The (royal) proposal: loss of vote a serious issue

On Friday this week, Kate Middleton will become the newest princess of the British Empire.

She will no longer be the commoner, Kate. Instead, she will have to be referred to as Catherine. She won’t be allowed to sign any unofficial paperwork, hold a regular job, run for public office or vote. Her marriage forfeits these rights in favor of the luxuries of royalty.

She’ll attend fancy parties and never have to worry about what to wear, she’ll have automatic reservations at almost every restaurant in the world, and have pretty much whatever material goods she could want, many emblazoned with her face.

So, relinquishing the right to vote doesn’t seem like such a big deal, right? Part of Kate’s job description will be to remain neutral in order to politically negotiate. Most people won’t understand what she’s giving up.

I mean, when your vote is only one of thousands or even millions, it’s hard to pretend that it actually counts. But, as an American democratic idealist, I would like to pause to honor the sacrifice that Kate is actually making. I’m sure most of you are going “yeah, some sacrifice,” but, no matter what privileges she is gaining, she is also losing out.

The right to vote is a mark of freedom. It gives us a say in our future by electing our leaders and determining policy. Symbolically, it represents even more than just a form of government. People from America to Nigeria have fought, protested, revolted and died for the freedom to vote, to be recognized as a free person and citizen. Anymore, American students learn about slavery, Jim Crow and the women’s suffrage movement and read it like a nice storybook of things that happened ages ago.

What of the Nigerian man who refused to accept a bribe that would have fed his family for weeks in order to place his own vote in the ballot box? That was only weeks ago. Even within American media, some journalistic empires forbid their employees from voting or engaging in public protest, to “preserve neutrality.”

Although there may be a very good justification for refusing journalists (and royalty) voting rights, the seriousness of this action has deep consequences that should be considered. Kate Middleton, once she becomes Princess Catherine, will have effectively removed herself from public life. She will no longer be a citizen. That is the power of the vote. It represents citizenship, status and power: the power to express yourself.

Though her ascension to the rank of nobility may be a dream come true, citizens of the United States should take a democratically-emotional moment to mourn the loss of her vote.