Well that didn’t take long at all. Engaged Americans who have been paying attention to the mess in Washington decided to defy the news media’s will and ringingly reject the governing philosophies of the last six years, so not-so-secretly-true-blue pundits of the mainstream media came out with their plan to make sure that future elections will be dominated by unengaged, low-information voters who will go to the polls and vote as they are told, or, as it often is in Presidential elections, vote for whoever guarantees them the most benefits or who scares them the worst.
Washington Post editor Ruth Marcus delivered a call for compulsory voting in her column this morning. It is one of the most ethically indefensible columns I have ever read in a respected publication, and remember, I read all the New York Times columns. How anyone can take Marcus seriously after such a revolting demonstration of multi-level ethics blindness is a mystery, assuming anyone does.
To begin with, her partisan motives couldn’t be more obvious, though she denies them. After last night’s carnage was recorded, TV panels across the liberal media spectrum confidently opined that Democrats shouldn’t worry: once those dependable Democratic voters from the “base” show up to vote, as they can only motivate themselves to do in sufficient numbers every four years, all of this unpleasantness will go away in 2016. “Ah HA!” thinks Marcus. If we force those easily manipulated, self-interested, group-identifying, naive, uneducated, ignorant and easily frightened voters ( Republicans will take away your Social Security! Your food stamps! Your contraceptives! Your children will be shot in school! “They’ll put y’all back in chains!”) to come out every two years, we won’t have to endure elections like this at all! ( Over at the New York Times, a leftist scholar who saw the writing on the wall right before the election proposed another solution to the same problem: eliminate mid-terms altogether.)
Marcus writes, “The same partisan forces that agitate for voter ID laws or less opportunity for early voting hours would block any change on the assumption that it would work to their electoral disadvantage.” Isn’t that a great sentence? She states as if it were established fact that the arguments for voters actually having to prove who they are and against early voting schemes that encourage knee-jerk, rote voting rather than fully informed ballot casting are motivated purely by partisan advantage. This is, in part, because unethical people like Marcus assume that everyone thinks like they do: partisan election-rigging is exactly what Marcus’s proposal is all about. Now, I, for example, would oppose requiring citizens to vote because 1) it is unconstitutional (forced expression); 2) the Founders believed in an active, informed, engaged citizenry in a representative democracy because pure, mob rule democracy is a disaster, and a vote unsupported by responsible self-education and thought is a threat to responsible government; and 3) mandatory voting without accompanying voter qualifications means that the insane, senile, and idiotic would be required to vote. Since literacy tests and the like are unconstitutional, there would be no way to stop them. But I’m sure there will be plenty of people willing to help them vote, right Ruth?
More low-lights of Marcus’s column:
- Marcus proceeds—desperately, lamely, laughably—to argue that forcing the dimwits, rogues, apathetic and fools to vote wouldn’t necessarily favor Democrats, because, well the Australia Election Commission said in 2006 it doesn’t necessarily favor liberals, and then there’s this one 2003 U.S. study by three Berkeley scholars—and we all know there’s no liberal bias at Berkeley!–that concludes that the issue warrants “further study.” Well gee, Ruth, I was skeptical, but I’m convinced now!
- Marcus, who is seldom good, but never worse than this, begins defending her indefensible scheme by mocking the “phantom menace” of voter fraud. Funny about that: she mentioned this just two days after that old unethical undercover investigative “journalist” James O’Keefe delivered a video showing him getting ballots handed to him 20 times at 20 polling places in North Carolina without proving his identity and using the names of some of the 700,000 “inactive” voters the Voting Integrity Project says are on the rolls in the state. A Pew Center on the States study in 2012 found that one out of eight voter registrations is inaccurate, out-of-date, or a duplicate. Some 2.8 million people are registered in two or more states, and 1.8 million registered voters are dead. I see a potential film a lot more edifying than the original “Phantom Menace,” and how long will people tolerate the absurd argument that there is no justification for addressing the potential of abuse in a system wide open to abuse that determines the fate of the nation?
- Next, she justifies this totalitarian, unconstitutional measure by a variation on the “everybody does it” rationalization, the seldom used “Australia does it!” variation.
- “Compulsory voting would reduce the cost of elections.” Mind you, this one of the first of Marcus’s persuasive arguments for forcing people to vote who have no interest in doing so and will vote with the approximate acumen, forethought and research of a ground squirrel. How will it save money? “Candidates, parties and outside groups would no longer have to devote resources to turning out voters — the requirement would do it for them.” Ah. Of course, now the parties, or at least one of them, would devote more resources to trying to educate the civicly ignorant. Educating the generally ignorant would be impossible. A recent study found that among developed nations, only Italians are more casually ignorant about their nation than Americans. The study, for example, showed that Americans think that 24% of girls ages 15-19 give birth annually. The actual percentage is 3%… that 32% of the population is immigrant (it’s 13%)…that 15% of the country is Muslim (it’s 1%) and that 32% of us are unemployed and looking for work (it’s 6%). It concludes,
“If democracy depends on an informed and engaged body politic, Americans have a long way to go in terms of fulfilling their end of the social contract that underlies this American experiment.”
But if it saves money to make the ignorant vote, says Marcus, go for it!
Ilya Somin, a professor who has studied the problem of political ignorance for years and is one of the foremost experts on the topic, wrote a piece for Marcus’s paper with the opposite conclusion of Marcus, who might not have read his work, since she is absorbed in those Australian studies. He argued that ignorant citizens had an obligation to abstain, concluding,
“Political ignorance isn’t always morally reprehensible. In some cases, it isn’t even reprehensible if our knowledge falls short of the very modest standards of the average voter. But when that happens, we should at least avoid inflicting that ignorance on our fellow citizens.”
Unless, of course, it might save some money.
- Next up for Marcus is the variation on the worst of all rationalizations, #22, “Comparative Virtue, or “It isn’t the worst thing.” Actually, her version, ” It can’t get worse than it already is!” probably should be added to my description of #22. She writes,
“Some critics of compulsory voting argue that it would result in dumbed-down campaigns to appeal to an even more uninformed electorate. To which the only possible response is: Have you been watching politics recently?”
Except that it can get worse. Marcus, daintily treading the same path as Michael Moore in 2010, in which he explained the Republican wave as a plague of stupid Christains and bigots, is showing her bias here for her equally biased readers. “I mean, look at last night! How could voters be more stupid than that, am I right?”
Last night American voters proved that they were, a bit late, paying attention to the weak, incompetent, politicized, dishonest leadership in Washington, that race-baiting, gender-baiting, blame-shifting and accountability avoidance didn’t sway them from responsible voting, and that as they did in 2006 with Republicans who proved after 2000 that they couldn’t be trusted, now have reached the same conclusion regarding the Obama-era Democrats. Good for them. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. The system worked, but Marcus’s pals and cronies were put out of their jobs, and her fellow partisan journalists were foiled, for once, in their unethical efforts to be pro-Democratic operatives.
Naturally, she wants to change the system so THAT can’t happen again.
NOTE: I didn’t deal with Marcus’s final substantive argument, which is that “compulsory voting would have the salutary effect of forcing parties to appeal to all voters, not just the committed base they can motivate to get to the polls.” I can’t argue with that, because it makes absolutely no sense to me. Parties do appeal to all voters. Voters who don’t care enough to vote also don’t care enough to prepare themselves to vote—why does Marcus think a new group of unengaged voters will do anything but cause parties to seek ways of manipulating them? Is she naive, dishonest, or dumb