The Problem Is the People

In a democratic republic, the primary obstacle to righteous governance is unrighteous voters–voters whose beliefs, affections, or wills are disordered.

I’m all for making better policy choices and promoting better candidates and finding better ways of selling both.

I’m also all for becoming better advocates of conservative ideas.

By all means, let’s develop better arguments and better messages, let’s develop a more sophisticated ground game, and let’s be as winsome as possible.

That said, …

  1. BrentB67

    Great analysis and I think your choice of works is exactly correct.

    While it is true that we have not run a conservative candidate in more than two decades the real issue is exactly as you spell out – the majority of voters.

  2. Tom Lindholtz

    That is why, when asked what kind of government they had created, Ben Franklin replied, “A republic….if you can keep it.”

  3. Arahant

    Universal suffrage, the gift that keeps on taking.

  4. Mendel

    Of course, this dilemma is not new – it is not a coincidence that our Constitution restricted voting to certain classes of people (their choice of whom to restrict was flawed in many respects, but at least they acknowledged the issue).

    The history of American democracy has been a one-way ratchet devolving more and more power at all levels to the people.  At some point, we will have to rediscover the long-known truth that the masses are poor leaders.

    Edit: Drats, Arahant beat me to it!

  5. Mendel
    Purplestrife:

    That said, let’s also keep in mind that life in a democratic republic means that the wise, the virtuous, the intelligent, and the informed share sovereignty with the foolish, the vicious, the stupid, and the ignorant.

    I don’t completely agree.

    First, there is no proof that “the intelligent and the informed” make better choices than anyone else – otherwise college professors would be the most politically astute of us all.

    Second, I question the extent to which any citizen – wise or foolish – actually makes an intellectual decision about whom to elect, as opposed to a more visceral or subconscious choice.  Indeed, I’m not sure the Framers assumed the electorate to be wise and impartial – I think it was expected that most people would act as automatons and vote based on financial incentives or group identity. 

    Be careful of asking an electorate to be “smarter.”

  6. Nobody

    College professors aren’t necessarily better informed in ways that are politically relevant.

    And I question the wisdom of anyone who makes an electoral choice according to viscera or group identity.

    Mendel

    Purplestrife:

    That said, let’s also keep in mind that life in a democratic republic means that the wise, the virtuous, the intelligent, and the informed share sovereignty with the foolish, the vicious, the stupid, and the ignorant.

    I don’t completely agree.

    First, there is no proof that “the intelligent and the informed” make better choices than anyone else – otherwise college professors would be the most politically astute of us all.

    Second, I question the extent to which any citizen – wise or foolish – actually makes an intellectual decision about whom to elect, as opposed to a more visceral or subconscious choice.  Indeed, I’m not sure the Framers assumed the electorate to be wise and impartial – I think it was expected that most people would act as automatons and vote based on financial incentives or group identity. 

    Be careful of asking an electorate to be “smarter.” · 2 minutes ag

  7. Mendel
    Purplestrife: College professors aren’t necessarily better informed in ways that are politically relevant.

    And I question the wisdom of anyone who makes an electoral choice according to viscera or group identity.

    Mendel

    Purplestrife:

    Well, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman are certainly very-well informed about certain aspects of civic society, yet constantly make horrible policy suggestions in these same fields. But I actually wanted to make two larger points:

    First, decision-making in all aspects of life is a much more subconscious process than we recognize.  Intellect is often nothing more than a tool we use to justify our gut instincts. Asking people to make “smarter” or more “well-informed” electoral decisions may just help convince people with the wrong instincts that they are correct.

    Second, most voters will place their own self-interest above that of the country.  Everyone is for spending cuts in general, but few – including conservatives – are willing to vote their own personal privileges away.  Thus, limiting voting to the “enlightened” may not bring anysignificant changes in policy or good governance.

  8. Douglas
    Arahant: Universal suffrage, the gift that keeps on taking. · 46 minutes ago

    18 year old voting rights added gas to the fire too.

  9. Nobody

    In my way of thinking, wisdom and virtue are about recognizing and cultivating better instincts and behaviors.

    I’m not making a claim about who should get the franchise. I’m making a claim about the electorate: that it includes a lot of people who behave poorly and believe false and ridiculous things.

    My larger point is that we’re stuck with them. Sometimes we can convince them, but not always. Sometimes we can go around them, but not always. Sometimes, they’re going to keep us down.

    Mendel

    First, decision-making in all aspects of life is a much more subconscious process than we recognize.  Intellect is often nothing more than a tool we use to justify our gut instincts. Asking people to make “smarter” or more “well-informed” electoral decisions may just help convince people with the wrong instincts that they are correct.

    Second, most voters will place their own self-interest above that of the country.  Everyone is for spending cuts in general, but few – including conservatives – are willing to vote their own personal privileges away.  Thus, limiting voting to the “enlightened” may not bring anysignificant changes in policy or good governance. · in 1 minut

  10. BrentB67
    Douglas

    Arahant: Universal suffrage, the gift that keeps on taking. · 46 minutes ago

    18 year old voting rights added gas to the fire too. · 4 minutes ago

    Indeed, but the principal that when someone is old enough to die for their country they are old enough to vote is sound.

