Courting The Wino Vote

Maybe There's Such A Thing As Too Much Democracy

Date

I figure we should only let intelligent people vote. Yeah. Give people an IQ test when they register. I'll tell you why. The Democrats keep trying to spread the franchise ever more thickly across the country, like peanut butter. They know they have a lock on the witless vote. Everybody should vote, they figure, especially people who don't have a possum's brains. Winos should vote, and derelicts, and people who live under bridges, and folks too lazy to register, and idiots, and hobos, and schizophrenics who talk to lampposts. It's just so, well, heartwarming and all. It's like, you know, together-heid.

That's why they tried Motor Voter bills, that automatically register anyone who gets a driver's license, and now there's talk about registering people when they sign up for food stamps, and letting them vote by Internet, and of course years back we got the vote for eighteen-year-olds. (Oh good: Policy made by self-absorbed pubescent hormone wads. Why didn't I think of that?)

We haven't seen the end of it, I tell you. As soon as the Democrats think of it, we'll have automatic registration at needle-exchange centers, morgues, and insane asylums. People with Multiple Personality Disorder will doubtless get lots of votes. I can see the bumper sticker now: "One Little Voice, One Vote." (You think I'm kidding, don't you? Wait.) Granted, there will be complexities. If a guy thinks he's Napoleon, can he vote? He's a Frenchman.

Anyway, the line goes, every year the proportion of people who vote goes down. We have to Save America. We need to encourage Participation.

I have a better idea. Let's don't. There's such a thing as too much democracy.

Think about it. The moral and intellectual dregs haven't a clue what they're voting for, except the party that will give them more of my money. (Let's see, which one would that be?) What earthly good can come from getting people to vote who are too dim to think and too torpid to bother? Explain it to me. Instead of encouraging the unworthy, I figure we ought to discourage them.

Here are my modest suggestions for improving the acuity of the electorate. I'm prepared to accept homage from a grateful nation.

First, nobody with an IQ under 110 will be permitted to vote.

Second, literacy tests will be brought back.

Third, no on under the age of 25 will be permitted to vote.

Am I not the throbbing heart of progressivism? When the staff at National Public Radio, those nice people with the terrycloth minds, hear about it, I bet they'll give me my own talk show.

Bear in mind that half the population is of below-average intelligence. (That's the nature of a distribution symmetric about the mean.) The white mean is 100. This is enough to be a Good Person, have a job that contributes something to the country, and find your way home at night. It is not remotely anything to be ashamed of. But neither is it optimum for understanding the importance of basic research in maintaining our lead in technology, or forecasting the ominous trajectory of Pan-Albanian irredentism.

Now, you might say, But Fred, the voters don't make these decisions anyway. They elect representatives to do these things. True. But when voters are not particularly bright, candidates can herd them like sheep. The tactic in elections today is to cower from substance, avoid any sign of intelligence, and treat the public as an Oprah audience. (If I ever hear again, "Mah fella Merkuns, Ah feel yore pine," I'm going to shriek.) A savvy candidate would rather be caught molesting goats than reading mathematics, because the unwashed resent brains.

But with the threshold at 110, candidates might actually have to address the issues. Respect for intelligence might rear its frightening head. The handout lobbies would cease dominating politics. An astute electorate would not bamboozle so easily. In most elections, an astute electorate would form a lynch mob.

As for a literacy test, people who cannot grasp reasonably complex ideas expressed in Standard English may be presumed not to know squat. Ignorance of the issues is not an obvious qualification for voting on them. Besides, given that everyone has an opportunity to learn to read, those who don't bother may be regarded as socially useless, preternaturally lazy, and certain to vote themselves other people's money.

I don't think the depth of the public witlessness is widely understood. People who are not pig-ignorant often do not grasp just how dark are the minds of those who are.

Very dark. Countless polls over the years have shown that 78% of the public doesn't know what NATO is, 67% don't know who fought in WWII, four of five can't name the three branches of the federal government or get the dates of the Civil War within half a century. Go into the urban slums and you will find that huge majorities say that they haven't read a book in ten years. Many never have.

See why we get the presidents we get?

In re literacy tests, I'm talking about a straightforward test of vocabulary and reading comprehension, nothing tricky or specialized. You know the kind: "Paramour most nearly means (1) what you cut grass with in Baltimore, (2) a North African who skydives, (3) a love affair between pears, (4) what you need to open in five-card stud or (5) an illicit lover."

Setting the voting age at twenty-five might allow American politics to transcend the maturity of a panty raid. Kids of eighteen have the political acumen of winos, but are awake more, and therefore more dangerous. They might remember to vote. Inevitably they will vote for whatever will most annoy their parents. The adolescent mixture of romantic absolutism, perfect self-confidence and comprehensive misunderstanding of practically everything bodes not well. Let'em grow up first.

Them's my thoughts. Just to be on the safe side, we'll put up signs outside the voting booths saying, "Free Fortified Wine, Eighty Blocks That Way," with a big arrow. Other signs might say, "Really Good Dope, One Mile." Or maybe, "Unwatched Televisions." In some precincts, nobody would vote at all.