Well, today's the day. The Most Important Election in the History of the Universe. I don't have to subscribe to Zippy's belief that modern "mass market universal suffrage elections are the lex orandi to liberalism's lex credendi" (roughly, that the voting ritual is the homage we pay to the governing liberal creed) to believe that there is something wrong with the way we go about choosing our leaders. If democracy works so well, why is this the most important election in history? The only reason it's important is that, I've been told, we're confronted with a choice between the forces of Light and those of Darkness. You'd think a well-functioning system would possess some kind of built-in restraint that does not force us into making such a choice. The Darkness should simply be out of bounds, never allowed to set foot in the arena. But the way it works in real life is that the people get to choose what Darkness and how much Light and whatever shades of grey they'd like on display. It is conceivable that we might have a saint as one candidate and the devil's henchman as the other. The henchman should never have been let in, but what's to stop it? There ought to be a law, but there isn't. The will of the people is sovereign. Well, you might protest, there are laws that even the people cannot transgress. There are limits to what they can do.
Really? Why is pornography so ubiquitous, when once it wasn't? Why is the easy-sex-pill (contraception) so widely available and its use approved of when once it wasn't? Why is it legally acceptable to kill unborn children and disabled people when once it wasn't? Why is it all right to discriminate against one race in favor of another, when once this was considered fundamentally unfair? Why has the protection of the law been extended to the practitioners of certain sexual behaviors once considered aberrant, such that now the behavior is to be lauded, and the parties to it mourned as victims of a reprehensible discrimination if they are not allowed to marry?
Get the picture? All of these are things the people want, and the law seems to have a way of figuring us out.
Consider what actually goes on during an election, before which comes the campaign. This is a period - covering today a span of at least two years before ballots are cast - during which it is socially acceptable for candidates to lie about each other, exaggerate, distort, and commit murder by soundbite. That's the culture we live in and the candidates submit to it. It is the season of general calumny. Recall even as sympathetic a figure to conservatives as Michelle Bachmann beating up on Rick Perry during the debates over the latter's approval of an HPV vaccine program in Texas. Perry admitted he'd been wrong, but she wouldn't let go, kept hammering him like a harpy about 12 year old girls, all to further her political ambitions. After getting whupped in the South Carolina debate, Mitt Romney ran ads in Florida that made Newt Gingrich look like that devil's henchman mentioned above. Some of those ads were outright lies. Democrats had Paul Ryan throwing granny off a cliff - in her wheelchair. Mitt Romney was accused of firing some guy and causing his wife to contract cancer. Joe Biden said the Republicans want to put black people back in chains. The whole Democratic apparatus accuses Republicans of hating women, of quite literally declaring war on them.
Some of the candidates, like Clinton and Obama, have patronized our cultural detritus by going on channels like MTV to show young people how sympathetically cool they are and to talk about their underwear. And there is the generally pathetic spectacle - campaign stop after campaign stop - of what I assume are usually men of some accomplishment pleading with the masses for their votes. They try to please so many constituencies that they end up compromising their principles. They take the stage in the company of rock music stars and Hollywood vacuities. Like their principles, whatever habitual dignity they possess gets compromised by all the pandering.
When election day finally arrives, millions of Americans go to the polls to do their civic duty. Because they've been told it's their duty, they feel important. They will help determine the course of the country by making their voices heard. They will feel especially important if their candidate wins. It always feels good to be on the winning team. If their candidate loses, the one thing you the voter must not tell yourself is that your vote was wasted, even though it was, because that would destroy that sense of self-importance that will bring you back to the polls in four years to make your sovereign voice heard once again. Except that no one hears your voice, just the voice of the aggregate. That's what all the pandering was about: to attract not the little grain of sand that is you, but a sufficient number of sand grains to make a beach out of rabble.
Here's the worst part: the leader of this country is going to be chosen by millions upon millions of stupid people. I don't use 'stupid' in a strictly defined sense. Many of them may have minds that could ostensibly be trained to think; it's just that they haven't been. They are much like what Obama thinks of babies in the womb: potential human life. It ought to bother us that drug dealers, gang members and whores are allowed to vote. It ought to at least give us pause that eighteen to twenty something year olds who spend six hours a day in front of an Xbox playing video games in which the goal is to blow people up for simulated fun are allowed to register for the franchise. The guy who runs a porn studio is granted a say in our country's future. Millions of self-advertised Christian young people (and adults) voted for Obama last time around, having succumbed to the doctrine that their purely private, religiously based moral tenets are not things they should attempt to see embodied in law. They must not impose. And they like the doctrine, because it allows them to feel good about themselves while fitting in with the crowd, and to pretend that they really do care about the babies in the womb while doing nothing to protect them. Do you think that 95% of the black voting bloc who will go for Obama are primarily concerned with preserving the principles of our country's founding? Is that why they're voting for this fundamentally transformational president? Do you think they know what those principles are? How many people do you know who can list the first five presidents of the United States, who have read the Federalist Papers, or can recite the Bill of Rights? You and I hardly know the width and breadth of all that's in Obamacare. How many people do you know who know one-tenth of what you do? I could go on and on in this vein.
There were on the Florida ballot (I forgot to count) somewhere between 10 and 15 presidential candidates. Only two have any chance of winning. We hear often that we ought to have more legitimate choices, but I don't think people really want that. If they did we'd have them. No, they play their part in the system, end up with two viable choices, whine about holding their noses when they vote, but vote they do, and do it again time after time after time. There seems to me something about the whole process that demeans the candidates and sullies what ought to be a more dignified and deliberative cultural endeavor, while supposedly elevating the role of the common man even as he casts his ballot to perpetuate the indignity. I'm beginning to think the common man is the problem, not the solution.
But I wouldn't wish to suppress turnout. As Ann Coulter said on TV last night, "Happy Election Day!"