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Washington Elites Can’t Survive Without Ignorant Voters

As you can probably imagine, the headline alone incited some histrionic criticisms. Most of them inadvertently confirming just how little many in the media really think about the American electorate and our democratic institutions.

What we do know is that nearly every study conducted on voter knowledge finds a big chunk of the electorate understands next to nothing about American governance. To varying degrees, this is what allows Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and other platitude-spewing populists to lean on identity, anger, grievances, empathy, and jealousy rather than policy.

If you dare blame the voters for the state of the union, you will be accused of harboring racist or elitist feelings, depending on whether you’re talking to a liberal or a Trump supporter. Neither makes sense.

Me: Ignorant people shouldn’t vote!

Them: I can’t believe you’re saying African Americans shouldn’t be able to vote, racist!

Do all the snarky critics who contend I was being implicitly racist realize they’re arguing blacks are less capable than whites of passing a simple civics test? Are they saying the citizenship test is racist, as well? If so, which questions are problematic? And how did millions of poor non-white prospective citizens pass the same test?

Despite the best effort of Byron York — and many others — to conflate a civics test with a poll tax, there is no Bull Conner barring the in Internet door, prohibiting Americans from taking a couple of hours out of their lives to learn that we have three branches of government. This development should be celebrated, not muffled with cheap historical analogies.

It was amusing, however, to see liberals argue that nothing should ever inhibit an American from exercising his constitutional rights. Now, of course, many of them have no reservations about inhibiting gun ownership or demanding political groups register with the IRS and meet a whole list of demands before practicing their right of free expression. But advocating for a simple civics test — that you can take as many times as necessary — is tantamount to a military junta.

Me: Ignorant people shouldn’t vote!

Them: I can’t believe you’re saying the working class is too dumb to vote, you elitist!

When I wrote the piece, I was thinking about those who cheered on Barack Obama’s executive abuse. I was also thinking about Hillary Clinton’s corruption. I was thinking about everything Bernie Sanders says. I was thinking about George Bush’s attacks on federalism. Mostly, though, I was thinking about the cult of Trump — the people who applaud his attacks on free speech and separation of powers and embrace his identity politics.

Trump fans have assured me that his voters are the smartest and best educated in America, so I’m unsure why they were offended by the piece. It’s not elitism, after all.

Being well-informed about government doesn’t necessarily make you smarter than your neighbor. You may have gone to better schools, had…

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