The concept of one human, or more commonly, "one man," one vote, is not clothed with the universal applicability or self-evident justice or morality, assumed by the modern "Liberal." It was certainly not the doctrine of the Founders of the American Republic.
James Madison, our revered fourth President, and more than any other single individual considered the Father of the Constitution of the United States, wrote in Federalist Paper No. 10:
No man is allowed to be judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens?
While Madison saw in the Federal structure a chance to control the effects of factions by bringing in so many varied interests that it would be difficult for them to act in concert in such a way as to effectively oppress the minority; prior to the Bill Of Rights, there were few explicit prohibitions on special interest legislation. There was, however, a very explicit recognition of at least one aspect of the "Conflict of Interest" concept in the following exclusion from the ranks of those qualified to participate in the election of a President:
no Senator or Representative, or person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector. (From Article II, Section 1, Constitution Of The United States Of America.)
At least two important conflict of interest concepts are involved in the clause cited: First, a recognition that under the basic separation of powers, envisioned by the Founders, it is inappropriate for the Legislators to have first choice of Presidential candidates. (When the House selects a President, after the Electoral College has failed to do so, it is from those who have received the most votes in the College--ie. those already screened.) Second, a recognition that people on the Federal payroll--the bureaucracy--have a special interest in the selection of their boss.
It does not appear to have occurred to anyone within the Washington power structure today--or no one in that establishment has had the combination of courage and integrity necessary to acknowledge--that the nearly universal custom, in this century, for Presidential electors to be chosen at large--usually by voters without a clue as to the identity of the Electors chosen--before those Electors simply cast pro forma ballots ratifying Statewide popularity contests, completely eviscerates the intention of the framers to put the Presidency above and beyond the reach of the self-seeking, the self-serving. Clearly a Congress, which frequently prattles--and legislates--about "conflicts of interest" where someone has a completely honorable and indirect business relationship with any enterprise that has dealings with the Government, might do better to bother itself with the enervation of the Founders' attempt to avoid the most obvious conflicts of interest at the highest level of power, danger and, hence, rational concern.
Senators, who have blocked the appointment of nominees to the United States Supreme Court on the basis that they held stock in Corporations that might some day be litigants, seem totally oblivious to a situation where identifiable special interests--such as retired Medicare beneficiaries--have become the controlling swing vote in Federal elections in States like Florida and Arizona. But then why should they care or bother? Since the New Deal, at least, Congress and the White House have both been buying votes with one flagrantly Unconstitutional spending and regulatory program after another. Or can anyone find a provision in the Federal Constitution which authorizes Federal control of labor/management relations, farm subsidies, Social Security, private bank bailouts, policing private racial and religious preferences, subsidizing or controlling the education of children, interfering in relations between the sexes, subsidizing the health needs of individuals, or trying to police attitudes, including religious beliefs, as they may relate to sexual deviancy?
Although some aspects of the sorry spectacle are no longer easily corrected: those aspects which result in a Federal handout to one who has furnished neither goods nor services, cry out for obvious redress. Surely it is long past time that we took the vote away from those being subsidized from Federal tax revenues. Yet as the problem is broader, so should be the solution.
In much of the human chronicle, there is an ebb and flow. The ideological fashion does not move continuously in the same direction. America did not start out with even an acceptance of universal male suffrage. And this should not surprise. Most historic estimates put the actual support for the American Revolution at only about one third of the population, with an approximately equal number in outright opposition.
In the early days, property qualifications were the norm; only gradually giving way in the age of Jackson, while South Carolina restricted the suffrage up until the great war of the 1860s. Since that conflagration, however, the tide has flowed only in one direction. In successive order, Constitutional Amendments have been adopted which took away the rights of the States to restrict suffrage on the basis of race (the Fifteenth, in 1870), sex (the Nineteenth, in 1920), failure to pay any tax (the Twenty-Fourth, in 1964), or age (the Twenty-Sixth, in 1971). Prior to the war, the question of suffrage was wholly a State matter.
