By Walt Garlington for the Saker Blog
Whatever the outcome with the latest wars and rumors of wars, folks interested in creating a brighter future, wherever they are in the world, need to find ways to defend and rebuild what is essential to human flourishing in society – in particular, one of the most foundational of those elements, the family.
Last July, J. D. Vance, a candidate for US Senate in Ohio, made a policy proposal in this regard to a gathering of conservatives that sounds somewhat unorthodox: Give parents with children more political power than people without any. In his own words –
‘“The Democrats are talking about giving the vote to 16-year-olds,” Vance noted. “Let’s do this instead. Let’s give votes to all children in this country, but let’s give control over those votes to the parents of the children.” He continued, asking, “Doesn’t this mean that nonparents don’t have as much of a voice as parents? Doesn’t this mean that parents get a bigger say in how democracy functions?” He answered with a simple “yes” after saying “the Atlantic and the Washington Post and all the usual suspects” would criticize him.’
The ‘usual suspects’ did go about criticizing his proposal as ‘anti-democratic’ and so forth, but it is actually Mr Vance and not his opponents who can make a better case for the morality and fairness of his position. And it is in the interest of conservative-minded people that a case in his defense be made.
Since the Civil Rights era in the middle of the last century, there has been an ideological crusade in the United States to make the vote of one person equal in power to that of every other person. This is an absurdity worthy of the philosophes of the French Revolution, with their ruthlessly geometrical redesigning of their political order driven by their burning desire for Equality. But inequalities in voting strength will always exist because of a number of factors: eligible voters who don’t vote, people who move to another location before legislative redistricting occurs, etc. And perfect political equality wars against the truth of hierarchy, that the opinions of some people are of more worth than those of others.
The political tradition of the US and of Mother England has always tended to reject the abstract, revolutionary notion of voting and representation and to accept the more practical and historically rooted notion of them.
Dr Russell Kirk gives us the traditional English view in The Conservative Mind:
‘The genius of English polity is a spirit of corporation, based upon the idea of neighborhood: cities, parishes, townships, guilds, professions, and trades are the corporate bodies which constitute the state. The franchise should be accorded to persons and classes insofar as they possess the qualifications for right judgment and are worthy members of their particular corporations; if voting becomes a universal and arbitrary right, citizens become mere political atoms, rather than members of venerable corporations; and in time this anonymous mass of voters will degenerate into a pure democracy “inlaid with a peerage and topped with a crown,” but in reality the enthronement of demagoguery and mediocrity’ (7th edn., Regnery, Washington, D. C., 1985, pgs. 130-1).
Samuel Taylor Coleridge offered a concise summary of it all when he said, ‘Men, I still think, ought to be weighed, not counted. Their worth ought to be the final estimate of their value’ (p. 140).
A definitive American statement on the subject was given by Justice Frankfurter in his dissent in Baker v Carr. The mass of evidence he produces from England and the States refutes handily the idea that there was ever intended to be a perfectly even distribution of political power in either place, and shows rather that a prudent proportioning of political power amongst the various communities that make up a polity is the better arrangement.
To give but one example from the US of this healthy disproportion, consider briefly the federal Senate, which grew out of the historical reality of separate, unique, sovereign States, because of which each State has equal representation regardless of population, and which still draws the ire every now and then of egalitarians.
Given all of this, as well as the indisputable truth that strong families are one of the cornerstones of a healthy society, we arrive at a certain conclusion, the same one as Mr Vance: The votes of married mothers and fathers should weigh more than those of others in society. They should wield political power within the community commensurate with their importance to it; they should have access to political weapons with which they can defend the family from the depredations of harmful government policies, monopolistic woke corporations, and whatever other enemies of that salutary institution may arise.
In addition to Mr Vance’s proposal above, another basic outline of how this could work might resemble the following: When a married man and woman have their third child (i.e., going beyond the bare replacement rate), the vote of the husband and of the wife would be counted twice in every election instead of once. If they divorced, each vote would be counted only once, as before.
By adopting such a proposal, whatever form it takes in the end, we would be returning to the saner political practices of the past. It mirrors in particular the ‘fancy franchises’ found in England not so long ago, ‘plural votes for the educated, the thrifty, the propertied, the leaders of men, to ensure that votes might be weighed as well as counted’ (Kirk, p. 277).
To enact plural voting for parents (perhaps we could call it the ‘family franchise’) would require revisions, judicial, legislative, and otherwise. But we have seen some healthy revisions in laws and courts before, with anti-commandeering/10th Amendment actions, and more and more with abortion. And just as in those instances, the courageous and thoughtful actions of State and local officials will be key.
