David Brooks has a good column in the NYT on the virtues of democracy, “The Glory of Democracy,” but one questions he fails to deal with is who should participate in it. When the US was created, the founding fathers limited the vote to older, white, male citizens who owned property. If we still had these restrictions, the US government would look very different from how it does today. The founding fathers did not even trust this limited electorate, but instituted indirect elections for the most important offices, such as the electoral college for the Presidential election. They thought rough hewn voters would electe better educated, wiser men to make the final choice, hopefully adhering more closely to the ideals Mann and Brooks espouse.
Mann and Brooks say that in an ideal world voters would “seek justice, freedom and truth.” I haven’t heard anybody campaign on those issues lately. Mann says democracy should encourage everybody to make the best of their capacities, to seek beauty and truth. Today we see mainly people whom Mann would call the enemies of democracy, seeking money, status, and a free lunch from the government.
Brooks aims his criticism at the Trump Republicans as the crass money grubbers, but Trump is President because so many Americans saw the Democrats squandering the national inheritance of property and decency built up over hundreds of years through trial, error and hardship. Democrats espoused lofty goals, but sold them out for personal power and cronyism.