« The Ties That Bind | Main | If Not For Bush... »

Democracy, Wow!

Will Wilkinson, continuing his contrarian scolding of Democratic love of democratic principles, asks "Could it be that the sort of person likely to be "intimidated" out of voting isn't in general the sort of person who you want to be voting?" Rather than take the political theory bait here, I'll just cop to hypocrisy. The people who I want voting are the people who will vote for John Kerry. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Democracy has an instrumental value and there's no fact of the matter about what really is and is not a legitimate leadership-selection process. If I thought Kerry would be a terrible president and that Bush was a good one, I'd be applauding efforts to intimidate likely Kerry voters. But Kerry will be a good president and Bush will be a terrible one, so I condemn such efforts insteads.

Where a question of principle does enter into play, I think, is that there are several Republican operatives who have clearly violated the law already who are not being investigated or prosecuted by state governments whose machinery is in GOP hands.

October 26, 2004 | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8345160fd69e200d834219cd353ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Democracy, Wow!:

» One Honest Democrat from The Fly Bottle
Thank God for Matthew Yglesias, sage of 10th St., for his frank admission that what really matters is a John Kerry victory, procedural legitimacy be damned! Rather than take the political theory bait here, I'll just cop to hypocrisy. The... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 26, 2004 4:11:44 PM

» Democracy--Instrumentality or Inherently Worthwhile from Sebastian Holsclaw
Matthew Yglesias says something pretty frightening while mentioning a concept well worth dicsussing: The people who I want voting are the people who will vote for John Kerry. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Democracy has an instrumental valu... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 27, 2004 2:58:37 AM

» Let me add .... from Obsidian Wings
... that Gentle Sebastian* is far too kind to Matthew Yglesias. You don't want to see the end-driven world that Matt seems to prefer (ruled by Godwin's law in the end, it turns out). The means matter -- and more [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 27, 2004 10:56:37 AM

» Let me add .... from Obsidian Wings
... that Gentle Sebastian* is far too kind to Matthew Yglesias. You don't want to see the end-driven world that Matt seems to prefer (ruled by Godwin's law in at bottom, it turns out). The means matter -- and more [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 27, 2004 12:28:54 PM

» Agency from The Stone City
Implicit in this question is the view that voting is an act of judgement -- in which the morally deficient cannot meaningfully participate. It is both a right and a duty. On the other hand, those who support enlarging the pool of voters through sa... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 22, 2005 9:28:40 AM

Comments

are you serious?

Posted by: brian | Oct 26, 2004 2:54:34 PM

A similar logical delusion was employed in 2000: "if people can't be bothered to vote correctly then their vote shouldn't count". The problem then was that voting technologies weren't uniform ... Republicans on the whole enjoyed better technologies that made it easier to vote correctly.

The problem now is that the intimidation is not uniform. But hey, maybe we can even things up by implementing a program to challenge all voters at polling sites in wealthy precincts, just to create the same sort of long voting lines that are typical in poor precincts. Wealthy people aren't as likely as poor people to be intimidated by authority figures, but they are much more likely to skip voting if the lines are long.

Posted by: Observer | Oct 26, 2004 3:00:09 PM

"If I thought Kerry would be a terrible president and that Bush was a good one, I'd be applauding efforts to intimidate likely Kerry voters."
yeah, do you seriously mean that? I very much want to see Bush gone, but no way would I regard intimidation of likely Bush voters as cool, on any level. You don't think a question of principle enters into play there?! WTF?

Posted by: jmb | Oct 26, 2004 3:02:08 PM

... looking at it again, I can only conclude that there is supposed to be some sort of subtle irony going on here. I don't think that always, or even often, reads clearly in print, frankly. Maybe it's a generational thing.

Posted by: jmb | Oct 26, 2004 3:04:08 PM

For some reason, I'm guessing there's going to be an "UPDATE:" to this post.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Oct 26, 2004 3:05:59 PM

I expect he's serious. "By any means necessary", and all that utilitarian pap. Some Democrats simply believe that what lends legitimacy to the outcome of elections is who wins, not how they won.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Oct 26, 2004 3:06:24 PM

Yeah sure, MY is in favor of voter intimidation, get a grip.

