liberty of voting for representatives; and indeed there seems at present no substantial reason why single women should be denied this privilege.”
Mr. Phillips makes the argument that property owners have more of a vested interest in their community than renters. Really? Renters don’t care about the quality of schools? When we fight wars only the children of property owners are drafted? When it snows only property owners care about clearing the streets? And given their exalted status, surely Mr. Phillips would want property owners to pay higher taxes.
The essence of Mr. Phillips’ position is that somehow the founding documents were immutable and not subject to change. There are a lot of Amendments to the Constitution which suggest otherwise.
In considering Mr. Phillips’s ideas you have to wonder: Just how many Tea Party members are renters? Does Mr. Phillips believe they should be denied the right to vote?