23 June 2008|
By Marty Beckerman
"By the people, for the people.”
Cute theory, right? Your opinion matters! You get a voice! It would be so perfect, if only it weren’t for… well… people. Specifically: stupid people, who comprise a significant chunk of the human race. But don’t tell this to extremists on one side who demand suffrage for toddlers with precocious criminal records, or extremists on the other side who want to nuke the Middle East into representational government. Don’t tell it to anyone, for that matter, because too many members of our society are under the sick delusion that they know something about anything.
Nobody is willing to say what every condescending, know-it-all snob… uh… knows. Nobody is willing to proclaim that Neanderthal d-bags should not have the power to affect global events to any degree whatsoever. Nobody is willing to suggest that the U.S. government institute a basic I.Q. test for anyone who desires the right to vote.
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t about regressing to the disgusting policies of Jim Crow, which granted voting rights to illiterate whites but not illiterate blacks; it’s about progressing to Jim Know. The twentieth century saw electoral emancipation for millions of Americans—women, racial minorities, and eighteen-year-olds—which was only fair. Our history of discrimination is horrendous and sickening; if stupid white men can vote, why shouldn’t stupid people of every other classification? Foolishness doesn’t have a gender or ethnicity, and it doesn’t have a single ideology—there are plenty of imbeciles on both sides of the fence—but it is omnipresent: one in five Americans believes that the sun revolves around the earth, and half of us (including three-fourths of Republicans) disbelieve the evidence for evolution. Just look at online message boards, which have empowered countless raving lunatics to share their opinions with the world. (For proof, see the frothing-at-the-mouth reactions that this piece will inevitably provoke below. Thanks, loyal readers!)
Whereas once upon a time unhinged/paranoid/vitriolic psychos were confined to the Letters to the Editor section of the local newspaper, and perhaps Xeroxed pamphlets with print runs of four copies, now these crazy asses have a forum to vent their labyrinthine conspiracy theories for millions of readers. They are unable to perceive shades of gray; right-wingers only see socialists and communists in their opponents, not moderate Democrats who cherish the Bill of Rights and the American Dream; conversely left-wingers only see racists and warmongers in their opponents, but this is woefully shortsighted because many Republicans also hate poor people, gay people, college-educated people, etc.
The Internet has given a voice to the 99 percent of those who don’t deserve one, and if you honestly—after reading any political message board for five minutes—suggest that universal suffrage is a good thing, then God help you. We are collectively crazed with paranoid anger; the blogosphere proves that we need to inject Zoloft, tranquilizers and antipsychotic medications into our water supply, not populism into our politics.
Listen, I’m not criticizing democracy, which you most likely consider either treasonous or discriminatory, depending on your worldview; I’m criticizing dumbocracy (shameless plug: the title of my new book), which undermines the real thing and threatens our shared values of freedom and equality. Citizens should have the right to vote, assuming that they can prove that they’re not complete dumbasses. But Joe Blow often has no idea what he’s talking about, even if he has common sense and the wisdom of crowds. Why shouldn’t skilled, experienced specialists have more pull in their fields of expertise than stubborn, cantankerous mutants who simply inherited their inflexible lifelong opinions from the previous generation of stubborn, cantankerous mutants?
Nobody wants an authoritarian, out-of-touch technocracy, excluding disciples of B.F. Skinner and possibly the customer service representatives at my wireless provider. We have the collective right to select our leaders, which is certainly preferable to our leaders selecting themselves. Our brave troops have died, generation after generation, to protect the ideal of self-government. But certain people are excluded from the voter rolls: criminals, children and corpses. If we make these exemptions, why not exempt the criminally childish and brain dead?
The Voting License Quiz will be relatively simple and nonpartisan. We don’t want to disenfranchise people over their opinions, which would reek of autocracy. Sure, 99 percent of Republican voters will be eliminated instantaneously, but so will 99 percent of wheatgrass-guzzling, civilization-loathing, PETA dues-paying fruitcakes. Either way, if you can’t answer basic civics questions (“The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees _________”) and logic questions (“If Barack Obama has a crazy Christian pastor all over the airwaves, does this make the senator a Muslim?”), then you’re shit out of luck, buddy; you’re too much of a goddamned imbecile to endanger our country—and our planet—with your hysterical fantasies and impulsive wrath.
There are evil geniuses and goodhearted simpletons, so perhaps my modestly proposed filter would be imperfect. However, we must take a driving test if we wish to legally drive. Nobody has a problem with this. Are automobiles really less dangerous than irrational minds?
Think about it.
(If you can.)
Marty Beckerman is the author of Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Loony Left, the Rabid Right and Other American Idiots (The Disinformation Company, September 2008). His website is www.MartyBeckerman.com