The Mis-Education of the voter

Carter G. Woodson’s The Mis-Education of the Negro is the inspiration for the above title. If you are not familiar, let me quote just a bit from the opening line:

The “educated Negroes” have the attitude of contempt toward their own people

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that many of our elected officials display the same level of contempt for the voter as Woodson charges educated blacks with. No doubt, they do not see it as such, considering it to be instead that they know what is better for us than we know for ourselves. That paternalistic attitude is what keeps the Dillon Rule in effect in Virginia.  But sometimes, that is the least of a voter’s concerns.

I understand that Virginia Beach’s charter does not contain a recall provision. Elect a bad mayor? You’re stuck. Want to amend the charter to include recall? As a citizen, you can’t ask the General Assembly to do that; you have to ask your council members – the very ones the lack of such an option protects – to ask the GA.

Want to get an ordinance amended in Norfolk? Unless you can convince your council rep to introduce it and then have that rep convince his/her fellow council members to go along (here in Norfolk, you’ve got to be able to count to five), forget it.

Need to ask the attorney general of VA to rule on a local issue? As an individual, you have no such right to ask. Your only course of action is to get a member of the General Assembly to do so. And what member is going to have the guts to take on local government?

So, as a citizen, it seems that you are left with only one option: go to court. Not everyone has the resources to do so. Further, finding an attorney to represent you can be a hurdle. Your own tax dollars will be used to pay attorneys to fight you. If you do make it to court, you are facing a judge who has been appointed by the General Assembly, who has ties to local government and its elected officials.

So at the end of the day, what elected officials want you to do is show up on Election Day and vote. The rest of the time, just let them do what it is that do. After all, they know what’s best for you.

I’d call that an attitude of contempt.

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9 thoughts on “The Mis-Education of the voter

  1. As voters, that’s really all we can do. If we actually organize around principles and declare that we will not cast a vote for anyone who doesn’t support such-and-such, we’ll find someone who will for sake of gaining those votes. Local politics is too haphazard. We need to get our act together.

  2. Good points.

    However, in smaller independent jurisidictions (like Falls Church City), the Dillion Rule provides a measure of protection from very parochial local politics. Our council memebers are usually elected by swinging thirty votes or so. Every local election is a grusome fight in a phone booth.

    If the Dillion Rule is modified, it should be done in a way that does not throw smaller jurisdictions to the local political dogs.

  3. More seriously, Mike does inspire me to note that as much as I’m happy to support tossing the Dillon Rule overboard, the non-responsiveness of gov’t can occasionally have a useful buffering effect. California’s disaster of ballot initiatives and (apparently easy) recalls comes to mind as a warning against too much direct democracy. Closer to home, I can only imagine that Prince William County might have been building its own border fence if I were more susceptible to the pressures of political populism.

  4. You are absolutely on the mark! Elected politicians whether Federal, State or Local, seem to automatically acquire a disdain for those who placed them in office. Truth is, many Americans can see right thru this facade, and many could do much better than career politicians. I hope during this year, people will speak out against infighting, do nothing people who simply harm this country from moving forward. The momentum started with Obama’s election, I hope we can keep it going.

  5. There are a number of excellent commentaries on how the Virginia Dillon rule could be improved or replaced wothout resorting to a complete local chaos.

    My favorite idea is to convert Virginia to a constitutional home rule state and then fight over how permissive that home rule could be.

    That would provide a measure of sanity to local goverance in places like small but mighty Falls Church, but still allow the megaopolis’s like Arlington to allow their bike riding liberals to turn the community into the giant dog park they really want it to be.

    Said with love, MB. Because we really don’t want to be a the eastern suburb of Fairfax County.

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