One Honest Democrat

Thank God for Matthew Yglesias, sage of 10th St., for his frank admission that what really matters is a John Kerry victory, procedural legitimacy be damned!

Rather than take the political theory bait here, I'll just cop to hypocrisy. The people who I want voting are the people who will vote for John Kerry. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Democracy has an instrumental value and there's no fact of the matter about what really is and is not a legitimate leadership-selection process. If I thought Kerry would be a terrible president and that Bush was a good one, I'd be applauding efforts to intimidate likely Kerry voters. But Kerry will be a good president and Bush will be a terrible one, so I condemn such efforts insteads.

Now, that's refreshing!
I do agree that democracy has only instrumental value, but I think part of that value consists in social stability conferred by the widespread acceptance of the legitimacy of elections. (However, perception of legitimacy is, I say emphatically, not to be confused with actual legitimacy.) So I am not really, as Matt says, “continuing [my] contrarian scolding of Democratic love of democratic principles.” Rather, I seem to have landed in a contrarian spot, strangely enough, by insisting that voter fraud is as big a problem, in terms of democratic principles, as voter suppression, and that I think we should only expect to see both the Democrats and Republicans be vigilant in their defense of democracy.
The quandary is that both kinds of vigilance feeds into a kind of semi-intended corruption that has a de-legitimizing effect on the election. It all looks to me like a game of chicken where each side accuses the other side of primarily intending the semi-intended corrupt side-effects, and demands that the other side swerve. But if one side swerves, they lose. But if neither swerves, they crash. If they crash, (changing metaphors, sorry) we end up shining too bright a light on the cockroach nest of actually-existing democratic procedures. As we watch the repulsive insects scatter among the hanging chads, the invalidated ballots of the dead, the walking around money, and the intimidated no-show voters, the legitimacy of the election is called into question, no matter who gets the better of the crash, and we've lost some of the instrumental stabilizing qualities of democracy.
But, anyway, way to go, Matt!

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

2 thoughts

  1. I wonder if the 21 year old Hillary Clinton would be willing to have a beer with the 60 year old version of herself. Can you imagine what the yound campus lefty ideologue and self-styled intellectual would make of a woman who was reduced to trying to get all the support of “hard working white people” in West Virginia, and throwing back shots in rural Pennsylvania? How did this girl from Wellesley become the self styled voice of the working class, fighting against the college educated? I wonder, now that she has lost, if she looks back and wonders how it all came to that.

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