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Thursday, October 6, 2016
Getting the Government We Deserve
Jon N. Hall
From time to time one hears various formulations of this sometimes misattributed quote by Joseph de Maistre: "Every nation gets the government it deserves." If that's so, it is especially true in the case of democracies, because in a democracy the nation, i.e. the People, chooses the government.
In today's world, the electronic media allows all of America to watch in "real time" as O.J. Simpson and other idiots try to outrun the police. If something happens halfway around the globe, we know it immediately. Although one must actively look for opinion and analysis, with the Internet it's at our fingertips. So in today's America, we have no excuses; we really do deserve the government we get.
One fact many Americans need to get a better grasp of is: America is a republic. America is a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. Citizens don't vote on every decision before government. Indeed, citizens not part of the government make way less than 1 percent of decisions affecting government. I just made up that statistic, but it's gotta be correct. The few governmental decisions that the average citizen does make, however, are momentous. And those decisions are all about who are going to be making all the other decisions.
Imagine if the CEO of Boeing, GM, IBM, or Apple were chosen by the People in an election. It would be insane; the average voter doesn't know enough to choose the leaders of such complicated organizations. Yet, we have a system where the People get to choose the CEO of the biggest, most complex operation in the known universe: the U.S. federal government.
Our system for electing the president wouldn't be so nuts if it had a way to find the best and brightest, a way of winnowing down our choices before they're presented to the People. But we don't have that. Instead, we have a system in which anyone can self-selectthemselves. If Oprah self-selected herself to run for president, she might just get elected to be the so-called "Leader of the Free World." (Over the last few years that title really belongs to Benjamin Netanyahu.)
If "self-selectors" don't want to go through the arduous business of collecting signatures to get on the ballots in the various states to run as an independent, then they can avail themselves of the "infrastructure" of a party and run in party primaries. That's what Bernie Sanders did. But now that the DNC's computer has been hacked, we know that the fix was always in for Clinton and that Sanders never had a chance. Since an "outsider" prevailed in the Republican primaries, isn't the GOP more "democratic" than the so-called Democratic Party?
If the system we have for selecting presidential nominees for the general election is corrupt, what should we replace it with? Consider the way that Catholics get a new pope. The College of Cardinals meets in a "papal conclave" and scours the globe looking for the best man. The College doesn't ask rank-and-file Catholics what they think or want; they don't get a vote. Yet, the laity accepts the decision of the College. Serious Catholics aren't miffed that they had no say in the selection of a new pope; they accept it. If they don't like what the Holy See is up to, they can always leave the church and become Episcopalians, (like God intended).
The Catholic Church's method for finding new popes is rather like the method the parties had for getting presidential nominees fifty years ago. On Sept. 30, the Kansas City Star ran "Present-day political conventions fail our nation," a short op-ed by Michael Pandzik, a cable TV exec, that's worth reading. Mr. Pandzik suggests eliminating the role of "superdelegates," which is right on the money. But he also suggests that the parties "temper the power of the primaries," which doesn't go far enough. We need to eliminate the primaries, too. We need to let the "high priests" of the parties, i.e. the convention delegates, select our presidential nominees. And no delegate should be an elected official. (Incidentally, just so you don't get the wrong idea: I'm not a member of the Roman Catholic Church. But I do admire their method for finding new leadership.)
Politicians continually talk about what we, the People, deserve. They tell us that we deserve a minimum wage, and that we deserve a secure pension, and that we deserve a world-class education. And don't forget the free healthcare that we each so richly deserve. And anything that the other guy has, even if he's paid for it with his own money, we deserve that, too. But as the Old West badass William Munny once put it: "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."
"Deserve" is a "weasel word." It's employed by weasel politicians to stoke resentment. They invoke the term "the deserving poor." But folks don't deserve things unless they've worked for it. Otherwise we're talking charity.
Most voters seem to be unhappy with the choices they have for president this season; I share their unhappiness. Nonetheless, most of the voters are getting the nominees they deserve. The only voters who aren't getting the nominees they deserve are those who actually voted in the primaries, but for losers. That includes me; I don't deserve this.
It's now time for this cowboy to lay his cards on the table: I'll be voting a straight Republican ticket next month, which means I'll be voting for Mr. Trump. If, as president, Trump performs unsatisfactorily, a Republican Congress could impeach and remove him from office. But with Hillary, she'll finish her term, as the Democrats would never remove one of their one.
Anyone considering voting for anything other than a straight Republican ticket needs to read "Hillary Is an Embodiment of the Left's Disdain for Democracy" by Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru; it ran Sept. 26 at National Review. Levin and Ponnuru delve into three main areas where America is losing her moorings: executive unilateralism, the administrative state, and judicial activism. Their excellent article is a must-read condensed history of the last eight years. The blurb is: "She offers more of the same -- and that's the scariest thing of all."
A vote for Hillary is a vote for the system. Everything that touches the Clintons gets sullied, dragged down into the mud, even the F.B.I. Voting for Hillary is voting for a two-tiered justice system, for a ruling class, for the further institutionalization of corruption. Is that the America your kids deserve?