Sunday's Outlook carried an article by Bradley Miller headlined, "When the People Speak, Heaven Help Us."
The article began with the thesis that the average American is lacking in information about political issues. To support this thesis, it quoted various polls and "studies." Of those cited by Miller, "the gredat majority" supported a statement credited to Peter Natchez and Irwin Rupp in 1968 that said most voters "are only peripherally concerned with issues, if indeed they are aware of them at all. Issues require information, and information, according to the University of Michigan Survey Research Center, is one thing the electorate does not possess."
Having concluded that it is folly for the average American to vote, Miller proceeded to gather up this kind of supporting evidence about the "great majority" and the "vast majority" of us. He said we are "boobs," and that, "Today there are more boobs than ever (for politicians) to pander to. Many indeed, are sliding toward illiteracy -- no longer a deterrent, as everyone knows, to getting a degree from schools run more and more by global-village idiots."
The only good thing Miller had to say for the average American voter was that he seems to have an inkling of his ignorance and therefore has chosen not to make a display of it by casting a ballot.
"We lead all democracies in not voting," Miller noted with approval. We don't vote, he said, because we know we can't vote intelligently -- and "if awareness of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom, maybe we should be urging others to follow our lead."
I found Miller's sophistry so distressing that I wrote a column for the following day urging every eligible voter to cast a ballot, but I did not mention his article. My blood pressure doesn't permit me to attempt point-by-point rebuttals of those who attack democracy, or have ridden in flying saucers, or are suffering headaches because Martians have been bombarding their brains with gamma rays. I merely pointed out that the more unattractive the choice between tweedledum and tweedledee, the more important it is for every eligible voter to bite the bullet, make a choice, and have that choice recorded.
I am now in receipt of a response to my views from Joseph N. Switkes.
Switkes writes: "After reading 'When People Speak, Heaven Help Us,' I decided to suggest that you read it before writing your usual philosophy about the duty of voting.
"I have always thought your columns on this subject completely unrealistic, simplistic, more fantasy than fact and that they cultivated a dangerous myth.
"You beat me to the draw with your Monday column. However, I am sure you'll do it again (perhaps several times) before November and would respectfully suggest you read the Outlook column.
"It will give you another (different?) perspective on the subject and might even encourage you to abandon the mush your column prescribes."
Thank you for the suggestion, Joe. I followed your advice. I reread Miller's article. Later, the nurse at The Post said my pressure was 190 over 110 and that I ought to lie down for a while, but I think there may be greater therapeutic effect if I confess that you and Miller have changed my mind.
On reconsideration, I now believe that everybody who cannot pass an exam on what Article 2, Section 3 of the SALT agreement says should refrain from forming an opinion on arms limitations. He who is not familiar with all the rules of English grammar should remain mute. He whose writing would not be rated perfect by a panel composed of Rudolf Flesch, H. W. Fowler, Theodore N. Bernstein, Sir Ernest Gowers, Cornelia and Bergen Evans, William and Mary Morris, Roy H. Copperud and Junius Q. Heimedinger should not write -- not even letters to newspapers. If some of those who must give approval are dead, that's the letter-writer's problem, not mine. If you haven't won approval from us elitists, if you're a boob, please shut up. You probably can't even identify Heimedinger as the author of that masterwork on the relationship between political science and peanut butter titled, "Die Narrheit."
You have convinced me that democracy is inferior to dictatorship. People are boobs. They don't know what's good for them, and they admit it, according to your "studies."
The obvious alternative is for us to take orders from a Big Brother who can tell us what's good for us.
Several candidates come to mind, among them a couple of assistant city editors I have known during the past five decades, the heads of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party of America, my first wife, the deposed Pshaw! of Iran, the ayatollah who deposed him, Bowie Kuhn and Marvin Miller.
Personally, I prefer the Pshaw!, whose life expectancy is the lowest of the lot.