Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rules! Really?

It took the 17th Amendment to replace state legislators choosing Senators to direct popular election of Senators.

It took the Supreme Court to rule that “Separate but Equal” was not equal.

It took civil disobedience to integrate schools, public transportation, and eliminate other institutions of segregation.

Just think of how many times rules have been changed in American history to expand opportunity and participation in private and public life.

That something has always been done one way is no reason to keep doing it that way, especially when it infringes on, or curtails, the rights of different categories of Americans.  The Republican National Committee’s defense of voterless delegate selection in Colorado and Wyoming, because everyone knew the rules in advance, could just as well be used to defend any non-representative political, social, and economic arrangements.

Why not restore property and/or educational requirements to vote!  How about eliminating female suffrage!  How about counting “others” as three-fifths of a person!

No one would propose returning to rules that were neither just nor ethical, would they?  Maybe it’s time to bring primary and caucus rules into the twenty-first century to bring about “one man, one vote.”


Chick said...

The value of expanding popular direct democracy to voters has risks that deserve review, and not mechanical acceptance.

The average voter, by definition, is of average intelligence and experience, not an attractive characteristic for important decisions affecting, say, security, macro/micro economic policies, health care, social services, etc. Democracy, under these circumstances,tends to rely more on emotions leaning on factors such as race, sex, envy, and issues of the moment, rather than reason, or experience..

Indirect democracy, on the other hand, attempts to mute the raw numbers of momentary emotional judgements of voter majorities by favoring other considerations. In the U.S., for example, the system recognizes differing geographic and economic interests of each state, in addition to population size. Prime minister Lee of Singapore, while alive, entertained giving increased voter weight to more mature voters, married couples, and property owners.

Other systems discourage entertaining abrupt changes in governments, eschewing elections, say, every four years - much like pulling up carrots in mid season to see if they are growing. The division of power built into the U.S. Constitution is an example of a design that restrains the "tyranny of the majority". The changes in power via rotating leadership of parties, or partial changes in the composition of membership, and attendant ruling majorities as practiced in the U.S. senate, is another.

At the extremes, direct democracy lends itself to mob rule such as that experienced in different degrees in localized conflicts, e.g., Ferguson, Baltimore, Wall Street, and even in massive ones, the Arab Spring demonstrations in Tunisia, and Egypt being examples.

Human rights can be, and are, maintained separate from the mechanics of democratic election processes. Freedoms of the press, and of individuals, for example, are maintained in Hong Kong, despite the decisive role of China over representation and leadership. The British did the same during colonial rule. The youthful excesses in Hong Kong, nurtured intellectually by a professoriat of higher learning, garners support from most Western democracies. Their demonstrations, however, that cater to civil disorder, are troubling. If pushed to extremes, unrestrained "civil disobedience" can degenerate into anarchic behavior that can call on government to use its police powers to gain and retain the orderly functioning of society.

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