Coextensive with this tide of restriction upon State choice and diversity, there has arisen a contrived preoccupation with ever easier registration; with reducing residence requirements and other formalities in the way of getting any one over the age of eighteen and still breathing, to the polls. (Although the percentage of those eligible, who actually bother to vote, has been tending downward since the 1840s.)
One wonders what articulable interest the public has in making sure that the least educated, least knowledgeable, even the senile and befuddled, participate in the electoral process?! For these are precisely the elements being sought after when the aggressive registration drives, of clearly identifiable factions, replace individual responsibility as the prime qualifier of the electorate--as has happened today in State after State. We have the preposterous situation, where those not deemed mature enough to drink a beer are combined with those who have never shown personal responsibility or interest in any public matter other than to line up for a public stipend, to determine the future course of American Government.
In the opinion of your forensic guide and correspondent, Virginia under the leadership of former Governor, then Senator, Harry Flood Byrd Sr., was the best governed American State in the past century. During the long period of his dominance--roughly from 1926 to 1966--Virginia remained faithful to her proud heritage; and principle and law were more important than political expediency. Men ran for office intent upon serving, rather than exploiting, something bigger and better than the moment in which they served.
Times and circumstances change, but principles do not, the Senator said. And under his guiding hand, Virginians remained true to the principles of Washington, Jefferson and Madison; a patrician heritage, where leaders gave to, rather than took from, posterity. On the grand schemes of the day to solve the economic woes of his time, the Senator voted "nay." By all accounts, a generous man, Byrd (and Virginia under his stewardship) understood the immorality--as well as the futility--in squandering other people's money. He acknowledged two duties: My allegiance is to Virginia.....As a member of the Senate, I am under oath to support the Constitution of the United States. This I have done . . .Beyond this, my unqualified allegiance to the people of Virginia has been preserved, and it will be. He also recognized the path of true progress under our Constitutional Union: Checks and balances are not deterrents to progress. They are the basis for it. As the Fathers, he knew that that which restrained the excess of Government, liberated what was best in man.
In that time of Harry Byrd, a poll tax, overturned in 1964 by the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, worked well to secure a higher level of personal responsibility among the Virginian electorate. It was not in any sense a prohibitive tax--although it may have been so misrepresented in the groves of ultra-"Liberal" academia;--not designed to place any economic hardship on poor Black or White Virginians seeking to participate in the choice of leaders. Rather, it tested the level of responsible individual interest and commitment to the electoral process. One intending to vote had to pay his nominal stipend on the appropriate date. And that presupposed a minimal sense of the political order coupled with a no more than reasonable level of political interest. Why should anyone with less sense or interest be permitted to determine the future of a free people?
Harry Byrd's personal success was certainly not dependent on the poll tax. As evidence, his son, Harry, Jr., with similar principles, was thrice elected to succeed him in post poll tax Virginia--the last two times (1970 and 1976) as an Independent. But in the Old Dominion, generally, politics have since slipped to a sorry parity with those of her sister States. Even at the University of Virginia--the crowning jewel of Thomas Jefferson's life--which certainly ought to have remained above political fancy, they now openly promote the newspeak of the "politically correct."
The mythology that there is some wondrous virtue in unqualified universal suffrage has done an enormous deal of damage throughout the world. This is particularly true when it is coupled with another piece of fashionable delusion, that which requires a common roll for all voters living within a commonly recognized geographic State. That combination has led to genocidal slaughter in parts of Central Africa, where the politicians from one tribe have employed brutal--yet perhaps "common sensible"--means to reduce the potential vote against them within a rival tribe. It also led to the most egregious interference into the internal affairs of the Settler nations of Southern Africa, where the United States State Department led the collectivist Left of the entire world in a demand for multi-ethnic, multi-cultural "Democracy."
