November 21, 2019

American Savage: The people have spoken

Winston Churchill said the best argument against democracy was a few minutes with the average voter. He also said it was the worst form of government, except for all the others.
In this same spirit of half-hearted cynicism, the White House unveiled its newest online feature only days ago. “We the People” is an online petition system run through the official WhiteHouse.gov website. The feature allows any user to create a petition with a brief title and an 800-word description. The White House will directly respond to any petition that receives more than 5,000 signatures within 30 days of its posting.
One can only imagine the White House staffers and interns, closely tracking the hits and topics, cackling all the while. And it would seem the Internet made one thing clear — it’s filled with godless potheads.
A quick rundown of the most popular topics, — those with the most signatures — will reveal quickly what Pat Robertson and “Jesus Camp” have been so clearly trying to tell us — the Internet is brimming with progressive, left-wing drug addicts, trolling chat rooms and social networking sites looking for innocent young southern women and untouched suburban boys for a dabble in Marxism and a joy ride to free-prescription Canada.
The number one issue with more than 35,000 signatures simply states: legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. In the top five, we see petitions for industrial hemp, two dealing with omitting “Under God” from both the Pledge of Allegiance and Currency and abolishing the TSA to “use its monstrous budget for more sophisticated, less-intrusive counter-terrorism intelligence.”
Four of the top 10 petitions (all at 7,000+ signatures) explicitly call for a change in marijuana policy. A fifth calls for the end of a “wasteful, counterproductive War on Drugs.”
Yes, more than a billion people access the Internet every day, and it seems the only ones who managed to stumble onto the White House website are truly frightening liberal vampires.
But it’s this kind of eye-rolling conversation starter that makes democracy work, because even the best ideas were once only endorsed by crackpots.
There is so much you can’t say when running for office, regardless of party, because you’ll be soft on crime. And you can’t stand up and ask the question at the debates, because then you’re just the fringe pothead punch line for Fox n’ Friends.
Whether tea party Right or Green Party Left, the fringe is a perfectly normal and necessary part of our system because they define the edges. So while normal adults will walk around unconcerned with the plight of marijuana enthusiasts everywhere, thousands of people will sign a petition in the cloak of Internet anonymity.
Yes, most of the petitions will be written off with a brief statement and a chuckle while lackadaisical teenagers and know-nothings will be blamed for the flood of pot policy. People will call it democracy at its worst, which is why it is democracy at its best.
Democracy is the only form of government blissfully aware of its own shortcomings. It’s beholden to the whims of oft-uneducated masses. It’s controlled occasionally by special interests, and it’s devoted to the ego of the individual rather than the collective good.
But this is why we love it.  It does not claim to be perfect. It does not contend to distribute goods and wealth in totally equality. It does not contend to dominate our private lives with the insistent policy of a self-righteous dictator.
It brings godless liberals and steadfast family-values voters to the same place. It lets pro-life and pro-choice duke it out on the national stage, and it lets stoners register with the White House.
The best argument against democracy is the best argument for it. It’s free for us all, every single one of us — even the godless potheads.

American Savage is a weekly column written by Journal opinion editor Collin Reischman

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