I cast my ballot yesterday. Today I wonder how anyone could not have voted—especially considering the preponderance of morons on the rolls.
Okay, I understand people who hold political views different from mine are not a priori morons. They may be misguided, perhaps a tad narrow in their social attitudes, possibly ill-informed. It is less a matter, I suppose, of their being shortchanged on little grey cells than their unwillingness to exercise the neural matter they were allocated.
Consider political office. What exactly does the typical American voter think a person can accomplish in office? And in what timeframe?
There has been much ado from some folk over President Obama’s perceived failure to extract American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, his personal ineffectiveness in creating jobs, and his presumed inability to move the country economically and socially in some direction perceived as “better” or “more progressive.” Senators and Representatives installed in office twenty-two months ago to effect “change” have been replaced with congress-people-elect who have promised to effect “change.”
Methinks too many voters either slept through core lessons in civics or cut class entirely.
We elect a president; we do not name a dictator. The president can lead Congress and the people to every healthful and productive watering trough in the nation, but if there is adamant refusal to drink, then death by dehydration is the likely outcome.
Our government, moreover, is a tripartite system of checks and balances that are meant as a safeguard against the tyranny of a majority. Nothing, however, seems to safeguard against the tyranny of the dollar. One third of that system, the Supreme Court, which is packed with conservative—dare I say reactionary—justices, recently ruled that restraints on election “soft money” are tantamount to abridgment of free speech. There was no opinion on the audibility of the speech of the poor.
The elect to offices both modest and exalted are ostensibly obligated to their constituents. Our bipartisan system, however, deprives officials of incentive to act in the best interests of the citizenry who voted against them and the ideas they espouse.
Is democracy American-style doomed to failure? It does not have to be.
Good governance is a dialectic of compromise; it thrives on the energy of thesis and antithesis. The authors of the Constitution, and the men who ratified that document, grasped that tactics win battles but strategy wins the war. They also believed that the Constitution—and indeed the ideals on which America was conceived—lives, breathes and evolves. Unlike the Ten Commandments, the Constitution was never seen as a publication of granite.
The founders of this nation also envisioned an electorate that was informed, thoughtful, and at least a little touched by altruism. They probably had a sense that a rising tide lifts all ships but they were likely aware that smaller, leakier vessels are always in danger. They certainly knew that vigilance, hard work, and expert seamanship are the means for navigating all waterways.
I concede that I am a dyed-in-the-wool, bleeding-heart, knee-jerk liberal of the New England sort. I accept the absolute equality of all people, regardless of ethnicity, religious faith or its absence, gender identification and sexual orientation. I know that Nature and Society conspire to create inequity and I believe that a good government and righteous citizens do what can be done to alleviate at least some of that inequity. I support education as the means to a better, happier and more prosperous future as well as the leveler of the social and economic playing field. For that matter, I believe in kindness, saying “please” and “thank you,” waiting patiently for my turn, and extending respect before demanding it. I am aware that I have only so much mental capacity and that using any of it to nurse grievances and plot vengeance means that I am choosing darkness over light. I know. Just call me Pollyanna.
Still I worry for this country. I worry people who cannot grasp the concept of the separation of Church and State, people who believe that the Pledge of Allegiance and the words “one nation under God” were originated by the same people who wrote the Constitution. (The pledge was written in 1892 and revised several times, most recently in 1954 when that controversial phrase was added.) I worry about people who think unrestrained capitalism, like trickle-down economics, ensures prosperity for everyone from the middle class on down. While neither a Christian nor a socialist, I think both Luke (12:48) and Karl Marx were right: “From each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her means.”
Most of all, I worry that the more and more, the citizens most likely to vote are morons, er, ideologues of the lunatic fringe.