Rethinking Women's SuffrageSubmitted by Molusk on Fri, 10/18/2013 - 00:14
Every now and then its good to sit down and think about major decisions we have made and to examine the reasons why we made them, and whether they succeeded in achieving the purposes we had originally intended. Without such reflection, we can never know if our decision was the right one.
Once upon a time, only men voted. This was not ideal - half of the population was allowed to vote, and voting is a pretty terrible idea.
But within narrow limits, suffrage is only able to wreak limited havoc. When voting is limited to the heads of established households who have both a proven level of good judgement and ability, and a direct interest in how the commonwealth fairs in the future, voting might even have some commendable aspects.
That's why qualifications like age, property, citizenship, mental capacity, and standing in one's community are important. Moreover, when the voting itself is limited in its impact on a small political body (about the size of a traditional congressional district in the old days), the responsible, informed voters will have good incentives for choosing the right policy. They will also have accurate information and a real interest in the outcome.
Finally, the direct influence which the average voting person will draw from his social betters will make the whole process of voting less democratic and more an organic consensus of the community, drawn from the influence of its best members.
Any extension of the ballot, either to more and more people, or to a larger and larger polity, more removed from on the ground conditions, weakens the electorate and lessens the virtuous aspects of a limited franchise described above.
Before female suffrage, we were already well on the way to the extension of the franchise to all and sundry and the growing detachment of the voter from any real connection to the elected official. So money and organized propaganda was already becoming a science for manipulating and moving masses of stupid people on the basis of group and crowd dynamics.
At the time, women tended to defer to their husbands and male relatives in matters of politics and ideas, and focused more inward on the family. The father was the traditional head of the household, and so domestic tranquility from political squabbles was insured by this state of things. At the same time, women and children and other subordinate members of households had their interests represented by the father on the political level.
Now it is a controversial thing to say, but we all know that women tend on average to be more impressionable and emotional spirits than men. Swaying a woman by appeal to emotion, or by appeal to status, conformity, being politically correct, is very easy. Even today women tend to adopt the political viewpoints of their husbands or boyfriends, at least as long as they continue to respect them.
The big compromise that lead to female suffrage was the convergence of the temperance and prohibition movement by the nation's morally upright wives with those other factions that supported the ban on imbibing alcohol. The political division of the family unit was considered a reasonable sacrifice to the moral boon to be expected from the elimination of the sins of the bottle.
But once the deed was done and the woman was now half or more of the voting herd, what happened to politics? Politics has become a sissified arena of marketing, expensive haircuts and playing on feelings. We haven't had a bearded president since Grizzly Adams. Political taverns and clubs have gone away. There is no more blood in politics or brawls. The entire masculine energy has been shifted to professional sports.
The family unit and the rights of the father have been trampled over in the most egregious manner imaginable. Divorce is the new normal. Fathers have no rights, and no one talks about it. Abortion is legal on demand.
Lots of thoughtful women in the early 20th century predicted accurately what suffrage would do to the family. It was not a universally desired outcome even among women. Looking back, it appears we made a major blunder in passing this amendment. Its too late now, but after 90 years, we can at least now sit back, have a drink, and realize we made two mistakes.