Salvaging democracy

Dear Hannah,

Democracy is just like anything else that's good in life, and that means it has to be moderated.  To this a lot of Americans respond that we don't live in a democracy, we live in a democratic-republic, and I think saying anything this obvious and unhelpful should disqualify them for the vote.

In fact there are too many people voting to keep this republic afloat; too many voters who don't know the difference between a federal and a national system of government; too many who can't tell the difference between the judicial system and the legislature; who honestly believe that policing policemen is the business of the president; who believe that if we don't have a transgender Siskiyou in office that neither transgenders nor Siskiyous are being represented in office; who insist the Bill of Rights was intended to be taken literally, that our civil rights began with the Civil Rights Movement, and that pure chaos wouldn't result from a right to practice any religion in entirety.  A simple IQ bar of 80 would eliminate half of these dunces*, probably a fourth of Americans in general; and a subsequent civics test would eliminate the other half -- which would exclude another fourth.

There's an idea that the more of us vote the better, but this idea that people who are too dumb to understand anything other than physical pain or starvation should be directing the nation is so absurd on its face that only recently has the majority even believed it.   We know the Founding Fathers didn't; and as such I would add to this list of excludables people who don't pay any federal income taxes or own property worth more than $50,000 -- in other words people who don't actually give to the country, and people who aren't productive enough yet to actually own any of the country.  No stake, no payout.  All soldiers serving honorably would immediately get suffrage.

Rejects could of course vote in their own particular states if the states were dumb enough to let them, but the rest of us would be free of the other coast's respectable citizens who think Obama is going to pay for new phones and end black-on-black crime in Chicago, and the trade-union hillbillies who believe we shouldn't be allowed to buy cars from Korea and that the constitution was based on the Bible.   The payouts would be extraordinary.  The actual citizen of the United States of America would converse like a free citizen; the vote would be cherished like all cherished things (in other words because of its rarity); and the underclasses and idiots, pandered to by the media and dragging the national dialogue down to pre-pubescent squabbles and Black Friday fistfights, would go back to watching their porn and arguing about basketball stats and inventing new handshakes to give one another.

There's only one thing standing in the way: how would we go about doing this?  How could you convince more than a third of the American public that they don't know anything about government, and that this genuine ignorance, the kind that doesn't only not know or not want to know, but that believes it already knows as much as it needs to know, to throw away their so-called "unalienable rights"** -- the origins of which they can't explain, supposedly from the God who refuses to speak?

The answer is simple.  Insist, with every ounce of passion you can possibly muster, that people who've never studied the US Constitution are incapable of understanding the government; and that as you would never go to a doctor who'd never gone to medical school, and you'd never go to a mechanic who'd never spent time under a car's hood, you would never want a master completely ignorant of political science.  We require everyone to pass a test before they're allowed to drive a car, and in some places you don't even have to show an ID to drive the country.  You can't even have sex with most strangers until you're 18, but the second you turn 18 you can screw over the nation.

Contrary to the brilliant and offensive suggestions I'd given above, all Americans could apply for this higher level of citizenship.  All of them could take a standardized test, written in plain language, about The Federalist, The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, and in a dream world maybe even Second Treatise of Government.  It wouldn't even be written, but multiple choice; taken every four years, with a $40 fee and courses online and testing in every county.  You can retake it if you fail it, and the second time you take it the fees are cut in half.

The argument against it, of course, will be that everyone, completely regardless of his stupidity or ignorance, should be allowed to literally direct the future of this country.  In this case we'll do the unthinkable.  We'll take them at their word, threaten to open the vote to our three-year-olds, and say that babies should be viable candidates for the presidency.

Your father,

PS:  One other reform I'd make has to do with the election of senators.  Back when the average American citizen was more intelligent they agreed that the average American citizen was a nincompoop**; and out of this realization came the idea that if the eligible members of the body were to elect their representatives, representatives who were theoretically better informed than the eligible citizens themselves, that these representatives ought to compile their knowledge of men and the mechanics of government and pick their own representatives -- in this case meaning the US Senate, supposedly the cream of the crop.

This system worked well until some genius, completely averse to the idea that the people we elected to government, and who thus had experience in government, knew more about government than the people who elected them, decided to scrap it and had the public vote directly for our senators.  The results couldn't be more obvious.  Instead of having a body of men trusted by the lawmakers we trusted, we have a body of men who are trusted by the rabble; a body as disreputable, demagogical, ignorant and bumbling as any embarrassing city council; certainly no better than our House of Representatives, and only underperformed by the President-you'd-like-to-have-a-beer-with.  Which leads me to a point about the president.

My position on the presidency is that Americans have no idea what the president is for, which is why we keep ending up with  terrible presidents. He's not there to attend all the funerals of your favorite victims, or to chastise football players from the bully pulpit, or to express his disapproval of whatever his constituents currently hate on twitter. That's our job if we take it. He's not there to decide whether we should patrol the border, or whether we should fund Obamacare. We have a border and he has to patrol it. We made Obamacare and he has to fund it. We elected people to the federal legislature, they made the federal laws for us, and his job is to make sure our federal laws are executed. That's it. Anything less than this is traitorous. Anything too much more than this is tyrannical.

The president is supposed to be a kind of glorified errand boy and Americans are trying to make him a hero, or a saint, or what's worse than both of these, the distillation and hallmark of what it means to be American.  We've lost the idea that we can personally be glorious, and so we spend our time looking for someone to be glorious for us in proxy.  It isn't working.

Since I've been alive two and maybe three of our presidents have technically been draft dodgers, one of them was a frat boy known more for his connections and pranks than his prowess, and one of them was so effeminate he thought our male soldiers ought to be able to dress up as women, and, if this wasn't ridiculous enough, that our women ought to be leading our battle charges.  There is almost nothing less soldierly than the glorified civilian in charge of our soldiers, and the reason we leave him in charge has less to do with any military competence on his part, and more to do with the fact that if he wasn't in charge of our generals, one of our generals -- generally men of confidence and charisma and actual talent, could potentially stage a coup after seeing the bumbling, incompetent ass we've elected for our president.  This is the idea that our Founding Fathers had, they got it from the English ancestors they worshiped, and we have forgotten it because we worship ourselves.

*America is the only country in the world dumb enough to say Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, put said wretched refuse on welfare, and then be shocked to find that our educational system is lagging and our politics are a circus and the world thinks of us as yokels.

Of course the idea that any immigration system is going to bring in the best and the brightest is pure hogwash.  The people who are doing well in any country, the successful doctors, lawyers, scientists, academics, and professional soldiers, are likely to remain put because they have too much invested wherever they are.  As such you're likely to get the people who are too poor and unexceptional to be happy and just rich enough to take off.  The best chance of getting the best men is in a refugee crisis.  It's also the best chance of getting the worst.

 **There's an idea gaining popularity right now that voter registration ought to be automatic -- in other words that the people who either couldn't figure out how to register themselves or who didn't have the initiative to register themselves can be trusted and ought to be trusted with directing our destiny.  That anyone could believe this a solution to the current problem of politics shows that looting is on the agenda -- the only principle our subhuman underclasses are capable of understanding.

***One of the signs of an active and honest mind is self-doubt; also an abundant and sometimes excessive use of italics.

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  1. Many good points to consider. I have discussed with my children and they responded in horror at the thought of anyone restricting their franchise (or actually the franchise of the tired and weary masses).

    I tend to believe that we must have relationship or at least know someone who knows someone who is in charge. That said, the size of actual government would be about the size of a small county. No larger will work. It is a tremendous stabilizer to know here your leaders live and to go visit if necessary.


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