Financial incentives to encourage young folks to marry, shun divorce, and have children are having positive effects in places like Hungary. There is no reason we should not add some political incentives, like plural voting, as well.
Some, however, may see a danger in this proposal, in that some of the fastest growing demographic groups in the US have no roots in Christianity or any of the other venerable old folkways of Western Europe that lie at the base of the cultures of the South, Midwest, etc. Would plural voting for parents not threaten what remains of a recognizable Western, Christian tradition in the States? A few thoughts:
First, most immigrants are coming to the States mainly for economic reasons, not to preserve and perpetuate their cultural traditions. Once here, many quickly lose their cultural identity and melt into the predominantly secular culture, which means that their fertility rate plummets.
Second, some of those fast-growing demographic groups, like the Asians, are already slowing in population growth – evidence perhaps of the just-mentioned death grip of uS materialism on their birth rates.
Third, the fertility rates of conservative/traditional Christian populations are such that they could overtake the secularists/materialists in the years to come. Dr Stephen Turley writes in his book The Return of Christendom: Demography, Politics, and the Coming Christian Majority (2019, PDF version, pgs. 4, 5-6, 7),
‘According to University of London scholar Eric Kaufmann’s detailed study on global demographic trends, we are in the early stages of nothing less than a demographic revolution. In Kaufmann’s words, “religious fundamentalists are on course to take over the world.”16 There is a significant demographic deficit between secularists and conservative religionists. For example, in the U.S., while self-identified non-religionist women averaged only 1.5 children per couple in 2002, conservative evangelical women averaged 2.5 children, representing a 28 percent fertility edge. Kaufmann notes that this demographic deficit will have dramatic effects over time. In a population evenly divided, these numbers indicate that conservative evangelicals would increase from 50 to 62.5 percent of the population in a single generation. In two generations, their number would increase to 73.5 percent, and over the course of 200 years, they would represent 99.4 percent!
‘ . . . The Amish double in population every twenty years, and projections have the Amish numbering over a million in the U.S. and Canada in just a few decades.
‘ . . .
‘However, within secular globalist societies, retraditionalized families will not remain as enclaves for very long. In contrast to the flourishing fertility among conservative Christian families, Kaufmann’s data projects that secularists, who consistently exemplify a low fertility rate of around 1.5 (significantly below the replacement level of 2.1), will begin a steady decline after 2030 to a mere 14 to 15 percent of the American population. Kaufmann thus appears to have identified what he calls “the soft underbelly of secularism,” namely demography.20 This is because secular liberalism entails its own “demographic contradiction,” the affirmation of the sovereign individual devoid of the restraints of classical moral structures necessitates the freedom not to reproduce. The link between sex and procreation having been broken, modernist reproduction translates into mere personal preference. It thus turns out that radical individualism, so celebrated and revered by contemporary secular propagandists, is, in fact, the agent by which their ideology implodes.
‘ . . .
‘Phillip Longman of ForeignPolicy.com has come to the same conclusion as Kaufmann and others. In a recently published article on the rising birthrates among conservatives in Europe and the United States, Longman notes that liberal critics of the traditional family are actually plagued by a rather inconvenient fact that the feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and 70s have not and are not leaving any genetic legacy. While only 11 percent of baby boomer women had four or more children, they made up over 25 percent of the total children born to baby boomers. Conversely, the 20 percent of women who had only one child accounted for a mere 7 percent of the total children born to baby boomers. Specifically, he cites statistics from France, where only about 30 percent of women have three or more children, but they’re responsible for over 50 percent of all French births.
‘Thus, Longman concludes that this fertility discrepancy is “leading to the emergence of a new society whose members will disproportionately be descended from parents who rejected the social tendencies that once made childlessness and small families the norm. These values include adherence to traditional, patriarchal religion, and a strong identification with one’s own folk or nation.”22’
The future belongs to those who reproduce the most, and in the States and in Europe, there are signs that the more traditional Christian communities may be able to win that battle in the long run. Accordingly, we should not be afraid to place the ‘family franchise’ in the hands of married mothers and fathers.
In spite of all the theorizing and conjecturing in modern times, human nature has not changed: People are not disconnected space rocks floating randomly through the Oort Cloud of life; they are not mathematical variables in a cynical party operative’s speculative political calculus. They belong irrevocably to families, churches, neighborhoods, and so forth. Our statecraft should always reflect that reality.