Still, to give the Devil his due: Our foreign service not only waged an aggressive, undeclared, economic and social war against the rights of self-determination by ethnic Whites in South Africa and Rhodesia; it was also instrumental in the Nigerian suppression of the Black Christian Ibo tribesmen in Biafra, as it had earlier financed the destruction of Black ethnic freedom in Katanga. The victims in each case were minorities in a map drawer's multi-racial, multi-cultural whole; and hence had few friends in Washington.
Curiously, the present Administration seems to have returned to the earlier self-determination policies of the Wilson Administration (at the time of the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary) in its interference in the Serbian/Kosovo civil war. Or at least, thus far, the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have found a more sympathetic ear in Washington than did the Tutsis, Ibos, Afrikaners, or British & Portuguese Settlers in Africa. The Serbians are only doing what our Government paid the United Nations to do in Katanga, in 1960 - 1961, brutally suppressing an ethnic minority seeking the right to separate development.
In Haiti, early in the Clinton Administration, our Armed Forces were sent in to impose the mood of a squalid uneducated mob/(ie. the undifferentiated electorate), as recorded at a moment three years earlier, upon the cultured, educated and productive minority. The later, in order to preserve their society and their children's birthright, had booted out the demagogue who had manipulated that mob to create the referenced mood. (Precisely what our Founding Fathers would have done in a like situation!) The man whom we deposed was a West Point graduate, and from all that one can reasonably determine, a gentleman. The man whom the Clinton Administration imposed upon the Haitians, had run for office espousing Marxist principles--the sort we recently fought against, at an enormous cost, for the 40+ years of the Cold War. The only proffered rationale for this Clinton war on American interests, funded by American taxpayers, was the vindication of "Democracy."
Continuing in Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison defined the great problem facing our form of representative Government:
When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government... enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed....
By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful. (Emphasis ours.)
From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy ...can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
Why should the educated people in Haiti have been menaced by our Federal Government, when they sought to deal with the very problem, which Madison so clearly enunciates?
Madison saw the vast complexity of the new Federal Union, with its elaborate checks and balances, as the very diversity of the populations of the several States themselves, as efficient checks on the mischief of faction. Those "checks and balances," extolled by his fellow Virginian almost 180 years later, were indeed understood to be the basis for progress--the greatest threat to progress in the late 18th Century, no less obviously than in the late 20th, coming from an abuse of the Governmental function. Madison did not, unfortunately, foresee that the successive mediation first of radio and then of television (in providing a vehicle to enhance the level of "communication and concert" among those seeking improper gain at the public expense) would render the complex and balanced symmetry of the Federal Republic, little better as a check on factional passion and avarice than that afforded in the most pathetic mobocracy. We deteriorate towards what our own faction controlled "Democracy" is trying to force on Haiti; the vast distances between our peoples, in our case, artificially compressed by electronic innovation.
While in Madison's day--and even to a lesser extent in Harry Byrd's--one advocating Federal involvement in any scheme would at least try to justify that involvement in a reasoned presentation, which at least acknowledged Constitutional provisions; today demagogues and mountebanks, mastering the technique of the thirty second sound bite, call for program after program with not the slightest reference to the Constitution, or any theory of Constitutional power. We are adrift in a sea of unreality, where many take it as a given that the Federal Government is there to do the very things--such as redistribute wealth, and dictate new faction pleasing social norms--which the Founders sought specifically to avoid and prevent in fashioning the Federal structure. Madison declared:
Extend the sphere... you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or, if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. ... a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it...
In our time, the confluence of broadcast media availability with a factional domination of the media news services, has not only defeated the Fathers' hope that the evil and the greedy would not be able to act in concert. It has effectively reversed the whole conceptual thrust of Madison's argument. Today, it is the defenders of heritage who are at a disadvantage; often fragmented, and unable to act in concert, because the forces of mass communication are controlled by those who seek to use the power of Government for one "improper or wicked project," after another. The present Social Agenda (openly promoted by educationalists and journalists, as well as "Liberal" politicians) is precisely the sort of misuse of power, Madison was laboring to prevent.
