See All Topics

Home / Section: Editorial cartooning

CSotD: How stupid do they think we are?

That’s the $750 question, but, while we wait for those cartoons to come in, let’s examine the rest of the evidence:

Tom Toles (AMS) plays with a well-known Franklin anecdote, opening a difficult question.

The original was “A lady asked Franklin (at the close of the Constitutional Convention): “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin replied: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Someone on Bulwark noted the other day that, each time he mentions the US being a democracy, he gets a snippy email from some pedant reminding him that it’s actually a republic, which is true but rarely relevant.

It is here.

The Founders didn’t envision a pure democracy, in part because, Pericles and his lot aside, there really hadn’t been such a thing, at least in European culture.

Franklin took some inspiration from the Iroquois Confederacy, but their consensus government had the advantages of time and space: They were willing to talk things out almost indefinitely and, if a portion of the group didn’t accept the solution, they could go form a different village, retaining all the clan alignments and other communal aspects of the overall nation.

(And I’d note that, the more they had to interact with Europeans, the less well their own system worked, the Revolution being a near-fatal disaster.)

The other factor is that the Founders didn’t expect everyone to participate in government, which is, yes, elitist, but, then again, not everyone participates. However, they did set it up so that everyone could participate, the gender, financial and racial constraints being added by individual states.

Then, to guard against tyranny of the majority, they added the Senate and the Electoral College as a sort of breakwater in case a majority of nitwits or truly evil people were to arise.

But 125 years later, that majority decided the Senate, rather than being appointed by state legislatures, should be popularly elected, and Dr. Franklin’s warning started coming into play.

 

You don’t have to embrace Rick McKee (Cagle)’s politics to accept his point that the Democrats screwed with the Senate rules when they were in power and are paying the price now that they are out of power. (The exception for Supreme Court nominees, noted in that 2013 article, was dropped later.)

It’s said that, when Samuel Colt was a young lad, he stayed home from church one Sunday, disassembled his father’s pocket watch and managed to get it back together and working before the old man got home.

Well, Samuel Colt never served in government and it was some lesser would-be engineers who took the Senate apart and are now contemplating the resulting pile of springs and gears on the table before them.

I’m not sure how to get the toothpaste back into the tube, and it’s entirely possible, looking back again at the Iroquois, that this democracy business only works in communities bound by strong familial ties but with open space available to break out and restart if necessary.

Which sure as hell ain’t us.

And if the Senate was supposed to be a steadying body, something like the House of Lords but based on merit rather than bloodlines, it no longer fulfills that function, and you can’t blame the watchmakers for what some dumb kids later did to their work.

Meanwhile, the whole world is watching, leading to this

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Peter Schrank — freelance)

(Martyn Turner — Irish Times)

I do not believe Peter Schrank chose Dear Leader’s outfit entirely at random, but declaring his desire to act as a dictator is not nearly as frightening as Turner’s observation that Trump will question the returns in front of a court he has chosen himself.

In more sane times, that would come across as a joke, but we’re already watching the GOP manipulate the system to pack the Court, and hearing Deplorables declare that, if a loophole is legal, then ethics and morality don’t come into it.

Though it may be interesting to see if Dear Leader’s ability to loophole his tax bill down to $750 has any impact on their theory.

 

Not only were we warned, but he even conceded that he dodged the taxman and insisted that it meant that he was smart.

“I told you so” doesn’t offer a lot of solace in cold times, though I’d point out that I really dislike Hilary but I wasn’t stupid enough to boycott the vote, even though the polls assured us that she was going to win.

The same polls that show Biden with a clear majority today.

 

John Darkow (Cagle) asks a relevant question, and it’s worth noting that not only have some people already voted by mail, but I’ve heard some pretty intelligent people suggest that there aren’t a large number of undecideds at this stage, or, at least, not a lot beyond the ones who say they’re undecided when they really mean they have no idea what’s going on and aren’t going to bother to vote anyway.

And, if you don’t vote, it doesn’t matter whether you live in a monarchy, a republic or a democracy. You live in somebody’s hip pocket.

However, the importance of turnout may explain why politicians suddenly become so much more inclusive when elections loom.

 

Community Comments

#1 William Ramwell
September/28/2020
@ 6:42 am

Could the one true democracy be Switzerland? I see the other day the people voted on whether to spend $6.5bn on new fighter jets. It was surprisingly close. Imagine that scenario in any other “democracy” of your choosing.

#2 phil von neupert
September/28/2020
@ 7:26 am

I was educated about Trump’s lies and financial trickery 40 years ago by people who knew him well, and thought very little of him. Over the years, I warched in semi-amazement as he moved from disaster to disaster, but always seemed to survive. Just how the American public remained largely unaware of his constant scams, his abysmal failures, and his pathological dishonesty, is stunning. It’s not as if the information wasn’t out there; all you had to do was pay attention. Maybe our society has become so thoroughly corrupt and degraded that people just don’t care. That’s the only explanation that makes sense to me.

#3 Mary Ella
September/28/2020
@ 8:23 am

Phil—

Based on my experience, I think it’s a matter of them just not caring and refusing to listen to anything contradictory to their opinions.

These are folks who have been told at least since the rise of 1990’s hate radio that they are under attack by minorities, non-Christians, and those pencil-headed ivory-tower types who think they’re superior. Late-night TV hosts make fun of them, Hollywood stars think they’re dumb. Their kids come home from college with heads full of critical race theory and feminism and start lording it over them. Rush Limbaugh put it years ago that “there is a war on normal people”—and in their minds, they are the “normal people”, of course.

Trump pisses off all the people they feel victimized by, and that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter what he does or how much he screws them over. If it’ll get them some liberal tears, it’s all worth it to them.

#4 phil von neupert
September/28/2020
@ 9:38 am

Mary, class warfare has always existed in this country. That’s all I heard growing up; “the rich are screwing us.” (They are, but that’s beside the point.) There were different ways of dealing with that reality; as my father used to say, “If you want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat.” Other relatives of mine were staunch Republicans; their pride wouldn’t let them admit that the Unions gave them the wages and benefits that allowed them a middle-class lifestyle. In their minds, it was their efforts alone. I think it comes down to mentality; those with delusions of grandeur tend to see themselves as the center of the universe, and therefore need no one. Those who are more practical understand that we all live together, and need each other, at least to a degree. Trump supporters belong to the first group.

#5 Greg Olson
September/28/2020
@ 3:55 pm

Not sure when senatorial disfunction kicked into high gear, (Bork?) But Mcconnell has certainly made it an art form. Whatever the Democrats due in response to Barrett, the Republicans raise the ante the next opportunity they get.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.