Patience and science have to take precedence over partisan concerns and a need to golf

Our weather whiplash this past weekend was unwelcome but certainly not out of character. Nature sometimes deals us some setbacks. But we’re smart enough not to put the shovels away too soon. When it comes to the seasons and the weather, we know better than to expect instant gratification just because the calendar says we deserve sunshine and warmer temperatures.

However, we are not always a patient bunch here in America where we have perfected the concept of instant gratification with our next-day shipping, our ability to binge watch entire seasons of TV shows, and our “just in time” inventory management which lets us run lean… but it also means we have very limited capacity in times of unexpected, rapid demand.

And that’s where we’re at right now in this pandemic with hospital beds, ventilators, PPE, and patience.

Some of us have demonstrated a limited capacity to patiently confront the outbreak of a potentially lethal virus in ways that are supported by science and not dictated by personal whims, the business cycle, or our desire to… golf.

Privilege is a real drug sometimes. 

As is the privilege of power… something we’ve experienced first-hand in Wisconsin for nearly a decade now. How else to explain what happened here last week with the entirely preventable debacle of a spring election.

It wasn’t right. It will never be right. But along with blaming Gov. Tony Evers for waiting too long to recognize –properly– the need to change course, and calling out those who forced this election through, there is also a lesson here for progressive minded voters about instant gratification.

First, though, it is fair to ask, why –instead of mailing ballots to every registered voter– did Republican politicians in the legislative branch and conservative politicians in our highest courts go forward with an election so clearly a threat to public safety?

Because, in their minds, the alternative was a clear threat to their political safety.

When more people vote, conservatives don’t win. It’s what’s behind every effort to put roadblocks between voters and voting, from restrictions on early voting to reductions in polling places to the latest effort to purge about 200,000 people from the registration rolls.

So, to a degree, you can’t entirely blame one party for not wanting to make voting easier if a lot of the other party’s voters only vote when it’s convenient. Too many voters skip their local elections, primaries, midterms, and school referenda. And when they get upset with the results, they get so jaded they… don’t vote again. The message to those voters: democracy has never been wired for instant gratification. You have to put in the work.

That is where many conservatives and more than a handful of progressives would provide a lecture about the need to care enough to stand in line at your polling place, no matter how inconvenient.

But a public health emergency is not the time for that lecture. When it comes down to it, voting is a right. Voting should be easy. Voting should not be some political version of American Ninja Warrior with obstacles to registering, staying registered, and casting a ballot in every election.

Is it wrong that more people don’t take the time to go vote? Certainly. But it’s more wrong to oppose ways to make voting more convenient. If you don’t like the results when more people vote, get yourself some better policies. 

If you can’t win without rigging the maps, or putting unlimited dirty money into a campaign, or going to court to force people to vote while a lethal virus is spreading among groups of people… well, in all three of those examples, that’s nothing more than the instant gratification of having Supreme Court justices in your back pocket. 

That’s why I offer up this lesson for voters who don’t like any of that stuff but still want to vote safely and conveniently. Rather than endure another lecture about the importance of going to the polls, stop going altogether and become a permanent voter-by-mail.

Stop waiting for lawmakers here to approve vote-by-mail for everyone. The party in power will fight it for as long as they can. That’s not to say they oppose mailed absentee ballots. They would rather have the option of encouraging it for their base voters rather than for everyone. To discourage it statewide, they will claim fraud that doesn’t exist and they’ll display amnesia about the Republicans who already support and the states that already conduct all-mailed elections with no major problems.

It’s up to you to become the vote-by-mail movement. Go to myvote.wi.gov. It takes a couple of clicks on a keyboard once a year to have your ballots mailed to you for every election in that calendar year. 

Compared to the feeling of safely voting from home or conveniently voting at your local clerk’s office, there is nothing instant or gratifying about having to go vote on a busy day, a rainy day, a snowy day or when voting is a real threat to your health. Plus, if more people vote, the odds are better that those future election winners will have us better prepared for future crises.

We will emerge from this crisis and gather again, hug again, even play golf again. It will be gratifying. There’s no need to rush an “instant” solution that not only threatens our health but free and fair elections as well.