The gravity of the situation is further compounded by the actions of the Warren Court in the 1960s, when it struck down the most effective checks and balances within our State Governments, in the Legislative Reapportionment cases: Decisions with the apparent intent of creating the worst nightmare that Madison and the other framers of the Constitution could ever have imagined: Majority rule without any check on the passion of the moment. Or what other possible motive could there be for denying a constituent State, the right to base representation in even one House of its Legislature on any Statewide consideration other than the equal counting of noses?
We have put off facing the underlying issues far too long. We dare not let this degenerate into another "after us the deluge" shrug, a` la the age of Louis XVth. While the mood in America is still basically conservative, we had better look more closely at where we go.
We are not far from the dilemma of the "Banana Republic," where the options are the military or the mob. In Madison's parlance, we have suffered "impulse and opportunity to coincide," and our choices may soon come down to the acceptance of an elective tyranny, such as we have forced on Haiti, or having to endure the Revolutionary ferment of the 1770s all over again.
This is not a problem which will solve itself. Unchecked, the trends that have created it will prove more difficult to deal with, with every passing year. On the other hand, a general debate on the relevant issues--even with no near term resolution--might at least slow down the rush for gutless politicians to cooperate with self-serving "Advocacy groups" seeking the mass registration of the less than fully competent; folk who, whether in nursing homes or public housing, are usually not very self-motivated.
A Constitutional Amendment, such as that proposed by a fictional Virginian in the contemporary novel Return Of The Gods, providing that "No person shall vote in an election in which a Federal Office shall be filled, who shall have accepted regular periodic payments from the United States within the two years next preceding such election," would reach several of the areas of conflict of interest, discussed above. Yet it might seem unfair as disenfranchising not just welfare recipients and bureaucrats, but career military personnel and those on veterans' pensions--people perhaps less likely to sell their votes. However, unlike some other proposals, it does recognize the problem that the Fathers sought to deal with in Article II, Section 1, as to the conflict inherent in employees voting for their boss or bosses. And it does, at least, offer a starting point for discussion. (And it could be modified very easily to exempt those whose payments were the result of honorable military service.)
We need to look again at the whole concept of making voting standards Federal. It was the very diversity among the States, which was seen as helping to prevent an evil concert; helping to prevent the coincidence of impulse and opportunity, as Madison defined them.
We need to discuss residence requirements--now pitifully short in almost every State--and the whole gamut of potential disqualifications from suffrage, of which a conflict or potential conflict of interest is only one example. Is it, for instance, right or reasonable that one be permitted to vote for an office, where that voter does not have the slightest idea of the actual function of the office being filled? Should people who do not understand the nature of our Federal Union, be permitted to vote for Federal office holders? Should the rootless be permitted to distort the political institutions of the rooted population of any community? Is it fitting that we honor and glorify organized drives to register and vote those least motivated, and least informed as to the nature of our free institutions--often those being paid for their very existence by the politicians they are being mobilized to support? Does the proliferation of people in nursing homes, among our aging population, raise other questions of competence--and the appropriateness of factionally organized campaigns to vote such folk by absentee ballot--where the impetus to vote comes not from the deteriorating voter, but from the interested faction?!
The above are but a few of the many questions, which rational men and women should want to address, applicable to the concept of Universal Suffrage. Or are we so afraid that we will be accused of being "undemocratic," that we are unwilling to even pursue the subject?
Some reforms would require a Constitutional Amendment; but most would require only an act of Congress, followed by more easily obtained action at the State level. Under Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution, Congress can define the Appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Under other provisions, it can control the jurisdiction of the Federal District Courts. By a simple majority in each House, it could end Judicial intervention in State elections as to most of the required voting right reforms.
These are surely issues which Conservatives need to face--and need to face with courage & dispatch!