After every election I become more convinced that we should require something beyond basic citizenship before we let people vote for president. Perhaps we could have a current events quiz, a psychological exam or some sort of intelligence test before we allow people to cast a ballot.
We should also consider taking away voting privileges from people who vote based on physical attractiveness, skin color, gender, how often a candidate goes to church and anyone who always makes their pick based on any one issue. This would, of course, disenfranchise the stupid and the uninformed - the group that generally decides most elections.
Eliminate having to pander to the stupid and the uninformed and we might actually get some competent candidates with new ideas running for office. That would eliminate elections like our recent one which boiled down to a liberal whose message never goes deeper than “change” and a conservative who implies that Democrats want to take God away, allow everyone to marry anything and basically turn the country over to Al Qaeda.
The sheer amount of uninformed people who vote in a presidential election make it impossible for a candidate to run based on ideas or abilities. Instead, anyone who hopes to win the White House must become a populist, playing to the masses and reaching out to the lowest common denominator.
Smart people can vote for a competent leader who disagrees with them on social issues. I might not agree with Rudy Giuliani on a variety of ideas, but the man knows how to run a city and I’d be happy to have him in charge where I live. On the other hand, comedian Bill Maher agrees with me on many things, but I would not want him as mayor.
Consider that in the real world, executive jobs get filled by the people most qualified to run whatever it is that needs running. You can bet Bob Kraft never asked Bill Belichick for his stance on abortion during his job interview and I’m pretty sure when Steve Jobs came back to Apple, the board never inquired about how much religious faith he had.
Of course, the president has some power to sway our laws and his feelings on issues like abortion and religion have a place in the campaign, just not the major place they play. We ask our presidential candidates how they feel about gay marriage and whether they wear boxers or briefs, but few of us ask, “can this man manage a giant organization?”
Voting for president should involve more than finding the person who thinks most like you do. I have lots of compassionate leftist friends who I would want by my side during tough times, but would not want making decisions for the country. Similarly, I have some right-leaning friends who are great in a fight, but I would not look to them when I need compassion.
Our responsibility as voters should be to pick someone who can run the country. Since neither candidate in this recently passed election seems obviously qualified to do that, then we have done a bad job.
Realistically, mass voting almost always results in picking mediocre people. Simply look at the majority of the “American Idol” winners and you see a parade of democratically elected mediocrity. Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel wouldn’t have stood a chance on that show any more than a true leader stands to be elected under this system.
While I know of no better alternative, the current election, like many before it, proves open democracy simply does not work. The people should not make decisions because they always vote selfishly.
Getting elected requires pandering to the masses and while we might be individually smart, group enough people together and we’re generally stupid. For the system to work, we’d actually have to look beyond our own self interests when we cast our votes and very few, if any, people can do that.
Daniel B. Kline’s work appears in over 100 papers weekly. When he is not writing Kline serves as general manager of Time Machine Hobby New England’s largest hobby and toy store, www.timemachinehobby.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or you can see his archive at dbkline.com.