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Amid all the backlash against Georgia's new voter-suppression law (which will be followed soon enough by a lot of other states' voter-suppression laws), the National Review 's Kevin Williamson asks an important question: Do we really need all the voters we already have, anyway? Might not America be better governed if fewer people voted, instead of more? And he makes a compelling point: Haven't most of the problems in American government been caused by those whom the people went and elected? We should note he asks this in a publication that also wants to "set the record straight" on Georgia's "voter access law," so perhaps Williamson needs to persuade his editors to stop suggesting voters need any such thing.
This is apparently a really bold argument that we are to take seriously, from Williamson, who was pretty sure women would find Mitt Romney irresistible in 2012, because of his wealth and demonstrated virility (many strong sons and grandsons, compared to Obama's siring of mere daughters, why, yes, that was his actual argument). Williamson has been a veritable font of provocative thinking, like that time when he suggested women who have abortions be executed like any other murderers, or more recently, when he thanked Ted Cruz for going to Cancun and thereby literally saving lives .
We'll give Williamson this much credit, and no more: He at least uses "begs the question" correctly, claiming that too much of the current discussion of voting laws
begs the question and simply asserts that having more people vote is, ceteris paribus , a good thing.
Why should we believe that?
Why shouldn't we believe the opposite? That the republic would be better served by having fewer — but better — voters?
For instance, wouldn't denying the franchise to people who don't know the odd Latin phrase, or who misuse "begs the question," mean we'd have a smarter electorate that would avoid making bad choices? Williamson acknowledges that the very question sounds like anathema in America, but then explains that we already deny the vote to children and to felons, who are pretty much the same thing, and while he's at it casually says former convicts should only be re-enfranchised on a case-by-case basis anyway.
Similarly, he asks, what's the big deal about asking for photo ID to vote, even if it disenfranchises some people who might otherwise be eligible to vote. Anyone too lazy to keep a driver's license is clearly not really pulling their weight anyway:
So, what? We expect people, including poor and struggling people, to pay their taxes — why shouldn't we also expect them to keep their drivers' licenses up-to-date? If voting really is the sacred duty that we're always being told it is, shouldn't we treat it at least as seriously as filing a 1040EZ?
And if that tends to exclude categories of voters, like 101-year old ladies who stopped driving decades ago, and voted in every election since women were allowed to, well that's too bad, don't you see? Sure, maybe a dozen or a few hundred thousand people may lose their votes, but it's far more important to make sure that a practically nonexistent category of voter fraud is even less likely to happen.
After all, says Williamson with a straight face, we expect people like surgeons to be qualified, so why don't we also require voters know what they're doing?
There would be more voters if we made it easier to vote, and there would be more doctors if we didn't require a license to practice medicine. The fact that we believe unqualified doctors to be a public menace but act as though unqualified voters were just stars in the splendid constellation of democracy indicates how little real esteem we actually have for the vote, in spite of our public pieties.
Yes, how true this bizarre, illogical comparison is. Also, why do we allow people to drive on a parkway and park in a driveway?
Inevitably, Williamson gets around to pointing out that the average American is actually not very smart — of only average intelligence, even! — and should we really trust just anyone to elect our leaders? Why yes, it's that very contempt for everyday Americans that liberal elitists are supposedly guilty of:
One argument for encouraging bigger turnout is that if more eligible voters go to the polls then the outcome will more closely reflect what the average American voter wants. That sounds like a wonderful thing . . . if you haven't met the average American voter.
Voters — individually and in majorities — are as apt to be wrong about things as right about them, often vote from low motives such as bigotry and spite, and very often are contentedly ignorant.
Thank goodness, Williamson reminds us, the Founders built into our Constitution curbs on the foolishness of the majority, and thank goodness freedom of speech and religion aren't subject to the vagaries of the voting mob! Indeed, he imagines, just think what might have happened if everything were up to a vote, because "If we'd had a fair and open national plebiscite about slavery on December 6, 1865, slavery would have won in a landslide." (That would be the date of the adoption of the 13th Amendment, you see.)
Or maybe, if all people had been enfranchised and treated as full citizens from the start, slavery might have ended on or shortly after June 21, 1788, huh? At the very least, a Civil War seems a tad less likely 70 years after that.
And so he blathers on, piling up one bad faith argument after another to suggest both that voting is fairly pointless and that it's too important to be left to just anyone, which is why Future Generations Will Be Burdened With Our Debt (which is bullshit economics, but that's what happens when you let just any fool have access to free speech). Ultimately, Williamson explains, voting is just a pretty bad idea because "the fact is that voters got us into this mess."
So if we just get rid of them, or at least make sure only the right people can vote, everything will work out fine, especially because there's no chance at all that Kevin Williamson or any one he thinks matters would conceivably be among those culled from the voter rolls.
We guess that, if nothing else, this anti-voting screed is at least consistent with the National Review's recent weird fluffing for the British monarchy.
[ National Review ]
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