The Case For Oligarchy

One of the many reasons Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 was the common perception that the DNC had stacked the deck, fixing the primaries against Bernie Sanders so she could win them.  Sanders wouldn’t have won anyway, but nobody seems to care; people focus on the wrongdoing.

Which is another thing; there’s nothing unethical or illegal about having SuperDelegates.  It’s ironic that the party that labels themselves “Democrats” uses an oligarchic system to choose their candidate; it’s even hypocritical.  But there’s nothing illegal about it.

Personally, I happen to approve of that system.  It was designed to protect the party and the country against demagoguery; it’s a failsafe mechanism.  Consider that the Republicans also have SuperDelegates, and that due to a rule change made in 2012 (after Ron Paul’s insurgency was nearly successful), they were unable to come together to defeat Trump in 2016.  Think about that for a second:  Trump might have actually lost at the convention if the party machine hadn’t been handicapped.

Here’s the thing:  Dozens of studies have demonstrated that American voters are woefully ignorant.  The most powerful description of this I’ve seen is from the 2018 report by the Woodrow Wilson institute that only one in three citizens could pass a citizenship exam.  You only need to score a 60 on the test, and 64% of Americans can’t even manage that.

“Only 13 percent of those surveyed knew when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, even on a multiple-choice exam similar to the citizenship exam, with most incorrectly thinking it occurred in 1776. More than half of respondents (60 percent) didn’t know which countries the United States fought in World War II. And despite the recent media spotlight on the U.S. Supreme Court, 57 percent of those surveyed did not know how many Justices actually serve on the nation’s highest court.”

But here’s my favorite bit:  “…While most knew the cause of the Cold War, 2 percent said climate change.”

There is no magical virtue intrinsic in the opinion of the majority, particularly when the majority are idiots.  Majority votes elect new representatives to the House every two years; most Americans don’t know which party their representative belongs to, much less their name.  Three in four Millennials can’t name even one of their Senators.  Congress is perhaps the most despised public body in the land, widely considered less trustworthy than any group except used car salesmen — and yet, somehow, we think term limits are the solution, and everything will get better if we can eliminate the Electoral College.

We’re mis-defining the problem.  It isn’t that politicians are corrupt; it’s that voters are ignorant.  Years ago, the joke was that there was a problem with high rates of ignorance and apathy in the country; the punch line: “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”  Today, everyone seems to care — but not enough to learn anything.

The obvious conclusion seems to be that we should institute mandatory citizenship tests in order to keep the uneducated from voting.  I mistrust the obvious; complex problems rarely have simple solutions.  In this case we can easily learn from our recent history that poll tests were used to suppress entire segments of the population, a tool of racism.  I’m mentioning this explicitly because, given the poll results I’ve been citing, there’s a fair chance you’re not aware of this.

Instead, I’m going to suggest something completely different:  If you don’t know anything about who or what you’re voting for, don’t vote.  Don’t support programs that only encourage voter participation; instead, support voter education.  The League of Women Voters has an excellent, highly reliable guide they put out every election cycle in virtually every district; read it — and then advertise it.  As each November approaches, Share this link:

You’re reading this article.  That speaks well of you; it shows you’re willing to learn.  Fair enough; that’s a good start.  So, now, do something about it:  Make yourself one of the intellectual elite, the one in three Americans that can actually pass the citizenship exam.  Become a member of the oligarchy — of knowledge.

Voting is a right.  It’s also a privilege.  Be worthy of it.

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