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AN “INFORMED” ELECTORATE?
by Paul R. Hollrah, ©2014
(Jul. 25, 2014) — In a recent broadcast of Fox News’ newly-launched panel show, Outnumbered, the five panelists discussed recent opinion polls measuring congressional job approval. And although the four female panelists… Sandra Smith, Harris Faulkner, Kirsten Powers, and Kimberly Guilfoyle… are not only much easier to look at than the dowdy and tiresome Obama cheerleaders on ABC’s The View, they are, individually and collectively, light-years brighter.
It is even fair to say that the token liberal on the panel, Kirsten Powers, is a rarity among liberals and Democrats… she is thoughtful and almost always fair-minded. Unlike the ladies of The View, she is not an ideological lapdog for Democrats and the far left. However, having tossed out that paean to the ladies of Outnumbered, it is also fair to say that they did no better at dealing with the subject of congressional job approval than any other group of talking heads.
In the course of their discussion they cited several recent polls. Among the congressional job approval polls cited were CNS News at 12%, Fox News at 16%, The Economist at 10%, and Gallup at 15%. They also cited a Field Poll which showed that some 44% of voters approve of the job their own congressman is doing, while 33% disapprove. But in the unkindest cut of all, demonstrating how poorly congressional Republicans advocate for Republican principles, one poll showed that 46% said it made no difference which party controlled Congress.
But these results take on real meaning only when we look inside the numbers. Taking a closer look at voter attitudes toward their own congressman, 57% of registered Democrats said they were likely to vote to reelect their current member of Congress, while only 33% of Republicans would vote to reelect their current member. What this seems to indicate is that Republicans, in general, are far more thoughtful, far more discriminating, and far less likely to be influenced by “cult of personality” than Democrats.
These numbers also tell us that people generally have a low opinion of Congress as a whole… always willing to speak ill of those who represent others… but a generally favorable attitude toward their own member, whoever he or she might be and regardless of his or her ideological stance. Why? Apparently because they are anxious to reconfirm what they consider to be their own perceptiveness in their voting booth decisions, while those who elected all those other dolts are dumber than bricks. The only fair way to rate the Congress would be to add up the winning margins of every member and divide the total by 435 for House members and 100 for Senators.
Yes, it is fair to say that Congress does a very poor job of writing the laws and looking after the interests of the people, but that’s not due to any serious flaw in the way Congress is constituted.
The principal shortcoming of the Congress is to be found in the quality of its leadership. To prove the point, I might mention just four names: Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Nancy Pelosi. Need I say more?
In Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi we have leaders who are truly evil and who care about nothing beyond what is good for the Democratic Party and its candidates. Their only real concern is that, if the ship of state is to sink beneath the waves, they insist on being at the helm when it happens. In John Boehner and Mitch McConnell we have two well-intentioned men, neither of whom have the foggiest notion of how to deal with the truly evil people on the Democrat side of the aisle. Taken together, these mutually incompatible characterizations spell nothing but total gridlock.
Can it be fixed? Yes, Congress can be fixed, but only in the event of a politically astute and well-informed electorate. As long as 57% of Democrats believe that their own representatives are acting in the best interests of the country and deserve to be reelected, the problems of governance that we now experience can never be fixed. If Democrats continue to believe that a man the caliber of Hank Johnson (D-GA) deserves to be in Congress, then there is little hope for us. (It was Johnson who worried openly in a public hearing that the Pacific island of Guam might capsize if the U.S. Navy stationed an additional 8,000 Marines on one side of the island.)
But time is of the essence because reform is possible only as long as we still have a majority of voters who are property owners and/or wage earners, but it won’t be easy because a major portion of the Democrat Party base comprises uninformed non-producers, under-achievers, and the disinterested… those who are not property owners or who live off the labors of others.
Three significant reforms are sorely needed: First, we must amend our criminal laws to require mandatory prison time for those who engage in vote fraud. Second, the right to vote should be limited only to those who are property owners and taxpayers. And finally, before they are handed a ballot, voters should be required to score at least 60% on a simple ten-question exam, with topics chosen at random from current affairs and from the list of 100 questions used in examining immigrants who apply for American citizenship.
But can we expect Democrats to ever agree to stricter penalties for vote fraud? Not likely. Vote fraud is, and always has been, the “bread and butter” of Democratic politics. In fact, Democrats are so wedded to the notion of vote fraud, so opposed to requiring photo IDs at polling places, so addicted to double and triple voting, that they would be unwilling to adopt a system in which voters would be required to dip a “pinkie” into a vial of indelible ink after voting, much like the proud first-time voters in emerging democracies of the Third World. So what does that tell us?
Next, we need to take a serious look at who is allowed to vote and who is not. It makes no sense at all to have those who live off the public dole to participate in the election of the politicians who then vote to create bigger and better free lunches. And while some may believe that voting is and always has been a universal right, such is not the case. During the early years of the republic, only white males who owned at least 50 acres of land or had taxable income were allowed to vote. Un-propertied men and women, slaves, and ex-slaves were prohibited from voting. However, by the mid-19th century, most white males were allowed to vote, regardless of income or property ownership, and in the ensuing years the right to vote was further expanded.
The 15th Amendment (1870) extended voting rights to all citizens regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude;” the 19th Amendment (1920) extended voting rights to all female citizens; the 23rd Amendment (1961) extended the right to vote in presidential elections to residents of Washington, DC; the 24th Amendment (1964) struck down poll taxes and other taxes as barriers to voting; and the 26th Amendment (1971) extended voting rights to 18-year-olds.
Article VI, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Instead, it leaves the question of voter qualifications to the states to decide. In short, the right to vote is not an explicit right under the Constitution. States may deny the right to vote for reasons other than those explicitly addressed in the Constitution and subsequent amendments. In addition to barring non-taxpayers and non-property owners, the Congress should also deny voting rights forever to those who obtain citizenship after illegally sneaking across our borders or by overstaying a visa.
Finally, it stretches credulity to suggest that the vote of an individual who cannot demonstrate the most rudimentary knowledge of current affairs or of the U.S. Constitution should be valued as highly as the vote of the best-informed and most knowledgeable citizens.
The “man in the street” interviews popularized by late-night comedian Jay Leno and Fox News producer Jesse Watters tell us everything we need to know about the quality of the American electorate. If we were fortunate enough to have a better educated and more informed electorate we would have a far more effective Congress and, once again, a president who would merit the respect and the admiration of the American people.
The U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service administers a test to all those who wish to become U.S. citizens. The test contains 100 questions from which questions are chosen at random and 60% is a passing grade. A typical multiple choice test might appear as follows:
- What was the purpose of the Declaration of Independence?
- What are the first three words of the U.S. Constitution that define self-governance?
- What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
- How many justices serve on the United States Supreme Court?
- Who served as President of the U.S. during the Great Depression and World War II?
- What nation is the only functioning democracy in the Middle East?
- The Taliban is a radical Islamist group operating largely in which country?
- Who currently serves as Attorney General of the United States?
- How many time zones cover the U.S. from New York to California?
- Which major river is the longest river in the United States?
Ten questions of this caliber, chosen at random and posed in a multiple choice format on a touch-screen monitor, could be used to screen out those with an insufficient knowledge of current affairs and our system of government to merit the privilege of voting. Taking such a test would take less than two minutes per voter and would not in any way impede the voting process.
If we’re going to get serious about “throwing the bums out,” maybe we should begin with voters who cannot demonstrate that they deserve to be seen as members of an “informed” electorate.