A single Election Day creates a focal point that gives solemnity and relevance to the state of popular opinion at a particular moment in time; on a single day, we all have to come down on one side or the other. But if the word “election” comes to mean casting votes over a period of months, it will elide the difference between elections and polls. People will be able to vote when the mood strikes them — after seeing an inflammatory ad, for example.Because right-wingers value nothing more than civic cohesiveness and rational deliberation...at least when it means being able to corral voters into a single workday when their votes can most easily be denied, delayed and frustrated by impossibly long lines, specious challenges and insufficient ballots.
Voting then becomes an incoherent summing of how various individuals feel at a series of moments, not how the nation feels at a particular moment. This weakens civic cohesiveness, and it threatens to substitute raw preferences and momentary opinion for rational deliberation.
More below the fold.
But Kontorovich, a Federalist Society darling and blogger at Volokh Conspiracy, really shows his concerns in his promo piece at the Washington Post, where he slippery-slopes from a little early voting to the techno-horror prospect of chips implanted into our brains, constantly sampling our thoughts:
The advantage of early voting is making access easier. In the future, however, there may be no need for early voting – everyone will participate in all decisions all the time. The excellent Welsh science fiction writer Alastair Reynolds has a series of novels involving a society of Demarchists where the nanocircuitry that will inevitably be in everyone’s head constantly polls everyone about every decision and aggregates the results.Because government that operates according to the true will of the people is something to be feared, apparently.
Policies are set by this constant neural vote – no lines at the polling place. Constant voting leads to pretty good decisions in Reynolds’ world.
Robert Wilson introduces a twist on this in the novel Vortex, with a world populated by “cortical democracies” and “limbic democracies.” The former, much like Reynolds’ Deamarchists, reach decisions by constant background polling of the reasoning areas of the brain. In the latter, the chips connect to the structures responsible for emotion – a constant vote on how you feel. The two factions are regularly at war.
Kontorovich and his fellow right-wingers often seem to act as if they think people can't be trusted with too much democracy.
It certainly is a strong theme in American neoconservatism from Leo Strauss onward that the people must constantly be tricked and lied to and led on like children, by leaders who really know what's best for them whether they like it or not.
Of course, he means to make the very idea of direct democracy something frightening and disastrous, with chips in our heads and mobs engaged in endless pointless conflict.
Personally, I think part of the problem with democratic governance right now is that we are on the cusp of being able to move beyond the highly imperfect system of representative democracy we have now. More people are more highly educated than they ever have been before. They have more access to more information than they have ever had before. They have the technological tools to get what they want and do what they want in so many more areas than they have ever had before. They see the short-sightedness and self-interest of those who've clawed their way to the top positions of "leadership."
Small societies have been able to govern themselves with direct democracy—people voting directly on policy initiatives—but larger and more complex societies have had to make do with the compromise that is representative democracy, electing people who you hope will make the choices you want to see made.
Technology may change that, sooner or later, if it's allowed to. And it won't require chips in our heads. Just voting on significant issues which our public servants will then serve us by carrying out. Goodbye then to drug wars and corporate-written trade deals and cuts to the social safety net and sweetheart tax deals with wealthy campaign donors and wars of choice with nations who haven't attacked us.
I may be an optimist, but I look forward to that day.
In the meanwhile, we'll have to make do with expanding early voting and pushing back on reactionaries like Kontorovich who are so, so concerned about damaging civic cohesiveness by giving people the opportunity for too damn much democracy.