Electoral Franchise Blues

Recently I ran across a provocative comment made by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1957: “Universal suffrage is not the beginning of wisdom or the beginning of freedom. Reasonable limitations upon the vote are not exclusively the recommendation of tyrants or oligarchists (was Jefferson either?).” This statement is followed by what may be an even more controversial one: “The problem in the South is not how to get the vote for the Negro, but how to equip the Negro—and a great many Whites—to cast an enlightened and responsible vote.”

After duly noting how the black electorate exercises its franchise in our major cities and after observing with consternation the dereliction of duty among their elected officials, I find Buckley’s admonition to be prescient. With due respect to the Republican press and Fox News, it is not George Soros but the large bloc of minority voters who have given our urban centers such egregious leaders as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, Washington D. C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx. And there is no reason to think blacks will not go on voting for those who blame black crime on white racism and who release violent criminals onto the streets, where, ironically, they prey predominantly on inner-city blacks.

As for Buckley’s reference to “the great many Whites,” I’ve learned that most women under the age of 49 consider abortion rights to be a “serious electoral issue.” They fear that their “right” to dispose of their unborn children will be restricted, perhaps limited to the first 12-to-15 weeks after conception, which is the practice in most other woke Western democracies. This issue concerns younger women even more than high crime, inflation, or the present invasion across our Southern border. According to Psychology Today, “In a 2019 study, 59% of women said protecting free speech was less important than promoting an inclusive society.” A majority of white Americans seem equally terrified that the recently discovered “right” of gay marriage may be threatened. Most Americans don’t want their states to vote on this critical social issue. They would prefer having the judiciary impose gay marriage on the entire country, thereby enacting a revolutionary institutional change that until about 30 years ago would have been widely regarded as weird, even perverse.

This brings me to my main point: not even a social democrat like John Stuart Mill, and certainly not America’s founders, would have disputed the warning that if you want to create and preserve a constitutional republic, you must be careful about who gets to vote. Once this sacred right is granted, it can never be withdrawn. The left’s supposed commitment to a universalized franchise is nothing more moral than a power play. The more they can manage to expand the electorate, the more they can denature it. Aristotle’s concept of a tempered regime, combining democratic and oligarchic elements, will fall into the hands of demagogues if voting rights are granted too freely. Once that happens, onetime citizens will have the pleasure of living in something like Justin Trudeau’s Canada, Olaf Scholz’s Germany, or Sleepy Joe’s America.

The precondition for self-governments is homonoia (consensus about first principles). Those who have so taught, from Plato and Aristotle to Willmoore Kendall, were absolutely correct. Without agreement over first principles, we are describing a mob, which will yield only to such mind-numbing forces as our Western media, the Deep State, and our public (mis)education system.

When Benjamin Disraeli, a Tory leader of Jewish descent (but a practicing Anglican) pleaded for the right of Lionel de Rothschild, a Jew, to take his legitimately elected seat in Parliament, Disraeli never appealed to diversity. Quite to the contrary! He stressed the “affinity” between Christians and Jews, going back to the Jewish origin of Christianity. Of course, no other argument would have commanded even the slightest attention in England’s exemplary parliamentary monarchy circa 1850. Extending political privileges was not seen as a suicide pact driven by universal egalitarianism. It was a move that had to be carefully considered with full regard for existing institutions and the culture and social traditions on which they rested. I can’t imagine genuine self-government existing in any other situation.

It should go without saying that such a government cannot in any way coexist with the present monolithic woke media. Indirect rule by “enlightened” news providers has rarely functioned as we’re told it should. The media do not provide unvarnished “facts” plus evenhanded discussion of electoral issues. For decades we’ve been getting less and less of that. It is also questionable whether most people who access “news” even want to be objectively informed, as opposed merely to having their biases confirmed.

In Germany, the media have become an even more outrageous version of the older Communist propaganda agencies. Since the availability of “democratic” news sources was seen by Germany’s conquerors after World War II as necessary for “national reeducation,” the dissemination of approved “news information” in postwar Germany started out as ideologically motivated. The creation of official news sources was intended, among other things, to persuade German voters to elect candidates approved by the occupying forces and by the native Germans who assisted them. Those who furnished what was considered “undemocratic” news were denied an operating license after the War.

Ironically, the smothering, government-run leftist channel block was justified on the grounds that a free society required it as a means of decentralizing the news conglomerate that existed under the Third Reich. The overwhelming majority of those who now run publicly owned German TV channels proudly support the far left. A compulsory tax for this nonstop leftist indoctrination comes to 18.36 Euros every month and is imposed on every German household, whether or not it houses a TV. It is hard to imagine a more mind-numbing instrument of thought control than what has now replaced the Nazi news service, but since every Western country is now living under a similar occupation—usually self-imposed—the German case may not seem all that strange.

When I think of self-rule, my mind turns to Switzerland. Not until February 1971 did Swiss women acquire the right to vote in federal elections. In some cantons, they had obtained the franchise earlier, but those steps had been taken without mass demonstrations by feminists and without intense media agitation. Well into the 20th century, citizenship was exceedingly difficult to acquire in Switzerland at both the cantonal and federal levels, and all Swiss men were required to own firearms and to serve in the Swiss defense forces. It was precisely such restrictiveness that ensured the Swiss cantons would be able to govern themselves, a truth noted by the Genevan Jean Jacques Rousseau and the French aristocrat Baron de Montesquieu in the middle of the 18th century. It was also uniformity of manners and principles that allowed popular government to flourish in Switzerland.

Like Americans of an earlier time, Swiss who were alive 100 years ago would be astounded to learn that we cannot practice self-government anymore until we elect lesbians to high office and import foreign nationals as voters. Even now, in a greatly liberalized Swiss republic, those who wish to become citizens must be granted a right of residence and then spend 10 years living in the country, gainfully employed and without any criminal record. Anyone living on welfare is automatically disqualified from citizenship. Failure to show proper respect for the history and customs of the country may also be a cause for denying this privilege.

Periodically I am scolded on leftist websites for wanting to restrict the franchise. Of course, I am in no position of power to deny anyone, including felons in New York City, the right to vote. But I won’t deny that I harbor reservations about the various extensions of the franchise that have occurred in this country. I would also question the notion that by extending the vote, we are creating a more just form of self-government. It is certainly doubtful that an ever-expanding franchise has led to a better republican form of government, though it may describe itself as more “inclusive.” What I observe is a government that citizens no longer control and a media that has turned elections into plebiscitary rituals for confirming the rule of those already in power.

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