Posted by: novakant | Oct 26, 2004 3:12:07 PM

However truthful he may have been, I doubt he seriously meant to say it publicly. For the record, I do not approve of the intimidation of Bush voters or any other methods of disenfranchisement. Except perhaps encouraging the secession of the Dixie States.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 26, 2004 3:13:10 PM

'Could it be that the sort of person likely to be "intimidated" out of voting isn't in general the sort of person who you want to be voting?'

It depends on who you are. If, for example, you're a white supremacist, then the answer is 'yes'.

Posted by: Michael Otsuka | Oct 26, 2004 3:16:26 PM

And, if this isn't redundant, if you're someone who's praised The Bell Curve without much awareness of well-grounded objections.

Posted by: Matt Weiner | Oct 26, 2004 3:24:26 PM

The fact that the Bushies have 48% approval rating and are positioned to receive close to 50% of the popular vote indicates that the democratic system in the US is hopelessly flawed.

It's not working.

This is a very significant result that concludes the 200+ year-long experiment.

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 26, 2004 3:27:50 PM

well, this is getting a little more interesting:

Mr Bellmore says: "I expect he's serious. "By any means necessary", and all that utilitarian pap. Some Democrats simply believe that what lends legitimacy to the outcome of elections is who wins, not how they won."

In the light of the 2000 elections, I can't read that statement without a strong sense of irony. But somehow (how?) I doubt that that is the "author's intention." This is starting to head in the direction of a discussion of Wittgenstein and Derrida. But let's not go there.

Posted by: jmb | Oct 26, 2004 3:32:08 PM

Matt Weiner, Hi there! I don't believe I did praise The Bell Curve, did I. I suggested that the hysterical reaction to it pointed up a pathology of the left, a point I stand by. And I want the left to do better, so it's tough love. And I am very well aware of the objections to TBC, as is Murray, who responded, as usual, intelligently and constructively.

My worry was that increases in voter participation do not increase the quality of democratic procedures. A smaller pool of more competent, or, as is the vogue "deliberative," voters is likely better, and it is quite possible that those likely to be intimidated are less deliberative than average. So, yes, Otsuka, very much the sentiment of a white supremecist.

And congrats to Yglesias, by the way, for frankly admitting that he'd be all for scaring away black people if they were likely to vote for Bush, rather than smarmily posing as defender of oppressed peoples everywhere.

And I'm hoping Kerry wins, by the way, although I'll be voting, with a wince, for the libertarian.

Matt Y knows better (not taking the bait and all), but it really doesn't take much to get you guys jerking from the knee, does it?

Posted by: Will Wilkinson | Oct 26, 2004 3:41:19 PM

"If I thought Kerry would be a terrible president and that Bush was a good one, I'd be applauding efforts to intimidate likely Kerry voters."

Wow. No comment.

Posted by: Modern Crusader | Oct 26, 2004 3:44:39 PM

So Will, do you think it was a mistake to abolish literacy & property requirements for the franchise? Do you think, given that African-Americans' are likely to be less educated than whites, that measures to eliminate barriers to A-A voting in the South 9and elsewhere) were misguided?

More generally, let's agree that, all else equal, democracy works better with a better-informed electorate. Now, does that mean that democracy is always improved by measures that disfranchise voters who are less informed than the average? Or are there countervailing reasons to prefer a broader franchise?

(Semi-rhetorical questions -- I know my answers but am genuinely curious to hear yours.)

Posted by: lemuel pitkin | Oct 26, 2004 3:48:43 PM

I must add my voice to those who hope you are being ironic here, Matt.

Posted by: cdunc | Oct 26, 2004 3:58:05 PM

This discussion is caught on the horns of "a more perfect union" and "to secure the blessings of liberty." The Constitution wants to make democracy work better but it also (at least, now it does) wants to preserve individual rights, one of the fundamentals of which is the right to vote. To be mechanistic about it, if intimidation putatively makes democracy work better at the cost of the intimidated individuals' fundamental rights, intimidation loses.

Posted by: Handle | Oct 26, 2004 3:59:29 PM

I'd like to see Will's answers to Lemuel Pitkin's questions, too ... I had similar questions but Mr Pitkin has put them more concisely than I'd have done.
I do have one to add: Will, if your instincts are at all libertarian (I don't know if they are or not, but you say you're voting that way), by what mechanism do you envision carrying out the suppression or discouragement of voting by those who don't meet your standard of "deliberativeness"? And who decides who passes that test?

