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March 21, 2015

On Friday a friend called my attention to a Peggy Noonan column in the Wall Street Journal, Both Parties Are Nervous About 2016. Apparently President Barack Obama had recently mused that mandatory voting might be a good idea, and Ms. Noonan didn’t think so at all. She believes that only people deeply immersed in policy should vote. That could make the voting booth pretty lonely.

Ms. Noonan worries that mandatory voting “would mean a lot of people who aren’t interested in public policy and choose not to follow it would suddenly be deciding it. . . . Making those who don’t care about voting vote will only dilute the votes of those who are serious and have done their democratic homework.”

Given the scientific consensus on global climate change, to take just one example, I can’t imagine that the party Ms. Noonan prefers would enthusiastically support the notion that the most informed citizens should control public policy outcomes.

I somewhat suspect that Ms. Noonan’s wish would fall most severely on poor and working class citizens. Those voters may not have read the Wall Street Journal today but some are experts on public policy having to do with Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicare, and Social Security. They know a lot about Obamacare. Some are very knowledgeable about defense policy, since it is they and their sons and daughters who actually do the fighting.

One of my former students, now in law school, is one such expert. He’s a veteran. He entered the service after high school because his family never could afford to send him to a dentist and he knew that in the military he could get dental care.

There are other ways to become recognized public policy authorities on defense. Paul Wolfowitz, one of the Iraq War architects, is back as an adviser to Jeb Bush. Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Richard Perle, and Bill Kristol keep showing up as defense experts. They never have to account for their blundering on Iraq nor their own absence from military service. Invincible in peace, invisible in war, as James Michael Curley said. Though the Chicken Hawks are not really invisible in war; they never miss a deployment to Fox News.

Bolton, Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Kristol – they all have very fine dental work too.

Bill Kristol, Peggy Noona, Wall Street Journal

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