A worse offense

The Madison County Record Jul. 4, 2005, 5:35am

While there’s much a-do about St. Clair County vote buying we cannot help but ponder a far uglier travesty on this—the birthday of humanity’s greatest ever democracy.

That’s vote selling.

We’ll never rid the world of scoundrels like Charles Powell, Jr. and Kelvin Ellis, driven to tempt the vulnerable with insidious deals they’ll always regret. But just as in illegal drugs or prostitution, it takes two to tango.

In East St. Louis, apparently, there live thousands of Americans who are more than willing to dance—- at least when it comes to getting a little cash in return for doing a little debasing of our nation’s democratic foundations.

Thinking of our brave soldiers fighting for democracy past and current, it’s with a touch of anger that we say to these ‘voters’—- hope the $5 or $10 you got for selling your country out was worth it.

But anger won’t solve East St. Louis’ civic ambivalence problem. It won’t help its people value their votes again. Like streetwalkers or panhandlers, vote sellers are truly desperate souls.

How they sank so low is the question whose answer may beget a solution, which is why we’re asking.

East St. Louis NAACP Chairman Johnny Scott might have shed some light on the subject when he told the Belleville News-Democrat that those vote sellers are “going to vote Democrat whether they’re paid or not.”

You don’t need Karl Rove to validate that statement. Black voters pick Democrats always and en masse. They're as predictable as the sunset-- which is perhaps the point.

The beauty of individual liberty is that your vote—- your voice—- is yours alone. Candidates and parties chase your approval in the marketplace of ideas. The whole process is engaging and flattering, which is why it works.

But what would happen if that chase simply stopped? If the marketplace of ideas closed its doors? If your vote—- your approval—- was simply taken for granted?

You'd have East St. Louis, an emblem of the worst political leadership our nation has to offer.

Cleaning it up starts with the buyers-- but it ends with the sellers.

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