Jeremy Corbyn has won two leadership contests, and gained the largest vote share for Labour in decades. Hillary Clinton had to cheat to get past Bernie Sanders, and was then humiliated by Donald Trump. The UK voted to leave the EU. After two years of getting the “wrong” results thanks to voters refusing to do as they’re told, some areas of the media and intelligentsia are finally asking the tough question: Is voting bad for democracy?
In the wake of the Brexit vote (and, to a lesser extent, the Dutch rejection of Ukraine-EU links) no word was dirtier to the MSM than “referendum”. The conclusion seeming to be that resorting to plebiscitary democracy was bad for the country, and bad for democracy itself.
David Mitchell wrote that parliament was meant to make hard decisions for us. Natalie Nougayrède argued that “the mob” undermined our “elite institutions”. The New York times featured an article headlined:
Why Referendums (sic) Aren’t as Democratic as They Seem
The article argues that voters will vote to undermine their own best interests, and so they shouldn’t be allowed to. Also it disempowers voters because:
Voters must make their decisions with relatively little information, forcing them to rely on political messaging — which puts power in the hands of political elites rather than those of voters.
The general message was – Referenda are bad. They cheapen our democracy. Voting can go wrong. People aren’t informed enough. When you take a plebiscite, all you get is the opinion of plebs. Ban them completely.
Bloomberg even had a Justin Fox article headlined:
Voters Are Making a Mess of Democracy
That was a year ago, and things have only got worse since then. Now not only direct democracy, but all kinds of democracy, are being attacked.
The New York Times deserves special mention here. Neo-con Pulitzer prize winner Bret Stephens bemoans the “Year of Voting Recklessly”. His article demonstrates total ignorance of the world at large, history, British politics and morality. The article is a cesspool of ill-informed bigotry and bias, declaring anybody to the left of Ronald Reagan a “Marxist”, and gently undermining the idea of democracy because “voters are idiots”.
His childish ad hom assaults on Corbyn demonstrate everything wrong with the political establishment on the far side of the pond (and increasingly in Britain too), concerned only with labels and point scoring. There is not one word about policy in the article, just an all-out adolescent tirade against everybody on either side who disagrees with him. That this kind of author can win a Pulitzer prize shames American society.
Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times has an Op-ed titled:
The British election is a reminder of the perils of too much democracy
In which James Kirchick dismisses, with a perfectly straight face and absolutely no sense of the absurd, the idea of “The People”:
“The people” — that expression beloved of Third World tyrants and increasingly adopted by leaders in advanced industrial democracies — got their say.
It seems the author either never knew, or has forgotten, that “We, the people” are the first words of his country’s constitution. Perhaps he thinks it’s in sarcastic quotes there, too.
I’m not sure which of Washington, Jefferson or Adams, Mr Kirchick considers a “third world tyrant”. I’m not even completely sure he knows who they are.
Meanwhile, on June 1st Vox published a story headlined:
The problem with democracy: it relies on voters
And then followed that up with this, on June 9th:
What if “more public participation” can’t save American democracy?
These articles are based on this paper from the Brookings institute, titled:
More professionalism, less populism: How voting makes us stupid, and what to do about it
An argument against democracy based on the assumption that…
Populism cannot solve our problems…because its core premises and reforms are self-defeating. Research has shown that voters are “irrationally biased and rationally ignorant,” and do not possess the specialized knowledge necessary to make complex policy judgments.
Brookings have form in this area, having previously published articles and papers with titles such as: Democracy does not cause growth and Is too much democracy responsible for the rise of Trump?.
The agenda is clear – they are trying to encourage those that fancy themselves “informed” to take up an academic position that disdains the idea of the great unwashed having a say on important matters. Persuading real “useful idiots” how smart it would be to disempower themselves in service to the state.
Maybe you’re not familiar with the Brookings Institute. Here’s their about page blurb:
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to conduct in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national and global level.
Which is delightfully vague. A glimpse at their sources of funding clarifies things rather:
As of 2016 the Brookings Institution had assets of $473.8 million. Its largest contributors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Hutchins Family Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, the LEGO Foundation, David Rubenstein, State of Qatar, and John L. Thornton.
In 2014, it received $250,000 from the United States Central Command of the United States Department of Defense.
I don’t know how much money you can accept from the USDoD and still claim to be “non-partisan”, but apparently it’s more than $250,000.
Interestingly, if we re-visit the above Vox articles, we can focus on this little green box just under the title:
It seems these articles were published under Polyarchy, a new section devoted entirely to publishing releases from the New America think-tank, an NGO whose about page contains an incredibly predictable, and very familiar list of financial supporters. Including JP Morgan Chase, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the US State Department.
Exactly the same people supporting the Brookings Institute.
Voices are popping up all over the media, telling us democracy doesn’t work, that the system is failing and that voting gives too much power to idiots. We’re being slowly introduced to the idea that the educated and sophisticated opinion is that democracy just doesn’t work, and if we ever really want to sort out the world’s problems, we might have to let go of this antiquated institution.
Strangely, all these media voices seem to be getting paid by the same handful of billionaires, banks and businesses.
Apparently Bill Gates and George Soros really don’t like us being able to vote.
This was first brought to my attention by Adam Johnson on twitter:
fresh new batch of “democracy is actually bad” takes. pic.twitter.com/PG5RUhIl32
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) 10 June 2017