Over in the massive voter ID thread in the pit, Bricker and I have gotten onto several tangents, some of which I think merit their own threads.
So, here’s one exhange:
Addressing the second part first, that strikes me as a basically irrelevant reply, one that could be applied to any proposed change in the governmental system. “Hey, I know we’ve fumbled along for a hundred years with just two branches, legislative and executive, but I feel like there’s something missing… something to help judge things. I think there should be a third branch” “but who decides?” or “Geez, it occurs to me that the constitution, while pretty awesome, might not be perfect, and it would be nice to have some process to amend it in some fashion, maybe involving big majorities of congress or state legislatures or something” “but who decides?”. I mean, I think we’d all agree that having a judicial branch and an amendment process are good things, but if they didn’t exist, and someone proposed them, Bricker’s argument would apply perfectly to arguing against them.
There are times when that sort of dismissive reply is appropriate… if someone says “hey, people should pay their employees fair wages”, I guess we all kind of agree, but if they say “there should be a LAW that says that people should pay their employees fair wages” then it’s entirely reasonable to ask what the definition of “fair” is, and who would decide it. But that’s very different from the point I’m trying to make, which is a two part (a) I think that the system should be different to solve the following problem, and (b) here are a few ideas on how that might be accomplished.
As for the first part, well, partly my point is that this is something that pretty much MUST be true, because of human nature. Politicians (of all parties) like to gain political advantage, and many of them are unscrupulous. So if they can do things to that will warp the system in their favor, they will. And the key issue, to me, is that this can potentially fail to self correct, or at least do so vastly more slowly than it otherwise would. As an example, look at the post-civil-war south. Laws were passed which affected the elections (poll taxes, literacy tests, etc.). Those laws, we all now agree, were unjust, unAmerican, and antiDemocratic. But because the laws were promulgated and supported and upheld by the very elected bodies that those elections fed into, they were self-sustaining. Sure they were eventually overturned, but how long might it have taken if Mississippi (for example) had been a totally independent entity, not eventually having the US supreme court to check its laws?
Granted, that’s a pretty extreme example, but to me it seems so totally obvious that people will always try to find and exploit loopholes and advantages, and if they do, it breaks the fundamental machinery of democracy, that I’m baffled that anyone would disagree.
Oh, and note that it doesn’t have to be “manifest injustice”. Sure, a system in which women can’t vote is pretty manifestly unfair. But what about a setup in which there was some gerrymandering 50 years ago that everyone takes for granted now? What about a system in which one side of town has many more polling places per capita than the other side of town?
So I’m hoping other people will chime in with their thoughts.
(Oh, and I really don’t want to discuss the specifics of the voter ID issue, which 40+ pages have already been devoted to in the other thread…)