Democracy’s all well and good, I think we’d all agree?
Well, most of us. Some of us, it has become disconcertingly obvious, have been long voicing a raucus inchoate enthusiasm for what is euphemistically termed a Populist agenda. That would be a politics claiming to address the interests of that salt of the earth, the working man. The successful populist candidate, then, must be a charismatic figure able to speak a proper street language and a convincing argument that he (and sometimes only he) has the wherewithal to eradicate a worn out politics as usual and effect a new and vibrant glory to the land over which he presides. No matter that such a candidate usually aspires not to an altruistic program for the benefit of his constituents but more to an aggressive vision of power for the sake of power. In short, he wishes to be another among the world’s diabolical clique of amoral autocrats.
Fortunately, nary a populist candidate has been successful on the American stage throughout the history of the republic. Democrat and influential populist William Jennings Bryan came close, having been nominated thrice for the presidency. He proved too weird. He is remembered today mostly for his anti-evolution activism and religious fundamentalism.
To my mind there has been only one successful populist presidential candidate before the present moment. That would be very early on, our seventh president, Andrew Jackson. Two terms for Andrew, proving the enterprising malefactor will always find a place in the body politic.
Long live democracy and the collective wisdom of the electorate! Democracy, even with its foibles, be praised! But if one understands that democracy only works within the confines of an informed electorate, one must make allowances for electoral outcomes. Permit me, then, to bemoan the judgement of large swaths of the voting public. Recall Mr. Thomas Frank’s 2004 book What’s the Matter with Kansas?, or the bewildering modern phenomenon of voters voting absolutely contrary to their personal interests.
The informed electorate today (and throughout history, I suppose) votes according to preconceived ideological notions and biases, issues be damned. We will, therefore, celebrate the host of persuadable voters, who, we skeptically consider, vote according to an informed judgement.
Nevertheless, we must revere the sacred citizen right to cast a ballot, and we must decry any attempt to disenfranchise the electorate.
Citizens of Jamestown, VOTE! It is not only your sacred right but also your sacred duty. Democracy depends upon the active participation of the electorate.