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On Constant Weading

"Is Michele Bachmann the new Sarah Palin?"

Gail Collins in the NY Times, January 28, 2011



Representative Bachmann is not the root of the problem facing this country any more than a single weed is the cause of the failure of a garden.


So does it make sense to put so much effort into weeding her out?


There is no doubt that weeding is a necessary element of gardening.  If the professional weeders at the SEC hadn’t been watching naughty.com, the garden wouldn’t be such a mess.  Ditto on the background checkers in the Great State of Arizona.


But is weeding the garden of Congress or even the garden of the NY Times sufficient?


I doubt it.  The root of the problem in a democracy is the unenlightened voter.  If too many voters are unable to think analytically or are misinformed, and if this situation persists over many election cycles, you end up with what we have today.  You end up with a Supreme Court packed with justices appointed for life by presidents of subpar intellectual ability, and those justices then rule that crop dusting of vast tracts of unenlightened voters with weed fertilizer is constitutional (in effect).


I don’t have all the answers about how to enlighten the electorate, but I do know that you have to start very young, as President Obama noted in the State of the Union.


Incidentally, Vladimir Lenin knew that the biggest risk that communism faced was the unenlightened peasant.  That’s why enlightenment was a major part of the early program.  But the early program also focused on the eradication of the intelligentsia, who could have enlightened the unenlightened.


The good news is that, to work, communism requires nearly 100% enlightenment, whereas democracy, in theory, requires at most a majority.


The bad news is that our U.S. democracy needs a majority of enlightened voters in a filibuster-proof 60% of the states and half the gerrymandered congressional districts.  There is no problem on the coasts and most big cities; the level of education is higher.  It's the smaller rural area.


It can happen.  Forests rise up from scorched earth.  Seeds of noble plants, like oaks and pines take root and crowd out the weeds.  There are many examples of mature forests in the world.  Look at Germany, Japan, Norway, Denmark.   There  have been, are, and will be noble oaks in the U.S. — Obama, Marie Burns, and Jerzy Kosinki to name a few.  I just hope the U.S. can skip the scorched earth part.


Keep on weed whacking, but plant and water as well.


[Editor's note:  The NY Times didn't print an earlier version of this piece as a reader comment.]