The Function of Universal-Suffrage Democratic Elections

October 11, 2012 § 14 Comments

I realize that although the point I am trying to make is simple, it is at the same time extraordinarily counterintuitive to the modern mind.   So I’ll attempt in this post to make a single, simple – though counterintuitive – point.

The conventional way of thinking about elections is that it is the means by which the free and equal citizens of the polity have their say in how we are governed.  That conventional way of thinking is wrong.

In fact, during our national elections the polity presents to us a very narrow range of choices, all of which are conventional liberal choices within the governing liberal consensus.   The function of the election is to get as many people as possible to make an act of personal allegiance to – a vote for – that governing liberal consensus.   In so doing, and by turning it into a dramatic battle of supposed opposites, the liberal polity makes other philosophies of governance unthinkable.

Notice that what I am providing here is my own assessment of the factual situation: of how things actually work, as opposed to how they are generally thought to work.   I am not making any particular suggestions as to what you ought to do or not do about it.  Suggesting that the conclusions you would draw if I happen to be right are unthinkable to you is not an objection to my assessment of the factual state of affairs.  I’m either right about this or I’m not right about it, and the test of whether I am right about it is to observe our political process, including the mathematical realities which are inherent to it, and see if it in fact functions the way I say it functions.

What you choose to do with that information is up to you, and I don’t at this point pretend to be offering advice on that question.

§ 14 Responses to The Function of Universal-Suffrage Democratic Elections

  • Martian Bachelor says:

    +1 on your third paragraph.

    The major parties are two sides of the same coin, or two heads feeding from the same trough. We have a one-party system masquerading as a two-party system.

    The absurd trivialities and distractions into which campaigns descend is what led Postman to title his now classic book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” (Politics in the Age of Show Business).

    The Avocado Declaration (Green Party – http://www.cagreens.org/longbeach/avocado.htm) briefly describes a reasonable model of our political structure as seen from the “left”. Former FTC Chairman and Budget Director under Prez Reagan, George C. Miller, III, later wrote a book, “Monopoly Politics”, on the same topic from a right/conservative perspective.

    Both are highly recommended as starting points for those who want to better understand WTF is really going on.

    Jesse Ventura also has a new book out, and I hope he runs as an Independent in 2016. At least half the country is in a mood right now to flip the bird at the whole Washington/Wall Street power structure, so I think he stands a decent chance of shaking things up even more than Ross Perot did twenty years ago.

  • Gian says:

    You are spolied in America. A polity that simulatenously offering support for Partial Birth Abortions and banning all abortions can hardly be accused of offering a narrow range of choices. You haven’t seen narrow if you hadn’t lived in India or China or Arabia.

  • The US offers no prospects for illiberal governance whatsoever, and banning all abortions is impossible without illiberal governance. Even those who are against abortion support a philosophy of governance which makes it inevitable. The fact that people can be against the abortion regime while throwing their support behind the governing philosophy that produced it is a feature, not a bug. In at least one respect this is worse than more overtly tyrannical regimes: it fools people into thinking that there is a wide range of political choices.

  • Here is a two part question to test the theory that mass democracy makes illiberal governance a practical possibility, without an overwhelming bias toward secular liberal governance.

    In the last 300 years, how many liberal democracies have been founded? Of those, how many ban abortion today?

  • Gian says:

    I am sympathetic to your view but how do you define a liberal government?
    Is an illiberal govt that which does not respect the dogma of (political) Equality of Man i.e. undoes the French Revolution?
    This view is gaining currency as the Dark Enlightenment,

  • Paul J Cella says:

    To what extent is the Christian obliged to uphold the political order under which he lives?

    To the exiles God gave emphatic instructions: “seek the welfare of the city into which I have sent you in exile and pray for it.” St. Paul straight enjoins subjection to the “governing authorities.”

    The exiles had been defeated in war and carried away in slavery to that city the welfare of which they were ordered to seek; and St. Paul would die unjustly at the hands of the governing authorities he subjected himself to. So we can hardly speak as if it were easy for them. There are no convenient codicils to these commands reading “except when you live under a liberal dystopia.”

    Put another way: there is absolutely no scriptural evidence (or, so far as I know, evidence in the RC tradition) for the proposition that we have grounds to expect a political order we endorse or approve of. Yet the commands of civic loyalty remain.

    Is it possible to faithfully seek the welfare of the American liberal city without always participating in her civic rituals? Almost certainly. Is it possible to faithfully seek her welfare while maintaining a posture of radical anti-participation? That seems more dubious. I would, for instance, look very suspiciously on the Christian who refused to sit on a jury.

    Other questions arise: What about military service? If signing on to a liberal governing consensus via voting is disreputable, how much moreso signing on via soldiering? And yet St. Ignatius and Don John of Austria were soldiers of the Spanish Empire, the cruelty and routine tortures of which are legendary.

    And so on. This world is a vale of tears. The Lord God was not unaware of that when He inspired Jeremiah and St. Paul to write their bracing words on civic obligation.

  • Gian says:

    A Christian is not obliged to defend a State when the State itself is flouting Natural Law in particularly flagrant ways such as by legislating same-sex marriages, abortion etc.

  • Paul:
    Put another way: there is absolutely no scriptural evidence (or, so far as I know, evidence in the RC tradition) for the proposition that we have grounds to expect a political order we endorse or approve of. Yet the commands of civic loyalty remain.

    That is true, and is right in the catechism. The question then becomes: is voting in a modern universal-suffrage election an expression of civic loyalty to the blood and soil of the polis, or is it a pinch of incense to the false pagan god liberalism? And if it is the latter for the great majority of people who do it (after all, there isn’t anything intrinsically pagan-god-worshiping about lighting incense) what does that imply for those of us who are aware of the scandal?

    Is it possible to faithfully seek her welfare while maintaining a posture of radical anti-participation?

    It is interesting that to decline participation in one particular kind of civic ritual is considered “radical anti-participation”, as if one simply ceases to exist as a member of the polis when one so declines. I think that tells us something rather significant about that civic ritual.

  • Gian:
    My understanding of liberalism is summarized in a number of places; one place is the first paragraph of this old post at W4. Here is another.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    It is interesting that to decline participation in one particular kind of civic ritual is considered “radical anti-participation”, as if one simply ceases to exist as a member of the polis when one so declines.

    Didn’t mean to imply that, with regard to voting. The radicalism I had in mind consists in a Christian who would not serve on a jury, or a tax commission, or a local committee, etc. A non-voter in national elections would not bother me at all, supposing his or her reasons for not voting are considered and defensible.

  • [...] is: it isn’t a process whereby we choose how we are governed, it is the process by which we pledge allegiance to the liberal consensus which governs us.  If you are going to do it you should at least have a clear-eyed idea of just what the [...]

  • [...] Catholic: Saint Compromise; The Function of Universal-Suffrage Democratic Elections; Hypergamy; Hypergamy: social-behavioral concepts; It’s all Greek to me; Elections and Social [...]

  • [...] my regular readers know, I myself draw further conclusions.  Because the function of these kinds of mass-market universal-suffrage elections is in my view not to decide how we are governed, but rather to build consensus around the liberal [...]

  • [...] [2] I would contend that almost everything important has already happened by the time the ballots go to print; but that is a different discussion. [...]

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