Cheer down, Democrats, says David Newquist in another pessimistic but read-worthy essay on the decline of Democrats and democracy in South Dakota and nationwide. Dr. Newquist says the unhealthy results of our elections suggest we need to find an alternative to choosing our leaders by the vote of an irrational majority:
Increasing numbers of voters are repulsed by the entire political enterprise as it has been conducted of late, and the Democrats have contributed to the growing perception that democracy as it is practiced is not working. People who do politics are perceived as not very nice people–ignorant, irrational, biased, and mean.
There are alternatives to Democrats and Republicans, and informed people are exploring them. Brennan suggests “epistocracy” which means governing by the knowledgeable. American democracy has lost the belief and trust it once had. The election of Trump has proven that Americans are as susceptible to moral and intellectual failure as the Germans of the 1930s. American democracy, as we have come to understand it, is going out of business [David Newquist, “Why You May Not Have Noticed That America Ended,” Northern Valley Beacon, 2017.11.09].
Epistocracy, philosopher kings… I would love to be governed by the best and brightest, as we were just a year ago by the Obama Administration. But how do we establish a fair system in which only knowledgeable people vote and govern? What objective standards could we use to say to any citizen, You’re not smart enough to vote or run for office?
I have difficulty coming up with any such objective standard to exclude citizens from government. Smart people can govern well, but they can also come up with smarter corruption scams. Purportedly intelligent graduates of good universities can govern chaotically and selfishly. I know darn well some people are too stupid to pick a President, a governor, or a mayor, let alone be one, but I dread trying to write that personal assessment into law, or opening the door for other ill-intentioned lawmakers to write their intelligence standards into law in ways that would unfairly discriminate against immigrants, poor people, Indians, senior citizens, people with disabilities, manual laborers, people who work the night shift, or other groups whom certain political interests might want to ban from voting and serving in government.
I can’t take away the voting rights of 63,000,000 Americans just because I think their votes for Donald Trump prove they lack the intellect necessary to run a democracy. The results of the 2016 election may call into question the reliability of democracy to produce good government, but what practical and moral alternative do we have?
Unless someone can provide me with a fair literacy test, education standard, or other rule that would reliably identify intelligent, reliable decision-makers without allowing unjust discrimination, I have to hold to democracy as the only just political system. We are all sinners; we are all prone to error. But what little dignity we fallible humans may have, each of us has equally. Each of us deserves an equal say in our fate. Even if the fate to which that equality leads us undoes us all, we cannot surrender our equal say or take that equal say away from our moral equals.