Every now and then insight strikes like a bolt from the blue, and suddenly everything is clear. That’s how it hit me on a recent rainy morning: Democrats have no faith in the democratic process. They seem to believe, with the late, great H. L. Mencken, that “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance,” and that “As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” And Democrats say, “Never again!”
This explains why the second impeachment of Donald Trump is so important to Democrats: they’re terrified the idiot electorate will vote the Bad Orange Man into office again. He must be disqualified, banned from holding elective office! They don’t like to acknowledge it, but even after all the dubious absentee and mail-in ballots were counted and recounted, Biden’s win was a squeaker, not a landslide. Extraordinary measures were required in the $470 million Georgia runoff to nudge the Senate to the tipping point, and Republicans actually gained seats in the House. So obviously voters can’t be trusted to do the right thing in the future. If you’re not sure you can win the game fair and square, get your opponent disqualified.
This theory also fits with a host of other issues on which the Democratic party’s distrust of voters and lack of faith in their own powers of persuasion shine through. Unwilling to wait for states and their voters to legalize abortion and gay marriage, they short-circuited the democratic process through the Supreme Court. For a more contemporary example, look no further than the Oval Office. In his opening weeks as president, Biden has signed a flotilla of executive orders, completely bypassing the legislative process the Constitution ordained for the adoption of laws.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not necessarily questioning the ends so much as the means. Sure, the president has the power to issue executive orders, but the Constitution wasn’t designed to enable the chief executive to rule by fiat. In The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power Under the Constitution, Professor Michael McConnell provides a compelling account of how the presidency was crafted to facilitate decisive action while restraining tyrannical impulses. But in the main our lawmaking process is founded on notions of rough-and-tumble competition in the marketplace of ideas in both legislative chambers, not muzzling or bypassing the opposition.
For comparison, imagine if Coca Cola had gone to court to get Pepsi banned from supermarket shelves instead of just trying to drown them in advertising and sales. (Actually, that’s what drives a lot of antitrust cases, but let’s not get sidetracked.)
Fear of the democratic process and open debate also explains their growing hostility to free speech, about which my hero Glenn Greenwald writes so eloquently. Greenwald cautions that tech giants are censoring unpopular viewpoints: he had his own personal run-in with Platform Power when the Intercept — which he largely created — suppressed an article he wrote that was critical of the Bidens, père et fils. Another one of my favorite writers, Matt Taibbi, marvels that even as public confidence in journalists sinks to new depths, their unwillingness either to listen to critics or tolerate dissent is converting a sounding board to an echo-chamber:
Competing voices and critics who’ll keep your newsroom at least theoretically honest are important, which is why the mass-deletions of alternative media accounts are so upsetting: it hugely enhances the likelihood of errors and cheap caricatures, as well as the belief in one’s infallibility. The fact that pundits and reporters are leading the charge for an ever-purer monoculture is beyond creepy.
Incorrect thinking must be banned and its speakers reviled, silenced, canceled, disinvited! As Peter Berkowitz observes in his excellent RealClearPolitics column,
A healthy liberal democracy thrives on diversity of opinions. Hashing matters out in public frequently gets messy and often makes a hash of matters. But the gains that come from putting competing opinions to the test of open discussion with fellow citizens representing a range of perspectives and parties offset the inconveniences and unlovely aspects of democratic give-and-take.
The suppression of debate through the vilification and suppression of one’s opponents is a rejection of capitalist principles founded on the free and open competition. Free speech is essential to a free society, but far too many today are calling for censorship and suppression of “wrong thinking.” Jordan Peterson’s new book must not see print because he objected to pronoun laws! Free-and-fair election questioners must be drummed out of polite society!
Don’t these folks remember that it wasn’t so long ago that many of the views they espouse were in the minority, and but for the Constitution’s protection of those minority views through the freedoms of speech and assembly they would have been the ones being censored?
Political players are supposed to win the game by convincing voters that theirs is the better program, not by hobbling the opposing team. A rigged fight isn’t very interesting (except, perhaps, in professional wrestling). We should insist that capitalism’s competition principles be applied to the marketplace of ideas as well as things.
Betsy Dorminey is an attorney in Georgia and an entrepreneur in Vermont. Her columns have appeared in the Vermont Digger, The American Spectator, Western Journal, Townhall, and the Hill. She is the Vermont State director of The Capitalist League.
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