Capitol Idea: Failure To Vote Should Never Be An Option

Opponents of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have fallen to new, and unpatriotic, lows in putting up a TV ad in Nevada which encourages Latino voters in that state not to vote in the November election.

The ad takes Reid to task for failing to deliver passage this year of comprehensive immigration reform. It ends with the narrator saying, “Don’t vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message. You can no longer take us for granted. Don’t vote.”

Here is the ad in English:

My problem isn’t that Nevada Latinos could be angry at Reid over a failure to pass much-needed immigration reform. (The fact is that the legislation died because of a Republican filibuster, but that’s grist for a separate column.)

My anger, rather, stems from the recommendation that Latinos just sit this election out, as if that would actually accomplish anything. No American, on either side of the political spectrum, should stay home on Election Day. We all need to get out to vote.

The truth is that the fastest way for a politician, any politician, to take you for granted is if he knows you won’t vote.

And no issue, not immigration, not tax policy, not anything, has ever been helped by concerned Americans staying home on election day.

The fact is that Reid is locked in an extremely tight race for re-election, and the people behind this ad clearly want him defeated. They know Reid’s ouster becomes more likely if they can convince potential supporters to stay home.

That’s the rationale here, pure and simple.

Because the group who put up this cowardly ad, who would rather win by default than on the strength of ideas, knows another truth. That truth is that Latinos in Nevada have more than enough power to swing the Senate race whichever way they want.

The Silver State is one of those states where immigrants and their children, known collectively as “New American” voters, could mean the difference between winning and losing an election.

Instead of staying home, Latinos and others in Nevada need to get out on Election Day and demonstrate just how potent their political power is, whether that means voting for Reid, Republican Sharron Angle, or, as is legal in Nevada, “None of the Above.”

Our nation already has a shameful history when it comes to voter suppression, which is exactly what this new ad is, pure and simple. Such suppression became infamous with the Jim Crow laws, and continued right up through 2008.

Rather than suppress the vote as partisans seeking an advantage, we should be Americans are encourage all our fellow citizens to vote.

Voter suppression is the coward’s way out. Those who employ it have no honor, and they know they don’t have much else to stand on.

Republicans love to claim 2010 as a re-run of 1994. But the truth is that as decisive as the GOP likes to say ’94 was, just a meager 38.8 percent of eligible Americans cast ballots that year.

Even the historic election of 2008 saw voter participation that was just a few percentage ponts higher than 50 percent.

It may be a cliche, but one I believe bears repeating. Men and women of all racial and ethic identities gave their lives in wartime so that you and I could continue to return to the ballot box, year after year.

We say we support our troops, but anyone who fails to vote — or discourages others from doing so — clearly does not.

In fact, it’s plain that the people responsible for this new ad in Nevada hate our freedoms, and hate America, as surely as Osama bin Laden.

Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article first published as Failure To Vote Should Never Be An Option on Blogcritics.

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