Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

17 November 2014

Mid-Term National Elections Have Fewer Uninformed Voters - Let Us Have More Mid-Term Elections

Only a small fraction of the US adult population know who the first President of the United States was.  No, I am not even talking about the first President under the 11 years of the Confederation of the United States.  I am saying they cannot name George Washington as the first president.  Most also do not know that we gained our independence from Great Britain, cannot name the original 13 states, do not know who the combatants were in the War of 1812 or in World War I, do not know the enumerated powers that Congress has under the Constitution, do not know how many justices serve on the Supreme Court, and have a greatly exaggerated idea of the powers of the President under our Constitution.

Now we ask these same people to follow and understand the operations of their local and state governments and of the federal government and cast an informed vote at least every two years.  Is there even a bit of realism in such an expectation?  The Framers of the Constitution certainly knew there were limits on the wisdom and knowledge of the People.  They were fully aware of the short lifespans of earlier democracies.  Indeed, they believed a short lifespan and great instability was a characteristic of any democracy.

Ben Franklin said:
Democracy... Is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
John Adams said:
Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
The Framers of the Constitution were familiar with mobs in the streets, which we still have to this day in Ferguson, Missouri and not long ago had in many cities, such as Watts, California.  But 1789 and the 124 years that followed, government was much simpler to understand.  Government still paid attention to the enumerated powers of the Constitution.  The power to tax in order to fulfill the functions enumerated had not become a power to do anything which might be supported by a tax.  ObamaCare was recently ruled by the Supreme Court to be justified because it was so supported by a tax.  The interstate commerce regulation authority had not then been expanded to allow the regulation of all commercial activity.  The power and scope of government were much smaller then.  This was not only at the federal level, but also at the state and local level.  Yet, the People were not to have their intelligence and their diligence to inform themselves so taxed that they were to choose their own Senators.  Until 1913, Senators were chosen by state legislatures, which represented a body of people who were more interested in and informed about government.

Because so many of the People have an exaggerated expectation of the power of the President and so few appreciate the real power of Congress, they turn out to vote in much larger numbers for presidential national elections than they do for the mid-term elections.  Let us examine the voter turnout in the last few elections:

2014, 36.3%
2012, 53.6%, presidential
2010, 37.8%
2008, 56.8%, presidential
2006, 37.1%
2004, 55.3%, presidential
2002, 37.0%
2000, 51.3%, presidential

The average presidential year turnout was 54.25%, while the mid-term election turnout was 37.05%.  In presidential election years the turnout is 17.2% higher on average.  The significance of this is more readily seen by noting that presidential elections have 1.46 times as many voters.  I would maintain that in a presidential election year this means that for every 3 voters there is one voter who is less informed than the average voter in a mid-term election.

We made the federal government excessively democratic when we made Senators stand for popular election in 1913.  This also decreased the power of the states in the state - federal balance of power.  This loss of state power is now clearly seen to be ill-advised and has greatly contributed to the political divisiveness of the present times.  While I think it would be wise to remove the 17th Amendment that unbalanced our federal system of government, there is more that we can do to rectify the ills that plague our federal government.

Government is now so powerful, so into everyone's pocket and business, that it is no wonder that even fairly intelligent people do not have the time or the will to devote effort to understanding what it is doing and what the consequences of those actions are.  Even full-time politicians are overwhelmed and uninformed.  Just in the last day or so, Obama said in a press conference that he had just become informed that Jonathan Gruber had spoken about how the framers of the PPACA, more accurately the Patient Subjugation and Unaffordable Care Act, had purposely deceived the voters, who Gruber called stupid in a too forthright admission of the Progressive Elitist assessment of others.  Of course, that infamous bill was passed by a Democrat Congress few, if any, of whose members who had read the bill.  Other such examples abound.  So if the full time politicians are so uninformed, how can the People generally be expected to make rational choices at the polls?

The present system of too much democracy has led us into a morass of tyrannical government.  People vote on the basis of their wishes after buying into undeliverable promises by politicians.  They do not critically evaluate the promises for their supportability or their consequences.  To be sure, some major element of democracy is unavoidable if one is to avoid a tyranny of an oligarchy or of a despot.  So, how can we adjust the system modestly so that the People may still exercise their vote and make their corrections to the system?

I propose that we have more mid-term elections and fewer presidential elections.  Let us allow a President one and only one six-year term of office.  With government as complex as it is today, the demands placed on a President are much greater than they were in the early years of our Republic.  Yet, when I read biographies of our early Presidents, even with much smaller governments, they were extraordinarily busy men, beset with huge burdens of worries.  Most who served even four years in office were worn out.  Eight years in office is too much for mortal man and very few of our Presidents are really extraordinary men.  They come into office with a few core ideas and those that are politically palatable are commonly put into place in the first couple of years they are in office.  After that they seem to tire out, run out of ideas, and certainly lose touch with the People.  At the end of six years, it is time to send them back to their plows.

Yet, it is not the worn-out President that is the chief reason for this proposal.  The chief reason is that having two mid-term elections for every presidential election would tend to keep that one out of three voters who is least informed away from the polls for two elections for every time they vote.  Everyone who is a citizen would still have the right to vote just as often, but he would have to motivate himself to come to the polls even when no one was up for the office of the now Imperial Presidency.  This would give us more of the outcomes for smaller government that the 2014 and 2010 elections provided.  This would give us a less tyrannical set of governments at all levels of government, since it is clearly the less informed and less motivated voters who are most susceptible to the empty promises of politicians who would grow the governments at the expense of the private sector and our individual rights.

Frankly, it would help to diminish the power of the Democratic Party, the party Franklin and Adams might name the Murder or Suicide Party.  Government is never a proper means of association unless it is necessary that force be used and supplant voluntary cooperation.  Whenever an individual asserts his individual rights as justification for not obeying the dictates of government, government replies that it is ready to use deadly force to command obedience.  When government fulfills its legitimate function of protecting individual rights and does no more, there is no conflict with the rational individual.  But when government tries to take the life, or the hours of the life, or the income of one's work, or the property acquired through prior work, it is actively using force to deprive one of what is one's by right.

Such governments are prepared to murder citizens and in so doing or threatening to do, they do great harm to many of the People.  They are weakening the society.  Big Governments put different groups with special interests at one another's throats and cause a general breakdown in cooperative, private sector associations.  Such governments murder some minorities and even the more favored minorities suffer the general losses due to a weakened society.  In the end, a society so ruled commits suicide.


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