Latest posts by David Applegate (see all)
- The Presidential Election Was Hacked, All Right – By the Truth - December 18, 2016
- The Court Cops Out - May 20, 2016
- The Progressive War on Free Speech – Part Three - April 20, 2016
Progressives just can’t seem to accept that, when put to an honest test, their ideas consistently lose at the ballot box as well as in the marketplace of ideas. Sure, a lot of people drank that “hopey-changey” Kool-Aid back in 2008, but how’s that working out for ya?
Not so well, judging by the results of, and the run-up to, the 2014 midterm elections. Democratic candidates went to comically extreme lengths to distance themselves from Barack Obama, and Republican candidates significantly out-performed their polling. So self-styled progressives keep trying to change the ground rules.
George W. Bush’s Electoral College victory over Al Gore in 2000 spawned a lot of proposals for a direct popular vote for the President, even though the Framers recognized it could lead to mob rule. (Gore’s entire 500,000 popular vote margin, for example, could be explained by the twenty most lopsided of Chicago’s 50 wards, some of which went 99-1 or 98-2 for Gore. Is that any way to pick a President?)
So it’s little surprise that a second bad idea has come forward in the past four days concerning how to “reform” the electoral process to keep Republicans from winning.
On Monday, November 3, Duke Professor David Schanzer argued with undergraduate assistance for abolishing those pesky mid-terms entirely. And on Thursday, November 6, 2014, Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg, a Kerry-Edwards supporter in 2004, advanced the idea that 16- and 17-year olds are “perfectly capable of making informed and reasoned political decisions” and should therefore be allowed to vote in national elections.
To put it plainly, this is bunk. Voters ought to have both some experience with and understanding of the Constitution and some skin in the game.
Invoking the language of “science” – the academy’s preferred term to social “studies” – Professor Steinberg admits that “[s]cience does not point to an obvious chronological age at which a bright-line legal boundary between adolescents and adults should be drawn for all purposes,” but insists that “most aspects of emotional and intellectual maturity reach adult levels sometime between 15 and 22.” (To be somewhat reasonable, this would call for raising the minimum voting age to 22.)
But Steinberg distinguishes between what he calls “cold” and “hot” cognition. (“Cold” cognition is when you engage in measured decision-making in consultation with others, he says; “hot” cognition applies to “situations in which their emotions are aroused, time pressure is a factor and they are in groups.”) So what’s the difference between “consultation with others” and deciding things in groups? And which one applies to choice of public officials and which one to where to go and what (and how much) to drink on spring break?
Professor Steinberg insists that teenagers are just as good at the former as “adults,” although not so good at the latter. Because he believes that “cold cognition” is more relevant to voting, though, he favors lowering the voting age to 16.
Even by the professor’s own criteria, 16- and 17- year old voting is a bad idea.
Let’s see, now: in an election, emotions are aroused (remember that hopey-changey stuff?), time pressure is a factor (voting ends at a time and date certain), and teens tend to hang out in groups and decide things based on peer pressure (“All my friends are voting for Obama ‘cause it’s cool”). Check, check, and check; therefore no voting for you until you’re at least 21.
Teen-aged voting is also bad from the common sense perspective, informed by Constitutional history. In 1789, when the Constitution was drafted, the average life expectancy of an American white male was 35 years and the minimum voting age was 21. In 1971, the comparable life expectancy was 67.4, and a Constitutional Amendment permitted voting at age 18, but that was largely because 18 was the eligible draft age for males. (Then, as now, females got a free pass.)
No comparable circumstances exist today. Sixteen- and seventeen-year olds don’t register for the draft, most of them are still in high school, and all of them can be carried as children on their parents’ health-insurance policies until they’re twenty-six.
Self-styled progressives who want to get back to winning elections should come up with better ideas than simply how to stuff the ballot box. But that would mean recognizing that the national government is intended to be one of limited and separated powers, that socialism never works no matter who is in charge, and that the ability to read TelePromTed speeches is no substitute for leadership and executive experience.
Lower the voting age to 16? Better to raise it a few years to, say, 26.