Not long ago, I bumped carts with a man at Walmart. We both had a laugh and engaged in some small talk. One thing led to another and before I knew it, this man was lecturing me about "the threat from the illuminati," led by President Obama who was in league with the United Nations to take our guns away. The man was wild-eyed; his voice grew louder as he continued down his dark path of conspiracies and evil government. I quickly disengaged, wished him a perfunctory good day and rolled away. As I left the store with my purchases, I found myself agitated by my brief encounter with Conspiracy Man. Why isn't that man in the loony bin, I thought. Worse still, I pondered, "That lunatic has the right to vote!"
Multiply Conspiracy Man and folks perhaps a notch or two further down on the crazy scale by millions and voila! you get supporters for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and, even worse, Ben Carson. Consider a sampling of statements by Trump supporters:
“We know his goal is to make America great again — it’s on his hat. And we see it every time he’s on TV.”
"I think he's pretty much right on track actually on that. I think we are kind of at war with the Muslims, in a sense. ISIS and their beliefs and such. They're not all bad people. We're not all bad people. But it seems like, I mean, I don't know, it just seems like they're a different type of people."
“I’d vote for the candidate purely for the comedic value.”
Now, should these people be allowed within thirty feet of a voting booth? I say no. One needs to take two tests to get a driver's license; one needs to have a license to fish or hunt; one needs to be vetted before serving on a jury. But, apart from convicted felons and (depending on the state) some mentally disabled people, any dolt with a bumper sticker's depth of knowledge of current events who's 18 and older may vote in the United States. A birth certificate and a pulse are all that are required to choose the next president, not to mention governors, members of Congress, judges and everybody else who run the country. This is outrageous and needs to end. Opening democracy up to the masses, furthermore, goes against the intent of the Founding Fathers - something which constitutional originalists like Cruz and Supreme Court justices Scalia and Thomas surely can appreciate.
According to historian Akim Reinhardt, "Many of the founders believed that, generally speaking, the mass of citizens are corruptible and easily swayed. This makes them susceptible to charismatic leaders, or even chaotic mob rule. So if you let the people decide what to do, it won’t be long before they either hand the reins of government over to some charming rapscallion who will quickly establish himself as a brutal despot, or the whole thing will simply devolve into anarchy and bloodshed. For that reason, they championed the notion of a small coterie of talented, capable, virtuous people to make the political decisions on everyone’s behalf. In other words, you should have elections so that the citizens may choose the best and brightest from among their ranks to go forth and rule the nation."
Trouble is, the "best and brightest" of the American Enlightenment deemed only property-holding white males should have the right to vote. This left the country's course in the hands of about ten percent of the population. Progressive for the late 18th century perhaps, but a no-go for the 21st.
But we've gone too far. One's right to vote should not be based on the amount of material assets one owns, much less on gender or race, as the founders believed. The indigent certainly should have equal right to enfranchisement as the billionaires. But there should be a test. And I posit that it should be the citizenship exam all immigrants must take in order to become naturalized Americans. This btw is not a gut exam. News media are fond of laying some of the questions on average Americans on the street. The number who can't name the three branches of government, or what form of economic system we have, or in which century the Civil War was fought is mind boggling. The average American's knowledge of geography is beyond shameful. Take a look at this test and see how well you can do.
Such an exam would not be a thinly-veiled Jim Crow subterfuge to screen out certain groups as Republicans in some states have been criminally pursuing with their voter suppression measures. The exam would merely democratically screen out the dumbasses in our population who are not equipped intellectually to decide on the nation's leaders and policies. So, you say, since Donald Trump's support base centers on the undereducated, a voter exam would likely wipe out much of that support. So be it. If you're so dumb as to fall for the calculated deceits and mindless brain farts of a Trump, you deserve to forfeit your right to participate in democracy's workings. The alternative could be the self-destruction of our country. Call it a national security issue.
Winston Churchill was fond of saying, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” But he also said, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." Wise man that Churchill.
So, we find ourselves in 2016 facing a fork in the political road, one path leading to despair and utter hopelessness; the other to total extinction. Quite a choice. But we've brought it upon ourselves through the misguided belief that the sacred right to vote should be available to everybody. It should not. Do we really want to see a presidential face-off between a superannuated socialist and a neo-fascist plutocrat? The time has come for a 28th amendment.
See also --
This Isn't My Father's Republican Party: Waiting for 9 Thermidor