Posted by: jmb | Oct 26, 2004 4:03:59 PM

Well, I certainly don't applaud efforts to actively discourage even wingnuts from voting. One of the most teeth-grinding frustrations of being on the liberal side of the fence is that you have to support the civil rights of people whose opinions you detest-- even those "informed" by Fox News-- because the principle trumps the potential practical benefits. Obviously the GOP has no principles that can't be trumped by the hope of political advantage, but that's why we're better than they are.

Now, if they all decided to stay home next week, I'm certainly okay with that.

Posted by: latts | Oct 26, 2004 4:04:10 PM

I hope you're joking.

Posted by: praktike | Oct 26, 2004 4:05:10 PM

Yes, Will, us liberals and our "knee-jerk" defense of voting rights. Oh, to be the hip contrarian like you and Matt!

Matt: yes, democracy has only instrumental value. But it has that value only if we behave as though it had absolute value. If everyone goes about behaving as though it has only instrumental value -- cheating when it suits them, etc. -- then it will lose even that instrumental value.

This should be obvious to you, and I assume you're only trying to one-up Will on the contrarian-o-meter. That game, I would suggest to you, is fucking stupid.

Posted by: Realish | Oct 26, 2004 4:06:51 PM

Is there any reason to equate or even relate ease of intimidation with deliberation? I do not think so. Someone who is adamant about casting their vote might be a simpleton whipped into an irrational hatred or fear of the opposition candidate. The thoughtful voter, on the other hand, easily rationalizes that his vote is meaningless (and he is almost always right).

Most likely, ease of intimidation positively correlates to a lack of societal protections - a lack of mutual trust with the police, a lack of interest by the press, and a lack of wealth denying access to courts. The people most reliant on the democratic process to redress their grievances are the people most vulnerable to intimidation.

Posted by: Njorl | Oct 26, 2004 4:07:50 PM

Njorl, Good show! You've addressed the argument, and you're probably right!

Posted by: Will Wilkinson | Oct 26, 2004 4:16:00 PM

"The fact that the Bushies have 48% approval rating and are positioned to receive close to 50% of the popular vote indicates that the democratic system in the US is hopelessly flawed."

This is a flaw in your understanding of statistics. It is quite possible that someone could disapprove of Bush in the abstract while voting for him because he believed that Kerry was worse.

In fact that might be an ok description of me right now.

"If I thought Kerry would be a terrible president and that Bush was a good one, I'd be applauding efforts to intimidate likely Kerry voters. But Kerry will be a good president and Bush will be a terrible one, so I condemn such efforts insteads."

Wow. This is a pair of sentences that could only come from someone who has difficulty conceiving of the possibility that he could be wrong.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Oct 26, 2004 4:24:24 PM

I'm not sure I really understand why more deliberative/educated/informed voters would necessarily produce better Democracy or results. That seems to me like a conceit of folks who consider themselves deliberative/educated and are inordinately proud of the fact.

Part of the point of representative democracy, I thought, was that average people shouldn't have to think about the myriad arcana related to politics, policy and how the country functions, because they're too busy living real lives. So we elect officials we believe best reflect our overall values and trust them (and their staffs) to do the detail work and make those decisions. If we're not happy, then we remove them. I don't understand why that would require deliberativeness or education, though I suppose it would be useful for folks to actually know what their elected officials had done or supported, which we're clearly seeing now the majority of Bush supporters don't.

It seems to me the problem now is that for this system to work without requiring inordinate effort on the part of voters, there need to be some good heuristics voters can use to decide whether or not a candidate is likely to share their values. That's one of the points of political parties (stamp the rooster!), but as voters have become disenchanted with them and Americans overall more independent and less willing to buy into organizations, parties are losing that role for a lot of folks. And as the country becomes more diverse and we become more tolerant and individualized, other heuristics like race, religion, region, ethnicity are also less effective. So folks are left with meaningless or even misleading indicators like which candidate talks more like them, or who they'd rather have a beer with. We need more good, effective, indicators people can really believe in, but all the candidates' incentives are to muddy the indicators.

Oh, btw, I also agree with NJorl on not seeing connection between ease of intimidation and deliberativeness. I mean, if people need to deliberate about an issue, they're probably less committed/driven about it, moreover, those who value deliberativeness so much may be puny weaklings and more easily intimidated as a result.

Posted by: flip | Oct 26, 2004 4:28:06 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.