“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge‘” – Isaac Asimov
We hear of voter disenfranchisement frequently. Whenever voter ID laws come up, there are cries of voter suppression; when convicted felons aren’t allowed to vote—even after serving their time—voter suppression! echoes around the social sphere. We are a culture that historically has denied eligible people the right to vote. That is certainly true—no one is denying that, nor defending it. Women were denied the right to vote, blacks were denied the right to vote, and various tactics were employed that made it difficult for the poor and minorities to vote, such as poll taxes.
All of these issues have been resolved through various means—mostly constitutional amendments. However, while we are constantly barraged by the mantra that everyone has “the right” to vote, we never stop to ask what exactly that entails.
When everyone votes, who wins? When everyone votes, what do we gain? What do we lose? After assessing these things, I’ve come to the conclusion that not everyone should be allowed to vote. The determination I’ve made has nothing to do with race, gender, religion, or anything else that has been previously addressed. I think everyone should have the right to vote, but not everyone who has that right should be allowed to exercise it.
A recently conducted Newseum Institute poll showed that “33% of Americans cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” Additionally, only 57% of Americans named freedom of speech as a First Amendment right.
An Annenberg Public Policy Center poll from 2014 found that only 36% of those surveyed could name all the branches of government. 35% couldn’t name a single one! For the record: there are only three.
Annenberg also asked several other basic questions, one of which was “Who is currently in control of the House of Representatives?” 44% had no idea.
Maybe Jon Gruber, a key architect of the Affordable Care Act, was right when he said of the passage of Obamacare:
“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage and basically…call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically, that was really, really critical to getting this thing to pass.”
It’s everywhere you look—the stupidity of the American voter. Every week, a video gets posted on YouTube in which someone asks people on the street the most basic, effortless questions about politics, and the people are dumbfounded.
These ignorant people are allowed to have a say in deciding the leader of the free world, as well as the leaders in Congress. Does that sound like a good idea? Not to me. That’s why I believe voting rights should be a merit-based decision. Can you pass a basic civics test? Can you describe the candidates’ platforms? Can you explain how our system of government actually works?
American voters should have to pass a test—or a series of tests—and if they can’t pass, they lose the right to vote in the following election. I’ll even be generous. Voters can take a second round if they fail the first time. They can have time to bone up on civics, current events, and candidate platforms.
Ignorance cannot be rewarded when what’s at stake is of such great value. It’s a slap in the face of our republic to allow the radically uninformed to have a say in who leads this nation.
And just for fun, here’s one of many, many videos featuring the depressing ignorance of the American voter: