It didn’t get much notice last week, but University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit) wrote something whose implications are so radical, I almost can’t believe it appeared in USA Today:
In a country like ours, where voters reign supreme, it seems as if concern about the patriotism of rulers ought to also apply to voters.
Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, in his famous novel Starship Troopers, envisioned a society where voters, too, had to demonstrate their patriotism before being allowed to vote. In his fictional society, the right to vote came only after some kind of dangerous public service — in the military, as a volunteer in dangerous medical experiments, or in other ways that demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice personally for the common good. The thought was that such voters would be more careful, and less selfish, in their voting.
So when the five-day wonder of questioning Barack Obama’s patriotism is over, perhaps we should address another question: How patriotic is the electorate? And how long can we survive as a nation if the answer is “not very”? And we should proceed from there.
Emphasis mine. What’s he saying here? His name-checking on Heinlein’s fiction allows him to utter what can’t be said in polite American society: not all votes are equal. The vote being cast by someone with a moral stake or investment in society is more likely to be judicious in using that power. This in contrast to the selfish that Reynolds obliquely identifies—that is, those who use their vote to parasitize from others’ paychecks, be it through welfare or crony capitalism.
For those unfamiliar, Reynolds through his Instapundit blog is an influential voice on the mainstream Right. As a link aggregator who throws in a little commentary here and there, he can bring a lot of conservative grassroots attention to causes, news items, products, and personal health (he’s become a lifting enthusiast the last few years and also a big fan of Gary Taubes books on why Americans are so fat). Identifying as a libertarian, he says “I like to joke that I’d like to live in a world in which happily married gay people have closets full of assault weapons to protect their pot.”
But that joke belies a shift in his commentary the last few years, clearly a reaction to the dark times in which we live. “A moral response to this behavior might involve those officials, among others, hanging from lampposts,” he recently said of the Rotherham sex abuse scandal in which officials covered up the rapes of 1,400 children by Pakistani immigrants colonists lest Britain’s multicultural commitment be blemished by the unspeakable truth. Last week, he touched frankly on Obama’s otherness, and why questions about his patriotism cut him so close to the bone.
All this makes that final “And we should proceed from there” seem full of deliberate meaning. What’s the natural consequence of honestly admitting that not all votes are equal? That not all voters, insofar as what motivates their votes, are equal?
If we “proceed from there”, then the parasitizing voters in the society simply shouldn’t. Stated more accurately, there would be no franchise for those that declined some service that would signal—accurately or not—that they have a moral investment sufficient to make them unlikely parasitical voters. But ultimately, the specifics here are less important than the principle that some votes are just unworthy.
Criticizing universal suffrage, even at the margins, is a radical thing to even make mention of. Especially coming from someone who, while far from a cliché, establishment conservative, is still Respectable Right.
While I doubt the next CPAC will include a Nick Land or Duck Enlightenment keynote, I wonder if we are seeing a leading indicator in the collapse of mainstream conservative belief in the American system’s legitimacy. They’ve known for ages that the media is a rigged game—noting the daily instances of press bias is something of a parlor game on conservative blogs. But it’s another thing entirely to acknowledge that the system springing from the Constitution is also a rigged game. Reynolds’ column, at its core, does precisely that.