Article VII. Elections Foster Oligarchy

“An elective despotism is not what we fought for…” — Thomas Jefferson

“The question we settle in an election is not whether elites shall rule, but which elites shall rule” — George Will

Previous posts have exposed the true nature of election contests to be intrinsically divisive, and incompatible with the goal of uniting a nation — any nation.  This is due to the inherent tendency of election contests to lead citizens to segregate themselves into competing partisan groups of adversaries (factions) whose goal is victory over the other side(s) — often whether such victory carries with it extensive costs to the common interests of the nation as a whole.

Yet, if Jefferson’s concern about elective despotism rings true — as George Will’s statement appears to confirm — then merely segregating citizens into partisan camps isn’t the half of the corrosive nature of election contests.  Rather, through incessant hype that those who vote in an election contest fully participate in their own governance, and that those on the winning side share in the victory merely by casting a ballot, the vast majority of citizens are duped to remain content with such minimal participation, and in their subservience to master oligarchs.

To see how this works, consider a sports metaphor, again — this time the annual Super Bowl contest.  Who are the real winners of the Super Bowl?  Spectators who pull for the team that loses the contest?  Clearly not.  While they might have experienced considerable excitement in the run-up and during the contest, at the conclusion of the contest they are not to be confused with the winners.  What about those who have little or no interest in the contest?  Clearly, in their indifference to winning or losing they cannot be considered to be winners.  And, what about spectators who pull for the team that wins the Super Bowl?  Most of them win little besides bragging rights that last, at best, until next year’s Super Bowl.

So, who are the real Super Bowl winners?  Those who actively participate in the contest to gain fame or fortune: players, team owners, the NFL, vendors in and around the sports arena, contest sponsors, television networks and announcers, advertising agencies, bookies, and the like.  The rest of us belong to the vast sea of humanity which is either disinterested in the contest and its outcome, or remains content to be spectators.    Only a very small handful among us actively participate in the contest or its preparation.  Therefore, only a few of us actually win anything.

Now, consider the similarities with national election contests.  Voters who turn out at the polls in support of losing candidates — typically 25-30% of eligible voters across the nation — cannot be said to be winners.  And many of the 40-50%, or so, of eligible voters who don’t bother to make it to the polls during election contests due to lack of interest or other reason, cannot be considered winners, either.  And, as in the case of the Super Bowl, the vast majority of the 25-30%, or so, of eligible voters who support winning candidates in any election contest win very little beyond bragging rights until the next election contest rolls around.  The real winners of any election contest are limited to the few winning candidates, the officials of the political party with which these candidates are affiliated, the interest groups that sponsor the winners, the folks who produce campaign ads, the networks that sell advertising, and other select oligarchs.  It should be clear that, in any election contest, the vast majority of citizens are either alienated and disinterested in the contest, or participate very little beyond mere spectating at the real events of governance.

This is precisely what concerned Jefferson (quote above).  In any given election contest only a small handful of oligarchs actually win anything!  And this is perhaps the most devastating sin of election contests discussed, so far.  Election contests actually divide the nation into a small faction of winners (oligarchs), a massive faction of spectators who never participate in governance beyond mere ballot casting, and another massive faction of disaffected citizens who are increasingly alienated from the game.

These last two massive factions of our citizenry, the spectators and those who are increasingly alienated from the contest, comprise the vast majority of the American public who, at best, marginally participate in their own governance.  The other faction, much smaller in number and much greater in power, is composed of the members of the ruling oligarchy — the only faction which fully participates in governance.

Ancient Athenians had a word to describe citizens who did not participate fully in their own governance: idiotes.  They also knew that only the most gullible among them would buy the lie that mere ballot casting constituted the extent of their due participation in democracy.  They would consider those of us who fail to participate fully in our own governance, whether through indifference or gullibility, to be idiots!  As such, it would seem that Jefferson and ancient Athenians would agree that after two centuries of election contests We the Idiots continue to be manipulated by elective despots to settle for much less than our due participation in our own government.  Perhaps this explains the utter disgust many of us feel today toward the political process in America.

Can it get any worse?  Stay tuned.

— iGregor


[Note:  Comments are invited at the conclusion of Article X.]

Published in: on October 27, 2010 at 10:00  Comments Off on Article VII. Elections Foster Oligarchy