January 8, 2009 by Ron Madson
In less than two weeks we will have a new President of the United States. Hope springs eternal. Refreshingly, by all indications Obama has read books, written one, and demonstrated the ability for deliberative thought. I personally did not vote for Obama (nor McCain) but I am guardedly optimistic that he will address issues such as the Israeli/Palestine conflict, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the torture issue with intellectually honesty, but more importantly a genuine Christian ethos. We will see.
In the meantime, I know it is four years before we have to consider a new “decider in chief” but I would like to introduce years in advance a new “strategery” to elect our future presidents. The thought that the “Wasilia Wonder” was only one heart beat away from becoming the commander of our military empire gave me some panic attacks. Here is my modest suggestion to prevent such an event in the future of our great republic.
If you are reading this you are not an “LIV.” Pollsters describe LIVs (short for “low information voters) as the 60% of the United States voting population that tends to be relatively uneducated, rarely subscribes to newspapers or news magazines, and does not watch any cable news. This is the same group that often takes a peculiar pride in avoiding book knowledge and world geography —but they still vote. It is not that LIVs are stupid but rather they have habits and patterns of living that allow them to remain verifiably ignorant of history, politics and basic civic lessons and thus they are easily manipulated by fear, hatred, confusion and the whole array of slogans, labels, and logical fallacies. Neither of our two major national parties should smugly assume that it is the other party that the LIVs affiliate with for one does not need statistics to observe that both of the major national parties contribute significantly to this host of voters.
But is it the LIVs that should be the focus of our concerns and fears? And could we really attempt to educate 75 million Americans who vote fifteen times in one night for their favorite American Idol but maybe only half the time every four years for the President of the most powerful country in the world? No, even Hercules would rather clean a thousand Augean stables than take on such a task. But we need not despair. There is a much, much smaller group that we can target. For it is not the LIVs that should be the focus of our concern but rather the LICs—“Low Information Candidates” that should keep us awake at 3 A.M. If we could successfully screen out or even create an exit “strategory” for LICs then we need not concern ourselves as to whether an LIC could attract the votes of the LIVs. Is it audacious to have such a hope? Is that possible to do so? Has it been done? Has it been successful? Yes, yes, yes and yes!
More than two millennia ago during the Han Dynasty, Chinese historians observed that for centuries rulers of China found their way to the highest public offices based on such things as hereditary, wealth, charisma, and “who you knew.” Unfortunately, these factors did not guarantee competence for the genius of one ruler did not guarantee that his son was much more than a high functioning moron. So the Chinese came up with a novel idea—a national system of examinations for those seeking public office. Those seeking public office whether rich or poor, connected or not connected, would begin a study of history, Confucian classics, poetry, analytical writing, logic, political science, geography and moral philosophy. Once they passed they received certification that they were at least eligible for public office. The program worked so well in producing able public servants that it was retained by China for 1,300 years.
So I would humbly float an idea. Since the Chinese are about to own a good portion of our nation that has been run by non-examined public servants maybe we could try a national exam for all that seek public office. Every person seeking any federal office (Congress, Postmaster General, and even our President) would have to take a federal public servant exam after reading certain mandatory works that would include the Constitution and the Federalist Papers and then two dozen of Western Civilization finest classics—anyone reading this paper I am sure could come up with a list. Those that pass would get a Certificate or “Seal of Approval” that would then allow them to go out and demagogue all they want to get votes from all the LIVs that they can attract—the exercise being of real no harm given we can at least rest assured that the candidate is not an LIC.
If all of our candidates are pre-approved by rigorous examination(s) then when they have a gaffe here or there as we all do, then we would really have no reason to be concerned. However, as it is now when a candidate for our highest office tells us that as President they are the “decider” for all branches of the government or that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs then we might have some reason to pause and consider that without a national exam a day may come when an LIC might convince the LIVs to give him/her the nuclear codes and the chief “decider” position. Through exams we screen surgeons, dentists, judges, and even everyone at airports. The screening does not mean we will then choose the particular candidate but only that they have passed some minimum bar of intelligence and knowledge—the other attributes we can leave up to negative advertising to ferret out. However, given the reality that LIVs are now an identifiable voting majority, we need to put in a place a national exam before they discover their power and confuse the 2012 election with a beauty pageant without the mandatory questions.
Ron Madson, November 12, 2008