The Federalist is an online publication with pretty high standards, and it’s authors delve into topics from a conservative perspective with an impressive rigor, in general. So perhaps its in that spirit of rigor that David Harsanyi, senior editor at the Federalist, lays a chilling accusation at the we the people in whose name the Declaration of Independence was signed. He states in an already notorious WaPo opinion piece, in somewhat Orwellian fashion:

We can’t trust you.

Why? Because you might not pass a civics test. And you’re dumb. Why? Because you didn’t vote the way Harsanyi thinks you should. You voted for Trump. So please, he begs you, next time stay home. It’s not the first time we’ve heard this. Bush 43 voters took some heat from liberal commentators, along roughly the same lines.


I. If we the people are so pitifully uninformed, then Democracy is the problem. Because you place a litmus test, using a civics test for example, and the temptation immediately is: raise the golden bar! Only perfect scores can vote! And you end up with conservatives like Harsanyi advocating a government “of the wise” as Plato discussed – mainly its difficulty in practice. And that leads to government by the experts: the bureaucracy and the judiciary. Perfect! Who needs Congress? Just as Jim Gerargthy of the National Review lambasted the ignorance of many members of Congress, just today as well in his morning jolt email. They’re on to something it seems.

II. On the other hand, if you took a sample of Trump voters and found they tended to do surprisingly well on a civics test, then you’re in a bind. They understand the constitution. They want Trump. What do you do? According to the Harsanyi algorithm, if you agree with Trump, you don’t get to vote anymore because you’re dumb, even if you do well on a civics test. So return to I. And have a government run by experts: the bureaucracy (only those with postgrad degrees or J.D. diplomas on the office wall please!) and the courts.

The echoes from Andrew Jackson’s era in American history and politics are unmistakable. And the anger Jackson’s stripping of power from the east coast elites caused, was enough to give birth to a party, The Whigs. And interestingly enough, voter participation shot way up and stayed high for years to come, even after Jackson’s 2 terms in the White House. A phenomenon that Harsanyi would have stomped out by decree. Fortunately, the we the people have a constitution and a right to freedom of expression. No expression more important than the freedom to vote.