A Scher thing

Opinion: Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

In a scene titled “The Peasants” in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” King Arthur speaks with a peasant named Dennis who tells Arthur about the system in which he lives.

As it so happens, Dennis lives in a commune wherein each member is voted to take a turn being the leader and, in turn, all the decisions made by the leader are subjected to approval of a committee.

Sound at all familiar yet? It goes on. You see, Arthur, being “King of all Britons,” naturally thought he was king of these people too, much to his dismay. The scene ends with Arthur resulting to violence to silence the peasants’ outbursts, the chief memorable lines being
“Come and see the violence inherent in the system!


I sat down with Dr. Richard Scher who came to Ferris to speak about this year’s election results. Scher is a professor of political science at the University of Florida and is known nation-wide as the go-to guy for explanations of election results. He’s often featured on NPR for political commentary.

This year’s election was somewhat surprising, as according to Scher, “Since WWII only five presidents have survived reelection (Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush) with a down economy.” This means Obama had the odds against him from the beginning; however, that was not ever the main threat against the incumbent in this year’s election; the devil is always in the details, and as Scher concurred this election’s voting suppression efforts were “every bit just as heavy-handed” as those used in the Reconstruction Era just after the Civil War.

Some of the efforts were as simple as making people show two forms of picture ID (something most people don’t have), keeping absentee ballots from reaching their destinations (which was done in the 2004 and 2008 elections), invalidating ballots, requiring proof of citizenship, restricting early voting and keeping people from reaching the polls altogether. These efforts were all struck down by judges at the federal level who adjudicated them to be unconstitutional.

Scher said that “Functional Disenfranchisement makes it hard for people to vote in America.” He speaks about this term that he coined at length in his book “The Politics of Disenfranchisement.” Political parties of both sides use Gerrymandering to guarantee their district will vote the way the controlling party of that area wants. The districts continually shift and change, especially in burgeoning metropolitan areas.

The entelechy of voting in these districts is that it is pointless unless you’re voting for the party whom controls the district predominantly. For example, my vote this year meant practically nothing, as my district has traditionally gone to Republicans year after year. Does that mean I shouldn’t vote at all?

“Suppression efforts failed this year for two reasons,” said Scher. “One is that the feds put a stop to it; the second is that if the people rose up, they would not be suppressed.”

I voted because I wanted to be heard. If being heard means I take a black marker and fill in an arrow, then that’s what I’ll do.

As Scher said when I asked him
what the most important reason to vote was, “If you don’t vote and things get screwed up, it’s your fault–you have no right to complain.”

I feel I am much like Dennis in the “Monty Python” movie; if I’m going down, it’s going to be with a lot of kicking and screaming. n