Democracy Is Too Good For You Plebs

After a two-hour meeting between Hong Kong officials and protest leaders made no real progress toward resolving the standoff, the demonstrations continued yesterday, including some 200 protesters marching to the home of the territory’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Many are reportedly outraged over comments Leung made to the foreign press on Monday insisting that open elections were unacceptable because they could give the poor too much of a voice:

In an interview with a small group of journalists from American and European news media organizations, [Leung’s] first with foreign media since the city erupted in demonstrations, he acknowledged that many of the protesters are angry over the lack of social mobility and affordable housing in the city. But he argued that containing populist pressures was an important reason for resisting the protesters’ demands for fully open elections. Instead, he backed Beijing’s position that all candidates to succeed him as chief executive, the top post in the city, must be screened by a “broadly representative” nominating committee appointed by Beijing. That screening, he said, would insulate candidates from popular pressure to create a welfare state, and would allow the city government to follow more business-friendly policies to address economic inequality instead.

Beinart ties this in with the debate over voter ID laws and early voting in the US, arguing that “Leung’s views about the proper relationship between democracy and economic policy represent a more extreme version of the views supported by many in today’s GOP”:

In 2010, Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips observed that “The Founding Fathers … put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote … one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community.”

In 2011, Iowa Representative Steve King made a similar observation, noting approvingly, “There was a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote. The reason for that was, because [the Founding Fathers] wanted the people who voted—that set the public policy, that decided on the taxes and the spending—to have some skin in the game. Now we have data out there that shows that 47 percent of American households don’t pay taxes … But many of them are voting. And when they vote, they vote for more government benefits.”

In 2012, Florida House candidate Ted Yoho remarked, “I’ve had some radical ideas about voting and it’s probably not a good time to tell them, but you used to have to be a property owner to vote.” Yoho went on to win the election.

Philips, King, and Yoho are outliers. Most prominent Republicans would never propose that poor people be denied the franchise. But they support policies that do just that.