• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Frustration With The Election

November 2020

Be it advanced or primitive, civilized or crude, there are certain criteria by which we judge the relative progress of a nation. In the pursuit of such an assessment, by which a country’s strength or weakness might be gauged, we can turn in any number of directions.

We might first look upon the eloquence of its literature, or the craftsmanship of its art. Should we find in the former a Shakespeare, a Goethe, or a Proust, we can be assured not only of its literacy, but of its refinement and taste. We’ll recognize this land not as one unvisited by an articulate muse. We’ll see it as one out of which great stories have sprung. If, in our examination of the latter, we find with chisel in hand the great Phidias or impassioned Bernini, or with paint upon palate the esteemed Goya or Rubens, we content ourselves with the knowledge that this state is not only in possession of heightened standards of art, but of pure aesthetic bliss.

We might also look elsewhere in our search for these criteria, among which so many can be named. The culture of a given state, under which, admittedly, literature and art might also fall, is one upon which we might linger some time. What are the peculiarities of its customs and the idiosyncrasies for which its inhabitants stand out? What is the general bent of its manner and the character of its people? Character, after all, is the master of fate, and thus the most important attribute to which culture can give birth. What form, upon falling to the earth, and finding its initial step, might that character take? Might it produce a population martial or philosophical, terse or verbose, hesitant or free, Spartan or Attic? Will they be gentle and kind, or captious and mean? One can’t know, but culture, ultimately, will dictate the type.

Religion, as well, might be considered here. Perhaps it too finds itself in a state of repose under the long shadow cast by culture’s towering figure, but it might be thought of as distinct. We gaze toward the heavens in our judgment of the land, and we observe the pious shepherd in our study of the bleating flock. Is it a nation to which foreign gods, despite the distance of their birth, are equally welcome, or is it deathly jealous of its own domestic faith? Is it so devout as to bar from entry a compelling and, for that reason, possibly competitive creed, or is it openly hospitable and exuding of warmth? Is it confident in the truth of its own beloved scriptures, or is it provoked to the point of bloodshed when its revelations are brought into doubt? Is it theocratic or pluralistic, evangelical or cordial? In search of these answers, one examines the state.

All of the foregoing—religion, culture, literature and art—are aspects upon which the vitality of a state is dependent, without whose splendid contributions, it can’t hope fully to live. It may succeed, for a time, in stumbling about as a partial and awkward state, as though in the infancy of its being in the darkness of an early hour, but it’s never to be seen striding, dauntless, in the glowing maturity of its life. We’ll see neither the development of its mind, the elegance of its gait, nor the wholeness of its form, to which years contribute, and experience lends strength.

Omitted from this list, and that without which a nation can’t be deemed complete and its body erect, is its political institution. Indeed, without such a base, a country can’t hope to stand. It’ll be vulnerable to every paroxysm, and unequal to every whim. Its legs will be feeble, and its edifice will fall. After all, A state’s political institution is the foundation atop which all else is built. The way in which a country is governed—now that’s the sole criterion to which every other concern must be thought inferior.

The type of the political institution might be one of three: monarchical, aristocratic, or democratic—or, put another way, the rule of one, of the few, or of the many. That which you find most suitable to your taste, or congenial to your political fancy, is something of a personal choice. No doubt, antiquity’s great authors have provided us with their own, leaving the modern man a wealth of enticing and well-argued predilections to which, in such works as those wrought by Plato, Aristotle, Montesquieu, Locke, and Marx, he can always repair. In one, we find republicanism and the philosophical rudiments of the American doctrine; in another, communism, and the utopian template for the Maoist and the Bolshevik’s regime. Still another grants legitimacy to the undivided power of an unelected king, while another seeks ways to justify the tyrant.

Despite their variety, all return to the rigid fact that there are but three types from which they might choose.

Conceivably, all three might be built upon the suffrage of the citizen—be it universally granted, or narrowly constrained. In the case of America, a democratic-republic as dreamed up by Locke, its application is quite liberal. The potential voter need not twenty years, twenty IQ points, nor twenty cents to his name. He need only be the age of majority and registered in the state and district in which he might happen to live. From that point, his only job is to appear on the day of the election, equipped with little more than a received bias or an airy whim, and cast his vote for the candidate by whom his interest has been tickled, or, better yet, his reason swayed.

This process assumes, however, that the election itself will work. We expect competence from those by whom it’s orchestrated, and honesty and efficiency from its start until its end. We consider it no great imposition to expect its results within course of the following day—certainly not four, five, or—god forbid—six thereafter. The announcement of the people’s will mustn’t be delayed, lest they assume dirty tricks, sordid chicanery, or an attempt at the disenfranchisement of the many, for the benefit of the few, to be at hand.

Despite the attraction of all those other delightful things—art, literature, philosophy, culture, religion, etc.—over which, in our judgment of the relative progress of a nation, we’re enticed to stop and gaze, a country’s ability to carry out an election, though less exciting, might be the first at which we look. The most primitive of nations must, if it seeks a higher stratum to which it might ascend, successfully complete this very basic task. It must demonstrate proficiency in its collection of the people’s votes, as well as accuracy and swiftness in their uninterrupted counting. It must have certitude in the declaration of its results, and faith in the peacefulness of the citizens to whom they’ll be communicated, posthaste.

Based on this criterion, that of carrying out an election adroitly and with ease, America can’t be judged very highly. Indeed, we might be forced to demote her back to the status of a low and barbaric state. And though she flaunts as her most venerable children the likes of Franklin, Emerson, Whitman, and Twain, and has no shortage in her brood of accomplished artists and eminent clerics, if she can’t handle a simple national election, she isn’t deserving to be listed among the world’s most advanced states. We strip from her this title, until it’s truly earned.

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