This story was published in the Aug. 20, 1920, edition of the Lewiston Tribune.
The act of the Tennessee legislature in ratifying the equal suffrage amendment has followed the method prescribed by the federal constitution, and in that respect it seems unassailable. But as to whether the Tennessee legislature could, or should, have assumed to act under the requirements of the state constitution is another matter. The situation is somewhat like that of a check presented to a bank for payment, in which the processes are all regular, funds are on deposit, identification is authentic, and so on. But as to whether the drawer of the check had been swindled or failed to get value received, or otherwise is not the bank’s affair. It must pay the check, because it has agreed to do so. The federal government must accept the Tennessee legislature’s ratification, because it has agreed to do so.
The Tennessee constitution provides, however, that the legislature shall not ratify any proposed federal amendment unless the legislature has been elected after the amendment was submitted, that is, give the people an opportunity to vote for or against candidates for the legislature according to their views on the amendment. The Tennessee legislature has disregarded its own pledge and obligation in that respect, and that is Tennessee’s business, even if it’s bad business. The reason for disregarding its own constitution is, apparently, because the federal courts have held that the federal constitution alone applies to state ratification, and this is perfectly true in one sense but not in another. The federal constitution does not prescribe the method by which a state legislature shall reach its decision, but the state constitution does, and it is this aspect of the law that the Tennessee legislature appears to have violated. The violation was made under great pressure, by the women’s organizations, by President Wilson, by the national republican party and the national democratic party. The pressure was exerted without stint or limit because votes were wanted and because of the offices, the power and the spoils at stake. This great moral question thus appears to have been ushered in by methods quite as immoral and as sinister as any of the old political practices which, it is pretended, woman suffrage is to overcome.
Women have as much right to vote as men. They have earned that right in many fields and it should not be denied them. With their full enfranchisement government, we have no doubt, will deteriorate and the integrity of political life become so diluted and enfeebled that the people will be brought to despair, but we have a right to have that sort of government if that is what we want. It will not be the women’s fault either but the men’s, and it will come because of the men’s trading on their assumed credulity, their inexperience, their characteristics and the special problems, for all of which they will offer legislative advantages and panaceas in exchange for their votes. It has been so in the past, it is so today and there is no reason to doubt it will be so hereafter. Men who will tell the plain truth and declare the hard facts of government and of life in their campaigns for public office and public service will not get the woman vote, or get but little of it. In time it will work out better, but not until the cup of bitter experience has been drunk to the full. The experience need not be undergone at all if men who know better would use ordinary honestly and candor in dealing with political business whether appealing to men or women or both, but the day when character counts in campaigning for office has passed, at least for the present. The wild promises and wild accusations now being made by the authorized representatives of the great party organizations prove it, if nothing else does. What chance has any man who is moderate in speech, prudent in promising, scrupulous in conduct and modest in his professions against the barnstormers, the adventures, quacks, irresponsibles and speculations in politics who are now abroad in the land attempting to outdo each other with their desperate claims and clamors? The woman vote is the occasion for a fair share of it, but it is in their power to stand for something better than is now being handed to them. Speed the day when equal suffrage is a reality, not a myth, a fraud and a calamity.