A commentator for a conservative media site is getting backlash from the entire internet after publishing an opinion piece arguing that there should be fewer voters, and that they should be selected to be the most “qualified” to make decisions for the entire nation.
The National Review‘s Kevin D. Williamson proposes that perhaps more voters is actually the problem, comparing voting to doctoring. “There would be more doctors if we didn’t require a license to practice medicine,” he says, going on to suggest that, just as unqualified doctors would be a problem, “unqualified voters” are dangerous to the nation.
If slavery had been put to a vote in 1865, he suggests, the voters would have been in favor. (This ignores that the outcome of that hypothetical vote might have flipped if there weren’t already limits preventing women and enslaved people from voting — and thus that expanding voting, rather than limiting it, might have been the correction in this imaginary scenario.)
Across social media, the predominant first response to Williamson’s proposal seems to be, “Oh yeah? And exactly who would be your ‘better’ voters? Who would get to pick them?”
"Why not fewer voters? And I get to pick them!"
— FerHaus. Viva México. BLM #FreePalestine (@FerHaus1) April 7, 2021
Can you provide some examples of what you mean by better voters, Kevin D Williamson? Like white, male landowners? Maybe be generous and give all people of color 3/5th of a vote.
Might the republic be better served by having fewer — but better — voters? https://t.co/6FQYJKcRpY
— Wesley Chu (@wes_chu) April 7, 2021
The depths to which American conservatism has descended.
This guy seriously argues in an allegedly serious journal that it would be good to have fewer, but “better” voters.
What’s that code for?
— David Hamer (@DavidHamer_1951) April 7, 2021
If the government controls who can access voting — as, in fact, it currently does in certain ways, with laws limiting access by age, citizenship, and felon status among other things — and takes this as license to limit voting to the “best” voters, it’s safe to assume an incumbent would generally consider his own voters the best. “The voters should pick the government, not the other way around,” was the immediate response from several alarmed social media users, seeing a gateway to fascism.
"Why not fewer voters?"
Because the voters should choose the government, not the other way around.
— Brian Preskitt (@FlyingPhaser913) April 7, 2021
Oops. The piece also re-emphasizes the notion that Republicans would rather silence voters who don’t support them, than embrace a policy change that would represent, and draw in, more voters. Bill Moyers addressed this on his podcast a year ago, citing multiple Republicans who admitted that gerrymandering was done deliberately to make sure Republicans won, even when they were not representative of a majority of voters.
It’s certainly not a new idea. As you can see below, in a clip from 1980, the right wing has long embraced this notion. In the clip, Paul Weyrich — who would co-found the Heritage Foundation and other conservative entities — declares openly that he doesn’t want everyone to vote.
I don’t want everybody to vote…As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.
Of course, as he indicates in the clip, and as Williamson gets close to in his piece, it’s true that voting has never been available to everyone in the U.S. Historically, voting was for white male landowners, and gradually, over time, women and POC have fought for the right to also take part in the democratic election of the nation’s leaders. The Voting Rights Act, in 1965, stood against Jim Crow laws that prevented free Black Americans from voting, although efforts to suppress the vote of minorities, young people, and poor people (three groups that tend to vote for progressive candidates) are still underway in 2021.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com