From a reader who often sends in constructive criticism:
Subject: Terrific, terrific column!
(But you’re wrong.)
The right to vote is in the constitution. Stupid people have as much right to vote as the Jonah Goldbergs of the world. That’s a fact. Are you saying it should not be so?
What is your beef with a stupid majority that passes stupid laws or elects leaders based on skin tone, hairstyle or a previous career as a movie action hero?
Does not the stupid majority have the right to dictate public policy within the constitutional boundaries set by the framers?
What is your beef with that, other than “I don’t like the result”? Is your complaint that stupid electorates will screw up your country? That’s how liberals feel about NASCAR dads! (By the way, NASCAR stands for “Nearly All Smoke Cigarettes And Reek.”)
What’s your principle here? I LOVE it when you philosophize!
ME: My principle is pretty obvious, I think, and actually runs through dozens of my columns. Democracy in and of itself is morally neutral and can just as easily be evil as good. A mob is democratic when it lynches a man for no good reason. A country is democratic when it elects a dictator. If slavery were put up for a vote in many Southern states in the 1850s it would have passed even if blacks were allowed to vote. Surely we would think a politician who told his constituents they were wrong would be a hero among historians today.
The point of this column was pretty obvious, too, I thought. It was also bipartisan. I don’t have any problem with liberal politicians saying the American people are wrong for believing the estate tax should be repealed or anything else conservatives believe in. My beef is with elected leaders and activists who think that simply because the American people at any given moment “think” something sounds good it must therefore be good. Democracy must be about argument, persuasion and education. There’s simply no way to do that if the starting position of “the people” — as gleaned by telemarketers — is beyond criticism for the very people explicitly charged with conducting those arguments.