Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, said he thinks “everyone should have the right to vote – even the Boston Marathon bomber … even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say, ‘Well, that guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote,’ you’re running down a slippery slope.”
Bernie is right about a “slippery slope.” But the befuddled Bernie is worried about the wrong slope.
Denying the vote to some and conferring it on others is not a “slippery slope.” It’s exercising good judgment.
Insisting that the vote in America belongs to everyone, irrespective: Now that’s a slippery slope, down which the slide is well underway.
As it stands, there are almost no moral or ethical obligations attached to citizenship in our near-unfettered democracy.
Multiculturalism means that you confer political privileges on many an individual whose illiberal practices run counter to, even undermine, the American political tradition.
Radical leaders across the U.S. quite seriously consider illegal immigrants as candidates for the vote – and for every other financial benefit that comes from the work of American citizens.
The rights of all able-bodied idle individuals to an income derived from labor not their own: That, too, is a debate that has arisen in democracy, where the demos rules like a despot.
But then, moral degeneracy is inherent in raw democracy. The best political thinkers, including America’s constitution-makers, warned a long time ago that mass, egalitarian society would thus degenerate.
What Bernie Sanders prescribes for the country – unconditional voting – is but an extension of “mass franchise,” which was feared by the greatest thinkers on democracy – Prime Minister George Canning of Britain, for instance.
Canning, whose thought is distilled in Russell Kirk’s magnificent exegesis, “The Conservative Mind,” thought that “the franchise should be accorded to persons and classes insofar as they possess the qualifications for right judgment and are worthy members of their particular corporations.”
By “corporations,” Canning (1770-1827) meant something quite different to our contemporary, community-killing multinationals.
“Corporations,” in the nomenclature of the times, meant very plainly in “the spirit of cooperation, based upon the idea of a neighborhood. [C]ities, parishes, townships, professions, and trades are all the corporate bodies that constitute the state.”
To the extent that an individual citizen is a decent member of these “little platoons” (Edmund Burke’s iridescent term), he may be considered, as Canning saw it, for political participation.
“If voting becomes a universal and arbitrary right,” cautioned Canning, “citizens become mere political atoms, rather than members of venerable corporations; and in time this anonymous mass of voters will degenerate into pure democracy,” which, in reality is “the enthronement of demagoguery and mediocrity.” (“The Conservative Mind,” p. 131.)
That’s us. Demagoguery and mediocrity are king in contemporary democracies, where the organic, enduring, merit-based communities extolled by Canning no longer exists and are no longer valued.
This is the point at which America finds itself and against which William Lecky, another brilliant British political philosopher and politician, argued.
The author of “Democracy and Liberty” (1896) predicted that “the continual degradation of the suffrage” through “mass franchise” would end in “a new despotism.”
And so it has.
Then as today, radical, nascent egalitarians, who championed the universal vote abhorred by Lecky, attacked “institution after institution,” harbored “systematic hostility” toward “owners of landed property” and private property and insisted that “representative institutions” and the franchise be extended to all irrespective of “circumstance and character.”
Then as now, the socialist radical’s “last idea in constitutional policy” is to “destroy some institutions or to injure some class.” (Ibid, p. 335.)
And so it is with the radical Mr. Sanders, who holds – quite correctly, if we consider democracy’s historic trajectory as presaged by the likes of Lecky and Canning – that a democracy must be perpetually “expanded,” and that “every single person does have the right to vote,” irrespective of “circumstance and character.”
The vote, of course, is an earned political privilege, not a God-given natural right, as Bernie the atheist describes it.
The granting of political rights should always be circumscribed and circumspect; it ought to be predicated on the fulfillment of certain responsibilities and the embodiment of basic virtues. “Thou shalt not murder,” for example.
Indeed, the case of the Boston Bomber is a no-brainer.
Tsarnaev came from a family of Chechen grifters. He got the gift of American political and welfare rights, no strings attached, no questions asked. That’s how we roll. That’s how little these rights have come to mean.
Yet Dzhokhar Tsarnaev didn’t merely pick a quarrel with one or two fellow Americans or with their government; he hated us all. If he could, Tsarnaev would have killed many more of his countrymen, on April 15, 2013.
But for a radical leveler like Mr. Sanders, virtue has no place in a social democracy. Sanders’ project, after all, is “legislating away the property of one class and transferring it to another.”
Since Bernie Sanders was so perfectly serious in protesting the removal of the Boston bomber’s political privileges – he should not be taken seriously.