Fearing the Masses
There's a new sentiment in the air, if the people who ask questions at my speaking events are any guide. I love these events, even though I am probably better at staying home and writing. I argue with people more than encouraging them, I'm afraid. Not most people. Just certain types of questioners.
It used to be 9-11 theorists. Then it was doomsayers wallowing in their post-Obama hope overdose. Now it's people who are afraid of majority rule and want to avoid it. At a recent book-tour stop there were three examples. First, one gentleman wanted to impose testing and allow only the smartest 10 percent of Americans to vote. The basis for this was his claim that "most people just don't have the sense that god gave a cat."
Second, a professor told me that if we didn't impose checks on majority rule the teabaggers would take over the United States just as the Nazis did Germany.
Third, a student who was well informed and engaged in Democratic Party politics thought we should avoid criticizing the president, hold no primaries against Democratic incumbents, not challenge or criticize Democratic incumbents near an election, and discipline everyone to speak the same language on the same very limited range of topics.
What these thoughts have in common is that they would place more power in a smaller number of hands. The 10 percent who scored highest on the voting tests would come disproportionately from those who had been given the most expensive educations or purchased the most expensive cheat sheets. Their interests would not reflect well those of the other 90 percent. If anything, presented with the same two atrocious candidates that the broader public is now presented with in each contest, the talented tenth would probably vote for the worse one more often, not less.
The teabaggers will never ever be a majority. No activist group has ever been a majority. The one thing you can always count on the majority to do is . . . not a damn thing. The rights of individuals are being eroded in this country against the will of the majority, but with the support of an elite minority. Of course, we need to prevent a slide into fascism. The question is: how?
Going by public opinion polling, I would take the will of the majority over the will of our current government any day on just about any topic. But how do we get more people who hold enlightened views to get off their butts and do anything? I don't think we can do so by focusing on disenfranchising people, blocking majority rule, keeping the filibuster in place, or shielding elected officials from election challenges. I think we need to get more people more information, more education, and more useful ways to get active.
Jon Stewart's contempt for people who hold up posters, whether for peace or war, justice or racism simply empowers the minority that funds and promotes the wars and the racism. Elites are no more benevolent than anyone else and are maintained by destroying the inheritance tax, not by giving birth to smart babies.
We've gerrymandered most of the congressional districts so that the real election is the primary. Eliminating the primary means almost granting a life-time appointment. That lack of accountability is unlikely to even remotely simulate a government of, by, or for the people.
Creating two civil classes of citizens, discouraging participation in power, walling off rulers from accountability to the people: these ought not to be the ideas that come drifting into the minds of people in a country that screams "democracy" when it runs out of other excuses for bombing some foreign land. The teabaggers were created by Fox News. If progressives respond by smothering participation by ordinary people in our government, the winner will be Fox News.
Once we lose the idea that the people, all of the people, are the sovereigns, we can justify misleading people for their own good. They are not our equals. We don't have to respect them as such. We'll nudge them to where they really ought to be. We'll embrace the "noble lie," just like the Neocons.
How's that working out?
David Swanson is the author of "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union".