PERSPECTIVErnVote Claudius: He’ll Leave Your Sons Alonernby Thomas FlemingrnWhen Edmund Burke ealled perfeet democrae’ “thernmost shameful thing in the world,” he was not referringrnto the mixed forms of popular government that had existed inrnancient Greece and Rome, much less to the ncwlv liberatedrnEnglish colonies that had been struggling to form “a more perfectrnunion” on the Eastern seaboard of Nordi America. Thesernwere consHtuHonal governments in principle, and in practicern(for the most part), thev observed the rule of law. What Burkernviewed with alarm was the French experiment in perfectrndemocracy, based on the principles of equalit}-, irreligion, andrnhuman rights. In striving to reach a moral perfection that liesrnbevond the limits of law and custom, radical democrats removernevery obstacle to the total state. What Burke knew—and wernknew once upon a time, though we hae forgotten it-—is Hiatrnabsolute democracy is absolute despotism.rnWhen Americans speak of restoring or purifying theirrndemocracy, they generally have something like the governmentrnof Robespierre (or of the Paris Commune) in mind. Such Activerndemocracies have proved to be excellent vehicles for destroyingrncivilization; and, if we discount miser and oppression,rnthey have created nothing. People who descant upon tiie gloriesrnof democracy are like certain Catholics who would notrntrade places witii the Apostles because, while Peter and Jamesrnhad known Jesus personally and suffered mart) rdom, no one inrnthose days had yet defined papal infallibility. This is putting therncart before the horse with a vengeance.rnThe best that has been claimed for democrac}’ is that it is thernleast bad form of government. Although it may be difficult torntrace the connections between genuinel}’ democratic states,rnsuch as Athens in the fifth centur’ B.C:. and Switzerland in thern19th A.D., and the mixed republican governments of modernrnEurope and the United States, most people would sa’ that, underrnpopular government (a more descriptive term), the peoplernarc the ultimate foundation of sovereignt)’ and that there arernconstitutional mechanisms (elections, ostracisms, referenda) byrnwhich the people can protect their interests and change theirrnmagistrates.rnIn America (as in Switzerland), the “democratic” genius ofrnthe people expressed itself in a firm commitment to state and localrngovernments and in opposition to a standing army and a permanentrnbureaucracy. None of these commitments, in Americarnat least, has survived the ordeal of the 20th century: We havernimposed upon ourselves a vast apparatus of national governmentrnenforced by riot squads, national guard units, and domesticrnintelligence agencies; we pass referenda only to see themrnoverturned by unelected and irresponsible judges; and everyrnfour vears, about half of us tr’ to choose the less dumb, less evil,rnand less crooked of the machine-rigged candidates presented tornus by tiie two major parties.rnILL. Mencken wondered how, in a country this size, werncould find no one more qualified than Calvin Coolidge.rnMencken was justified in his contempt for Silent Cal—whornnow seems like a moral and intellectual giant compared withrnGeorge W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Yes, Mr. Bush probabh’ isrnless evil and less stupid than Mr. Gore, and tiiere may be goodrnreasons to hold your nose and vote Republican. But if }ou do,rntr^ not to deceive yourself into thinking that your vote has somethingrnto do with democracy or that Bush is better qualified thanrnyour next-door neighbor.rnActualh’, George Bush is preferable to ni)- former next-doorrnneighbor, the turncoat “conser’ative” Republican and apostiernof world government, Rep. John Anderson, who now lives inrnleftist luxun,’ somewhere in Florida, where he does not have tornface cold winters or the sneers of the voters he betrayed.rnMr. Anderson, in running a third-part}’ campaign in 1980,rntried to help the left keep Ronald Reagan out of the Whitern10/CHRONICLESrnrnrn