Skip to comments.Starship Troopers and the Right to Vote
Posted on 10/20/2013 7:55:00 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Tomorrow is election day here in the U.S., though its an off-year, so its mostly local elections, bond votes, and the occasional state constitutional amendment. I plan on voting, and I vote every chance I get. In fact, its a bit strange that I havent already voted because Ive become a big fan of early voting in the last few years. (Notably, I had to bust out of the hospital to vote in the 2008 presidential primary, so I dont like to leave things until election day.)
Voting and science fiction almost inevitably brings up Robert Heinleins novel Starship Troopers. In that novel, the voting franchise was limited to veterans. A veteran was not necessarily someone who had been a soldier, but rather someone who had volunteered for a two-year stint in Federal Service. Whether a soldier or not, these service jobs were apparently all fairly hazardous. Only after retiring from federal service could you vote or hold public office. The book focuses mostly on the soldiers, so both fans and critics tend to look on the rule as only combat veterans get to vote, even though the book made it clear there were non-military paths.
The argument for this was that the responsibility of voting should be reserved for those who have demonstrated an understanding of individual sacrifice for the greater good, i.e. voting is not about getting something for myself but about getting something for everybody else. Whether or not Heinlein himself felt that the voting franchise should be so restricted, the book makes a fairly passionate argument for it.
Critics have often equated this with fascism or military dictatorship. The 1997 movie of the same name was perhaps the greatest critique along those lines as it showed the Terran leaders as being active-duty military officers wearing remarkably Nazi-like uniforms. The movie also varied from the book in enough other ways that I dont consider it to be a valid representation of Heinleins original argument on restricting the franchise to those who have already served. (The director has stated that he read only the first few chapters of the book.)
However, one thing that the movie did do was to bring up this argument again for a new generation. I was at a WorldCon in Baltimore (1998, I think), and I attended what was supposed to be a late night panel on Starship Troopers. Instead of a proper panel, it devolved into a roundtable discussion between all attendees. The arguments pro and con went round and round, complete with epitaphs of Nazi and commie and what have you.
I had not said much at all in that discussion, mostly just observing. (As a side note, I grow weary of the vitriol of many folks who are so fixed in their positions they are unwilling to entertain the notion that they might be wrong, and this discussion was filled with that kind of vitriol.) But eventually, someone turned to me and said, Youve been pretty quiet. Whats your take on it?
I replied, It seems to me that those of you arguing for the veteran-only vote are people who would be willing to make that sacrifice to earn the right to vote, while those of you arguing against it are people unwilling to make that sacrifice and just dont want to agree with a system that would deprive you of the right you currently enjoy.
I got two reactions. From those arguing for it, I got a chorus of F***ing A! From those arguing against it, silence.
I wasnt surprised by the response from the pro-Heinlein crowd, but I was disappointed in the response from the others. I had hoped that instead of arguing against the likely results of such a system (again, the Nazi or militarism arguments) they would offer an argument for the right to vote for those unwilling to give up two years for some level of community service, that those voters deserved the right to vote or that they offered a unique and valuable voice that would not come from those who had already served.
Personally, Im a little torn. I like to think that if I found myself in the world of Starship Troopers, I would have signed up and done my two years. However, in this world, I have never done so. I considered it strongly after high school, but pressure from my parents pushed me into college, and after that marriage, job, and kids kept me away from such a choice. I find that as the years go by, I regret that more and more. I still seriously consider making the switch to some kind of community service job in my later years, perhaps teaching. But I continue to vote now, without having made that choice.
Ive gotten into the habit of closing these with a question, so my question to you is this: If you did have to do two years of community or military service to earn the right to vote, would you do it, and what kind of service do you think you would do? Dont feel you have to restrict yourself to Heinleins choices of soldier or medical test subject. Instead, consider the many thankless jobs we have in todays society.
They said it would take a black man to bring back slavery to America.
Didn’t you pay in to Social Security and Medicare? That’s not true of TANF, SNAP, farm subsidies and the rest, at least not directly.
My bumper sticker say: Only Taxpayers Should Be Allowed To Vote
“The founding fathers didn’t believe that every Tom Dick and Harry should vote — there were eligibility requirements. “
I’d say, right off the top, they were about at least 50% more restrictive...
I don’t see what was wrong with testing requirements. Certainly, an understanding of government, local and national should be required. You might say that public schooling should do this, and I would just laugh. And the test should be periodic and available in English only.
These days, I don’t think we are too far away from Africa, where they put a photo of the candidate with the symbol of the party on the ballot. For example, here, we would have put a drawing of an ass next to a photo of every Democrat.
It’s not ideal, but it’s a way to move forward.
Takers shouldn’t have a say.
Bottom line is people make choices in their own self interest - to serve (get promoted, get honor, larger command, etc) or not to serve but do other things. They accept the risks associated with their choices. Lots of non-military roles are dangerous and high-risk.
There was no right to vote in the original as-written U.S.Constitution. Those had to added later in the 16th and 17th Amendments.
The vote is bestowed only to those who “choose” to spend time as a slave of the fascist state.
How’d you like to serve under someone worse than Obama? Look how he’s made fed employees jump through hoops and embrace their inner asshole (park rangers, etc).
I don’t think so either.
Scouts Out! Cavalry Ho!
Wouldn't that make it "Privilege"?
They do, but it's a bit different than the FFL. In it's modern incarnation, it's only open to Spanish citizens or citizens of former Spanish colonies. It's not wide open to any foreigner who wants to join...
NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH FOREIGN LEGION!
Instead of “I vas following zee orderz”
it’d be “I vas just urning my vote”
The point in ST was not that the military was dangerous, but rather that serving showed that a person was willing to subordinate his own personal survival to the survival of the community.
If a war came along, of course. In times of peace many military jobs are less dangerous than many military ones. It’s not the degree of danger in question, it’s the willingness to face that danger to protect the community.
Be careful what you wish for....Who gets to determine just exactly what constitutes "earning" the vote?
Heinlein’s novel both encouraged and reinforced my decision to join the Army right out of high school. I’ve read the novel closely at three different points in my life and I learned something new every time I read it.
I agree with the article’s author that Heinlein made it abundantly clear that you didn’t have to be a combat veteran—nor even a member of the armed services—to receive the franchise. And more than that, you didn’t receive the franchise until you were honorably discharged or retired from Federal Service. So, while you were in, no vote, no matter your length of service or pay grade.
There were times when I thought such a system would work in our country. Basically, if you want the authority to make important decisions, you had to have prove that you are capable and responsible to make them. No free lunches. You have to give to get and trade value for value.
I don’t know if would work now. Heinlein himself warned of the problems with such a system. Just because you’ve served doesn’t mean you’ll make stellar decisions or do what’s in the best interest of all citizens or even be resistant to the pressures of influence. John McCain I will offer as exhibit A.
Though, on balance, it might still be better than the creaking system we have now.
There’d be no “President Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.” though, so you have to give it that.
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