Some Late Thoughts on the Election
(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) I have been reading a book by Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., titled, REALITY, A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought. He was examining Aquinas’ review of Aristotle’s Politica. Lagrange comments that in the nature of man Aquinas finds “… the origin and the necessity of a social authority…” He says also that Aquinas distinguishes between good governments and bad. The three good forms are going to be something of a surprise to many. The are: monarchical, rule by one, aristocratic, where several rule, and democratic “where the rule is by representatives elected by the multitude.”
But these forms of government may degenerate: monarchy into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, and democracy into mob-rule. Interestingly, Aquinas finds that while a monarchy is the best form of government, to reign in tyranny he believes a mixed constitution, which provides, “at the monarch’s side, aristocratic and democratic elements in the administration of public affairs,” is prudent.
I hope this sounds familiar to all – it is basically the original form of our own government as set up by the founding fathers: A president (monarch), the Senate (aristocracy), and the House (democracy). Remember, in the original design of our government, the Senators were not elected by popular vote, but were elected by the state legislatures, the aristocracy, if you will. This was true until the 17th amendment in 1914. And to stretch it even further, originally, there was no term limit on the king, I mean the president.
Now, for this to work, voters have to vote, and they should know why they are voting for whom or what is receiving their vote. This is why, in the beginning of this country, in order to vote you had to be a landowner. A landowner was likely to be educated and have a rather pragmatic world view. They also had a vested interest in how the country is run, were likely to spend some time understanding the issues, and vote responsibly. Of course, in that time, it would also mean the voters were white males.
Today it may seem that we have a lot of people voting who have no business voting – and doubtless some may wonder if we shouldn’t go back to having to earn your franchise based on criteria beyond simply having attained the age of 18. Lagrange notes Aquinas’ thoughts on this, though not in the same context:
On the evils of election by a degenerate people, where demagogues obtain the suffrages, he remarks, citing St. Augustine, that the elective power should, if it be possible, be taken from the multitude and restored to those who are good. St. Augustine’s words run thus: “If a people gradually becomes depraved, if it sells its votes, if it hands over the government to wicked and criminal men, then that power of conferring honors is rightly taken from such a people and restored to those few who are good.”
The key words there being, “if it be possible”, and “to those few who are good.” In our country it is not possible for many reasons, not the least of which are the real specter of disenfranchising everyone but white males, and that reaching consensus on who are “the good” is unlikely.
So, what is the answer? Especially in this day and age where many elected officials seem to suffer from role dysphoria, “I was elected to the role of public servant, but I am dissatisfied with this role, and inside I feel my true role, the real me, is that of master.”
Many look for a structural fix – term limits, for example. But, to borrow from P.J. O’Rourke, asking Congress to limit their terms would be similar to asking teenage boys to voluntarily give up their whiskey and car keys. It won’t happen without some kind of force. And that means what has been termed an Article V convention. This requires the state legislatures to call a convention to limit terms. I hope you see the problem. The state legislatures are filled with folks who have designs on federal positions. To put it simply, it ain’t gonna happen.
What is far better is when the voting public limits terms through the power of their vote. But then we get back to the problem of voting by people who vote emotionally, instead of rationally.
The only real answer is proper education of the voting populace. But that is another can of worms. Who educates them? And to what standards?