What would you guess was the top Yahoo search term of 2008? Go ahead – think about it. If you guessed “election” or “Obama” would have been the most popular terms think again. “Election” didn’t even make the top 10, and “Barack Obama” came in 3rd place – under “WWE” (World Wrestling Entertainment) and the #1 search term… wait for it… “Britney Spears.”
Also on the top 10 were Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, and American Idol.
If you were one of the 130 million people who voted in the latest U.S. presidential election (less then half of the population), you may be under the impression that you personally had a say in the selection of our next president. Well, perhaps in some roundabout way you did, because what we live in is a roundabout democracy – or more formally, a representative republic – not a democracy at all. The actual votes for president were cast by 538 chosen electors on December 15. You didn’t hear a word about it from the news media. It wasn’t that “they” are trying to trick you, we as a society simply don’t care much about it.
In our nation we praise democracy and teach our children to value its ideals, but the founders of our constitution knew the dangers of a direct democracy and designed a system to sustain the nation and preserve liberty – a task that would prove difficult, and a complex solution.
The Problem: When a king has absolute authority the government can quickly establish and enforce laws. If such a king is wise and good the laws will also be, but if he is a selfish tyrant the laws will oppress the people and liberty will be lost. If power rests in the hands of “the people” it is presumed that they will lead the nation to what is best for them, but that presumption assumes that the majority of a populous always knows what is best and wise. The reality is that the will of the masses, expedited and unchecked, will inevitably lead to chaos. We all know that popular opinions are not always the right ones. So it may seem that the best way to set up a government is to give political power to only the most wise, trustworthy, honorable men and women in society. This reduces the potential of mistakes, but keeps power from any one person, family or party. However, we know that this also does not play out in reality. Elite classes eventually give themselves more power and wealth until it is corrupted by such.
We have a problem here. It seems impossible to assign power to anyone without it leading to ultimate corruption, chaos or control! The solution: representation.
Can you answer these questions?
1. Who is the current Speaker of the House?
2. Which political party controlled congress before the last election?
3. Who is your State Governor?
4. What was the “New Deal” and who made it?
5. Which major political party supports low taxes for everyone?
Answers: 1) Nancy Pelosi, 2) Democrats, 3) TX has Rick Perry, 4) A massive set of social programs through the federal government, imposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, 5) Republicans
If you didn’t know a couple of these, don’t worry – you’re normal. You probably know sports statistics that I don’t, or how to change the oil in your car, or maybe you’ve seen all of the most talked-about movies and/or TV shows this year. It’s okay, we all have our own interests, goals and talents. And this is why our political system is designed to give more influence to those who are actively involved and informed in politics. Presidential candidates are chosen through primaries, which are led by parties and partisans. Once the general election begins it is the party leaders and media elite that have the loudest voices. Then on election day we, as a people, get to cast a vote – not for president, but for electors who will represent our opinion – then those electors cast their vote. However, only twice in U.S. history has the electoral vote not matched the popular vote.
This system works in such a way to provide several lines of defense against a person becoming president simply by being “popular” – otherwise we could end up with president Oprah and her VP, Dr. Phil. As fickle as public trends are, presidents would likely lose support before even taking office. Instead, our political leaders are supported and held accountable by people who actually like politics. And despite its undemocratic-ness, isn’t this a good thing?
I would venture to say that while the majority of the public wants to feel that their voices are being heard, they aren’t so interested in the political process and take some kind of relief from the fact that much of the burden of it is handled by the pundits, the partisans, the politicians and others who care to spend their time on this societal necessary evil. So in reality, we like this goofy system. This somewhat undemocratic system.
I point this out to say that total democracy and “fairness” isn’t always what is best, and we kind of know it, but don’t like to talk about it because it goes against the great myth that we all like to pretend is true – that every person is equal. Yes, we are all born with inalienable rights, and in that sense we are equal by simply being human, but to say that we are completely equal says that there is no difference in strength, will, intelligence, and creativity among us. It says that we are all the same. This world-view ultimately leads to socialism and even communism unless it is stopped in its tracks by supporters of liberty. Understanding human equality is essential to liberty, but it must be held to reason in order to ensure that both are valued in our nation.
We can still tell our children that they can strive for anything they want to do with their lives, but saying that every child is capable of doing anything with their life is a fallacy, and a disservice to those who never get to learn that failure can be a good thing. That it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. That when you fall, you get back up and become stronger for it. You try again, or you move on to something else. Eventually you will find that which you can succeed in – and not just succeed, but excel!