  11. liberal jim
    Purplestrife: When our economy is in the condition that it is in, do you think voting for someone who “cares about people like us” rather than someone who will help it heal is a defensible decision?

    I don’t think it is. And, yeah, I do think less of people who make decisions like that. I wish I didn’t have to share my country with people like that.

    I am sure people voted the way they did for many reasons.  Some may have actually thought that  more progressiveness in the tax code was a good fiscal idea.  I don’t happen to agree, but I understand their argument.   It might be good to note that Romney spent a good deal of time trying to convince people he cared about them.  Dose this make him an idiot, evil or both, or was he lying?

    You might want to consider the fact that the Constitution begins with the phrase “We the people”.  You have been given the privilege of sharing this country with others and have no more ownership of it than they do.   

  12. Jimmy Carter

    If Freedom doesn’t sell itself, which It didn’t this last election, then It lost.

  13. liberal jim

    Well, well, well, not only are Republicans better informed, more intelligent but they are also more virtuous than the free loading scum that do not hold the same political views as they do.   I can’t imagine why they could tot convince enough people to vote for their candidate.  Certainly some of the people who did not vote would be intelligent enough to understand.

    Do you think it could possibly be that their attitude toward anyone who who dose not agree with them is interfering with their arguments?

    If God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble, do you think perhaps some people follow His example.?  

  14. Nobody

    When our economy is in the condition that it is in, do you think voting for someone who “cares about people like us” rather than someone who will help it heal is a defensible decision?

    I don’t think it is. And, yeah, I do think less of people who make decisions like that. I wish I didn’t have to share my country with people like that.

    liberal jim: Well, well, well, not only are Republicans better informed, more intelligent but they are also more virtuous than the free loading scum that do not hold the same political views as they do.   I can’t imagine why they could tot convince enough people to vote for their candidate.  Certainly some of the people who did not vote would be intelligent enough to understand.

    Do you think it could possibly be that their attitude toward anyone who who dose not agree with them is interfering with their arguments?

    If God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble, do you think perhaps some people follow His example.?   · 2 minutes ago

  15. Nobody

    It’s not a question of free-loading scum, anyway. There are plenty of “makers” who favor a robust welfare state and an energetic administrative state. They’re not takers; they’re fools. And a lot of those folks have college or advanced degrees.

    liberal jim: Well, well, well, not only are Republicans better informed, more intelligent but they are also more virtuous than the free loading scum that do not hold the same political views as they do.   I can’t imagine why they could tot convince enough people to vote for their candidate.  Certainly some of the people who did not vote would be intelligent enough to understand.

    Do you think it could possibly be that their attitude toward anyone who who dose not agree with them is interfering with their arguments?

    If God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble, do you think perhaps some people follow His example.?   · 12 minutes ago

  16. Many don’t realize this, but there are lots of ex abortionists who have come over to the pro life side, and they have been embraced by pro lifers with open arms. If you are want to convince people that they are wrong, you are far more likely to succeed if you also offer forgiveness. I have seen far too many involved in the abortion industry repent, convert, and join the side of life: if abortionists can be persuaded to stop performing abortions, then there is hope for all of us, but offering forgiveness is key.

  17. Nobody

    Also, I do believe that Republicans, as a group, are more patriotic, more honest, less likely to cheat on taxes, and more charitable than the population as a whole. That sounds like “more virtuous” to me.

    But, gosh darn it, I could be wrong. Maybe we just put on a lot of airs.

    liberal jim: Well, well, well, not only are Republicans better informed, more intelligent but they are also more virtuous than the free loading scum that do not hold the same political views as they do.   I can’t imagine why they could tot convince enough people to vote for their candidate.  Certainly some of the people who did not vote would be intelligent enough to understand.

    Do you think it could possibly be that their attitude toward anyone who who dose not agree with them is interfering with their arguments?

    If God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble, do you think perhaps some people follow His example.?   · 17 minutes ago

  18. Nobody

    I think you’re right. We don’t persuade by scolding. My words here are meant for other conservatives, not people we need to persuade.

    What I’m trying to drive at here is this notion that “the customer is always right” is garbage. The customer isn’t always right.

    However, I fully agree that we need to remember that the customer is always the customer.

    Judithann Campbell: Many don’t realize this, but there are lots of ex abortionists who have come over to the pro life side, and they have been embraced by pro lifers with open arms. If you are want to convince people that they are wrong, you are far more likely to succeed if you also offer forgiveness. I have seen far too many involved in the abortion industry repent, convert, and join the side of life: if abortionists can be persuaded to stop performing abortions, then there is hope for all of us, but offering forgiveness is key. · 13 minutes ago

  19. cbc
    Mendel: Of course, this dilemma is not new – it is not a coincidence that our Constitution restricted voting to certain classes of people (their choice of whom to restrict was flawed in many respects, but at least they acknowledged the issue).

    Where in the US Constitution is voting restricted by class?  Do you mean state constitutions?

  20. Many people do not see any problem with big government because they believe that they are in charge of the government; I doubt that large numbers of Americans are philosophically committed to Obamacare, but they are willing to try it. They figure that they can rid of it if it doesn’t work. It isn’t enough for conservatives to just say that they are against over regulating: we need to paint a picture, and give real life examples of real life people who are harmed by too much regulation. Without real life examples, many will consider our arguments to be hypothetical.

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