31 October 2010

Scary Anticipation of the Real Veterans' Day

In the best of all possible worlds...

  • We'd amend the Constitution so that Election Day always falls on Veterans' Day; or, conversely, we could change the statute that sets Veterans' Day as 11 November — in commemoration of what is, with 20/20 hindsight (hell, with 20/200 hindsight), merely a cease-fire agreement in 1918 — to be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

    Because, even in the diversity of personal reasons; even in the face of the Second War of American Secession, 1861–65; even in the face of the unwilling tendency of the military to be a force for progressive social change by giving (at least a few) members of most minority groups an opportunity to rub shoulders with their "betters," thereby demonstrating that there isn't really that much difference; even in the face of the misuse of military force for private personal gain: Free elections are why the US developed, and continues to maintain, a military in the first place.

    Besides, for very personal reasons I'd prefer that Election Day not fall on 11 November... but that's another story entirely.

  • Vote. Just do it. Even if you dislike everyone — because you have a right to leave the ballot blank, or enter a write-in candidate, for each individual race. As I mentioned yesterday, I do care for whom you vote; I care more that you vote at all. Even though "popular wisdom" usually turns into "popular stupidity" sooner rather than later, the alternatives are all worse. Remember, Plato explicitly did not want to live under the philosopher-kings.

    And for those of you snickering in other nations where voting turnout is higher, remember this: We don't have a tradition of enforcing the right to vote with guns and bullies that make voting not a right, but a chore.

  • For those of you who believe that your vote doesn't count, realize that that's exactly what tyrants who have coopted the process throughout history (back to Greece, in any event) have wanted you to believe. It's never the landslides that provide opportunities for the thoughtful few to figure out what is going on, and potentially change it; it is the close races that require the "winners" to work with the "losers" to make any change last.
  • Even farther down the list of electoral reform: Eliminate the Electoral College; eliminate the geographic tyranny of defining one's voting interests by where one lays one's head at night (most often), rather than by where one works or sends one's kids to school or engages in any other activity by choice; eliminate voting for judges — the members of the government who must be the least accountable to the popular will,1 precisely because their role is to look at the individual circumstances of matters dispassionately and without regard to what the mob wants; overturn Buckley v. Valeo, which established that campaign contributions and political spending are "political speech" and not "exertion of preexisting power to the detriment of those who don't have it." Note, though, that all of that is reform of mechanism, not rejection of elections (with the possible exception of the judicial-elections issue, but as anyone who has ever argued complex issues during the same week before an elected state-court judge and an appointed federal-court judge could tell you, it's both more and less than that).

If you really want to scare a tyrant or any other self-selected "deserving ruler" this Halloween, dress up as an election judge... or be one. Harass media representatives who are harassing voters. Get your neighbors to vote. After all, as credulous as he was, Gulliver's best protection against enslavement by the Lilliputians was his size.

  1. I'd argue that there's a more-than-hypothetical chance that electing state-court (or any) judges violates the "Republican Form of Government" clause, U.S. Const. Art. IV § 4... because the only "republican form of government" referencable in 1787 was the one being established in the Constitution, with its appointed judiciary. (At that time, all judges were appointed, not elected.) Take that, "original meaning" originalists!