Every other vote counts
October 31, 2006
I am at least as patriotic as the next disenfranchised independent voter, but I am not so enchanted by our system of government as to believe it is perfect. There is one glaring flaw in democracy that we all know of, yet forget about more often than campaign promises.I judge it best not to beat around the literary bush here lest it be budding with subtlety, metaphors, irony, or other tricky devices of prose that might cause you miss the point hidden on the thorny branches beneath. No sir, I’m going to lay it out as plainly as possible for all to see, digest, and hash through.Here is the problem: The general voting populace is, in the kindest words I can muster, not above average in intelligence.The ramification is obvious, or at least to half of the population it is anyway. Because our political decision-making process is predicated on the mental capacity of the average citizen, we cannot possibly expect anything but mediocrity in the governance we choose.Some will undoubtedly have a hard time with this concept, but it is perfectly true. One need look no further than the political ads that are running continuously these days on our television screens, through the radio waves, and across the pages of the newspapers we read. Believe it or not, these advertisements are not designed to inform doctoral candidates in political science at Georgetown University about the issues at stake. They are designed to sway the quasi-logical thinking of the guy wearing the cool sunglasses in the beige Volvo with a faded “Honk if You’re Horny” sticker on the bumper, who has been cruising in the fast lane for the past 18 miles with his left-turn signal on.I have been encouraged by the thought that perhaps someday enlightened people in the United States will be able to overcome this blemish in our system through self-regulation. I thought it could be accomplished without passing new laws or changing voting regulations. I reasoned that if one brave person stood up and spelled it out for us, it would be suddenly obvious that we could have a better government if only people possessing above average intelligence would vote.Voluntarily, people on the thicker side of the bell curve would simply stay away from the booths on election day. Voting would be a civic duty for the intellectually gifted only. The rest of us would find patriotic achievement by spending the better part of election day on the golf courses, in shopping malls, or really anywhere but at the polling places.After a period of excitement, however, my hopes were dashed as the mind churned up a stone amongst the fertile gray matter from which this idea germinated. If you asked a hundred people if they thought it was a good idea to limit decision-making to those most cerebrally up to the task, I venture that most would say “yes.” If you asked those same people who should vote, however, the answer would invariably be, “scientists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, and I.” The hard truth is that scant few of us believe that we are of below average smarts. It’s the boundless vanity of humanity that cripples our progress toward better government and good driving.Go ahead; admit it to yourself as you read: You believe that you are smarter than the average person. Don’t worry, nobody can read your mind and only a few can read lips, so your thoughts are probably safe. Besides, people don’t really care; they’re too busy reassuring themselves that they are smarter than you anyway.Show me a person who believes that he isn’t too bright and I’ll show you the person who is going to find a cure for cancer, or figure out a way to sustain life on Mars. These people feel stupid because they are working on far-reaching problems where one small answer opens the door for five more questions bigger than the first. It leaves them feeling perpetually flummoxed. The rest of us, who don’t have a clue about such important things, live life in unconcerned bliss and busy ourselves speculating in real estate.Another reason we can’t self-regulate and leave voting to those with high S.A.T. scores is that we of average intelligence have put into power the very people whose lock on “success” is due to the fatal flaw we would hope to correct. Have you ever heard of a politician to stand up before an election and urge the less gifted thinkers of our country not to cast their ballots? No way! All politicians hope for huge voter turnout. The old axiom is true: The candidate who wins elections is the candidate whose message reaches the most pairs of receptive ears with nothing between them.Lastly, in all of our run-of-the-mill wisdom we have concocted a two-party political system that ensures reformation will never transpire. It is every Democrat’s duty to come to the considered conclusion that they are, without a doubt, smarter than any Republican that ever lived. Likewise, it is Rush Limbaugh’s duty to prove to all Republicans that they are, without a doubt, more intelligent than any Democrat that ever lived. We have a situation where both parties firmly believe that the most intelligent half of the population resides under the roof of their own affiliation!I know that just in the nick of time our founding fathers decided that a true democracy was not appropriate for us. We have a representative democracy where our elected officials are left to make decisions without consulting with the electorate, which only slightly increases the chances that reason will prevail in government.There is at least one thing that we can be grateful for in our remarkable history, though. Whatever has resulted from the political system the crafters of the Constitution came up with, at least they were smart enough not to consult with an average citizen like me.Roger Marolt hopes to see each and every one of you at the polls on Tuesday. Register your comments at email@example.com.
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