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Toxic elitism of declaring voters unworthy of the task

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What emerged was a strange sort of alternative elitism. At his rallies, Trump often proclaimed that he and his supporters were the real elites, the crème de la crème of America representing what the country was meant to be, better than foolish writings for the Washington Post. It was sort of tongue-in-cheek wording, considering we generally think of it as an elite, but like so many things in Trump’s day, it captured a real feeling. Trump supporters often saw themselves as better Americans than their opponents, more patriotic if not more pure. If the elite simply means the best, they were, according to their own understanding, the American elite.

This idea that there are good able-bodied Americans and bad corrupt Americans permeates much of today’s conversation. A poll released in February found that most Republicans do not see Democrats as political opponents but as enemies, a group that poses a danger to the country. Most Republicans say they believe Joe Biden only won the election last year because of voter fraud, a blatantly ridiculous claim for which there is no evidence, but which overlaps with sentiment that the political left is dangerous, dishonest and toxic.

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In November, 81.3 million Americans voted to elect Biden’s president, nearly 10% more than the number who voted for Trump. The Conservative Heritage Foundation has identified voter fraud associated with the 2020 election, a case in which a Michigan guy forged his daughter’s signature to submit the ballot at her request. The vote was not counted. And that’s all.

The fact that so many voters rejected Trump than they supported him poses a bit of a conundrum for those who believe they are the real political elite. How do you reconcile the non-Americanity of the left with the idea that so many Americans prefer the candidate for this post? A response that is newly in vogue: these voters are somehow not worthy to vote, confuse and misread the system.

In the past seven days, the conservative National Review has twice made arguments against the broad exercise of the franchise. On March 31, there was a row by Dan McLaughlins against compulsory voting. On Wednesday morning, Kevin Williamsons went further: Maybe the system would be better if fewer people voted.

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Democrats, Williamson begins, believe that more people are voting is a good thing. But why should we think this?

Why shouldn’t we believe otherwise? he writes. That the republic would be better served by having fewer but better voters?

The word that carries that last sentence and, really, the whole article is better. What does it mean to be a better voter? What test is applied to make this assessment? Williamson never responds directly to this, realizing that he doesn’t need it. He knows and his readers know what he means, as surely as Trump supporters knew what Trump meant when he proclaimed at his rallies that they were the elites.

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Williamson means people like Kevin Williamson. He certainly doesn’t mean just anyone.

One argument to encourage greater turnout is that if more eligible voters go to the polls, the outcome will more closely reflect what the average American voter wants, he writes. It sounds like a wonderful thing if you haven’t met the average American voter.

It’s so dismissive and in a way that reflects the kind of elitism Trump has claimed to reject. It centers on an idea similar to the one Trump promoted, however, which some people are more familiar with and others not. Here, however, Williamson comes up with the idea in the service of coercing people who pass his undeclared quality test to vote. (At one point, he’s arguing that the voting age should be raised to 30, which certainly reflects his position.)

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He makes a number of frankly bizarre arguments to defend his position, such as comparing unqualified voters to unqualified doctors, which is simply the reverse of the argument that anyone should be allowed to fly an F- 16 over foreign airspace because we’re not preventing people from doing it. walk around shopping malls.

We could rigorously and easily check eligibility to vote, if we wanted, just as we have the ability to verify who is eligible to enter the country or to drive a car, he wrote at another point, adding later. that even a little. fraud or improper voting is something that should be discouraged and, if possible, avoided.

Of course, we rigorously validate identity at the ballot box so that fraudulent voting is almost entirely eliminated. We also require a license to drive a car, but that doesn’t prevent people from driving without something that almost certainly happens a lot more often than people vote illegally. The added threat of legal consequences for driving without a license serves as an effective control over the number of people who do so. And many people have to drive. Most people don’t risk federal jail time by adding a few more forged ballots to an election, so it just doesn’t happen very often.

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At the end of the article, Williamson presents his examples of voters who just don’t take their responsibility seriously and, by implication, don’t qualify as better voters. It is because the voters of Pennsylvania do not approach their task with vigor, he writes, that the Philadelphia city council has not been drowned in the Schuylkill River.

Do we even need to call the subtext of it all? Williamson, like McLaughlin the week before, is partly responding to legislation passed in Georgia that will place new requirements on voters seeking to vote by mail, among others. This change, state advocates fear, will disproportionately affect those who do not have the time or money to obtain the necessary identity documents to enable them to do so. As easy as the state can do to meet this requirement, there will always be an obstacle to overcoming the kind of bureaucratic hurdle that often weighs most heavily on the poor and, by extension, on people of color.

We expect people, including the poor and those in difficulty, to pay their taxes. Why shouldn’t we expect them to keep their driver’s licenses up to date? he writes. If voting is truly the sacred duty it has always been told, shouldn’t we treat it at least as seriously as filing a 1040EZ?

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It is a mixture of requirement and ease, and ironic. You have to pay taxes, and the 1040EZ exists specifically to make it as simple as possible, hence the name of the form.

But you get his point, given the larger context of the article: Barriers are good if they prevent the wrong types of voters from voting. It was the rationale for literacy testing that kept black voters from voting in the South 75 years ago. That non-white Americans vote so much more strongly Democrats means that it is difficult to disentangle systems that disadvantage Democrats from those that disadvantage non-whites, and vice versa. The result is that partisan motives can often appear racist.

Sixty-four years ago, it was easier to determine where the National Review drew the line. As the magazine’s founder, William F. Buckley, wrote in 1957:

It is not easy, and unpleasant, to present statistics demonstrating the median cultural superiority of white over black: but it is a hindering fact, a fact which cannot be hidden by egalitarians and anthropologists as busy as ever. The question, as far as the white community is concerned, is whether the demands of civilization replace those of universal suffrage. The British believe this and acted on it in Kenya, where the choice was dramatically one between civilization and barbarism, and elsewhere; the South, where the conflict is by no means dramatic, as in Kenya, nevertheless perceives important qualitative differences between its culture and the negroes, and intends to affirm its own. NATIONAL REVIEW believes that the premises of the South are correct.

White voters in Jim Crow South were better voters, that’s all. They were the deserving elites, the real Americans with a superior culture.

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