Monday, August 2, 2004
The Dark Side of Universal Suffrage
Because I'm an LDS bishop, I get a large envelope in the mail every Friday from Church headquarters. Last Friday's mailing included a letter from the First Presidency, to be read from the pulpit in sacrament meeting, urging us all to register to vote and to be active in seeking out and supporting good, wise, and honest candidates for public office. It was duly read in my ward; it's tempting to read it every week until it's too late to register to vote.
Here's what worries me in the long run: How many members of the voting public (or the potentially voting public) have enough understanding of the principles and mechanisms of good government - and I don't care whether that's what I think is good government, or what they think is good government - that they can even recognize wise candidates with sound principles? Even if schoolchildren are taught how the national government works and some essential principles and facts about its founding - which instruction is getting rarer by the year - almost no one is ever taught how a local government works. The only way to learn that well is to get involved and stay that way for an extended period, and those who actually do this are a small minority.
Universal suffrage only works well in a climate of universal knowledge. We don't have that. But every November I still hope for the best.
Copyright 2004 by David Rodeback.