Stupid voters, stay home

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted October 30, 2000

Every now and then Jay Leno, in doing his man on the street interviews, asks people to name the vice presidential nominees on the Republican or Democratic tickets. You can imagine the responses. The Tonight Show is supposed to be a comedy hour.

On occasion he will ask respondents to name their United States Senators. He never finds any young voters who have a clue. And Senators are almost always more high profile figures than Members of the House of Representatives. If you come from a major metropolitan area, there might be 15 House Members representing the whole area. Unless you make it a point to follow such things it can be confusing.

If average voters have a hard time with vice presidential nominees or Senators or Members of the House, imagine how few people know who their state legislators are. Except for Nebraska, which has a unicameral legislature run by supposedly non-partisan Senators, every state has a legislature patterned after the U.S. Congress. Thus they have an upper house and a lower house. So each person outside of Nebraska is represented by two state legislators. One from a larger district serving in the Senate and the other from a smaller district serving in what is known variously as the state House of Representatives, the state Assembly, the House of Delegates and so on.

In this election, which is just a little more than a week away, the media have been fixated on the presidency. But of course, voters will also be electing a Congress. Which party controls that Congress will determine what kind of presidency the next president will have. If Al Gore is elected but Congress remains Republican, there will be gridlock. Likewise if George Bush is elected but the voters choose a Democratic Congress, they are also choosing gridlock. Voters could select partial gridlock by giving the new president's party control over one house of the Congress as they did Ronald Reagan in 1980. Or voters could say, "let's see what a new president could really accomplish," and give Gore a Democratic Congress or Bush both houses of a Republican Congress. The Republican president who had that situation was Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, although Bill Clinton had it as recently as 1994.

The new president and the new Senate, working together, are likely to be confirming as many as three or four new Justices of the Supreme Court. That Court will determine the course of this nation for the next generation or so.

But the voter goes down the ballot and votes for his state legislator, he is also going to be making another crucial decision. The state legislatures will be working on reapportionment based on the new census. That reapportionment will determine who controls the House of Representatives for the decade to come. And who controls the House could be very important, considering who may be in the White House.

It is hard to recall an election with greater consequences. An yet, there will be voters who can't remember the name of their Senator in that booth, casting votes not only for the next president but the next Supreme Court, the next Congress and Congresses to come.

Much is written about the eligible voters who don't bother to show up at the polls. Considering what is at stake, thank God they don't come. It is already bad enough that so many uneducated, ill-informed and, when it comes to the candidates, just plain stupid, voters are going to be in that booth November 7th. We don't need any more of them, thank you. This Republic is fragile enough as it is.

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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