Frater Novae Res (fraternovaeres) wrote in amst3920,
Frater Novae Res

Democracy and the Vote

"The principle of popular election is a fatal folly; its results are visible in every so-called democracy. The elected man is always the mediocrity; he is the safe man, the sound man, the man who displeases the majority less than any other; and therefore never the genius, the man of progress and illumination."

- Crowley, Liber CXCIV.

Today in class we discussed the merits of democracy (representative democracy in particular). This lead to a discussion of the importance of the vote and who ought to be able to vote. Is it right that convicted felons are disenfranchised? Should voting rights be tied to some form of service (military or otherwise) to the State? Should there be some resurrected form of poll tax or test? Should there be a "voter license"? While there was no real agreement one way or the other on these potential solutions, one thing people did agree on was the importance of an educated electorate. The problem, it was generally agreed, was that voters were not educated on issues relevant to voting, and that some measure should be taken to ensure that voters are qualified (read: educated enough) to vote.

We need to look at the motivating factor in this consensus. On inspection, the implicit argument behind the necessity of educated voters runs thusly: There is a single Truth, and greater education will better enable people to understand and act on that truth. What does this tacit line of argumentation reveal? Here we find the idea that one's particular brand of truth is single, universal, and self-evident. This truth exists objectively and is there to be grasped by anyone equipped with the proper tools. This call for greater voter "education" also reveals a level of disatisfaction with the results of elections. Whether one is "educated" or not, the individual, exercised vote itself isn't affected thereby. Whether the majority is "educated" or not, if they all vote for X, X wins the election. The nature of the disatisfaction now becomes apparent. After all, if the majority consistently voted the way one wanted them to, one wouldn't call for "better education" at all. To advocate any kind of voting reform means that one is dissatisfied with voting results. Better "education", it is thought, would change those results. Examining who makes this call for better voter education can reveal exactly how different people think "education" would affect election results.

However, the discussion about potential solutions for this problem revealed something else: anxiety. "Who would make these decisions?" was a common outcry. One classmate advocated representative democracy and rejected any alternatives because he was afraid that the biases of ruling elites would adversely affect him. This insistence on democracy (direct or representative) is rooted in a fear of power. Having an electorate is seen as a check against the "coercive power of the State," a means of protection from tyranny from Above. Ironically, this fear of power is so great that our democratic advocates don't trust the elected representatives to make decisions on voting reform! This begs the question: What's wrong with power? Why is it that we fear power? Is power necessarily a bad thing? Is power exercised by the majority "safer" than power exercised by an elite or an individual? Delsol discusses this issue in the context of contemporary man living in a post-20th century world, a world that has witnessed the rise and fall of national socialism, communism, and fascism. The failure of these grand projects, and the consequences of those projects, has racked contemporary man with fear of the exercise of power. Democracy (as Tomislav Sunic and others have noted), by casting itself against these utopian projects, posits itself as the only real alternative. Only the democratic definition of truth and justice is relevant, and this is because democracy protects the people from State-sponsored tyranny.

But does it? What is involved in this assumption, and does it survice scrutiny? The notion that the vote secures the individual's freedom from decisions made by those in power oppression is false on its face. This is because, for one reason, the individual's vote is meaningless, an ineffectual, inconsequential counterfeit of political action. Put simply, for something to have meaning, it has to make a difference. Its presence must entail a different consequence, on some level, than its absence. One's individual vote doesn't have a consequence on any level, and cannot by virtue of the very mechanics of democracy itself. The only political action (in terms of an election) that is meaningful, that makes a difference, is that of the abstract majority. This is why democracy has been characterized by some as mob rule. In the United States in particular, the vote is a double sham, because the presense of an electoral college (an elite, no less) reduces even the semblance of an individual's vote to a mere suggestion among suggestions. However, this issue (as I see it) is larger than the presence of an electoral college. Even in a representative democracy, whether there exists an electoral college or not, the people are ruled by an elite. The vote doesn't eliminate a small class, or even select individuals, from exercising enormous power over the populace. We return, full circle, to the fear of power. One classmate said of representative democracy, "Sometimes you get lucky." This view of politics frames it as a game of roulette with far reaching consequences for the total populace. Are we really satisfied with a high-stakes, national-level game of roulette ordered and played by the mob, a war of all against all in a tyranny from Below?

"We are condemned to find inadequate solutions to our problems as long as we cannot find the courage to look at their source."

- Chantal Delsol, Icarus Fallen.

When I challenged democracy in class today, one classmate retorted, "What are the alternatives?" Here we see the domination of democratic values in our political discourse that Delsol, Sunic, and others have discussed. I'm happy to talk about potential alternatives and solutions to the problem of democracy, but before we have that conversation we have to agree that democracy is a problem in the first place. As Delsol demonstrates, we have to agree that something is a problem before we can make real progress in solving that problem. Is this a problem that needs fixing? Perhaps I'm alone in this, but I think it is. At the very least, we have to question the fundamental and foundational myth of democracy, what it stands for, and how it affects us.
Tags: delsol, democracy, politics, power
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