Misconceptions about democracy according to Quigley

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  1. The outcome of an election is not determined by those who vote, but by those who don’t vote.
    • Now there are some features of democracy that many people really do not understand. It is said, for example, that our officials are elected by the voters, and the one that gets the most votes is elected. I suggest that this is misleading. The outcome of an election is not determined by those who vote, but by those who don’t vote. Since 1945 or so, we have had pretty close elections, with not much more than half of the people voting. In the 1968 election about 80 million voted, and about 50 million qualified to vote did not. The outcome was determined by the 50 million who didn’t vote. If you could have got 2 percent of the nonvoters to the polls to vote for your candidate, you could have elected him. And that has been true of most of our recent elections. It’s the ones who don’t vote who determine the outcome.
  2. In any democratic country, if you could name the candidates of all parties, you wouldn’t care who voted or how, because your man would be elected.
    • Something else we tend to overlook is that the nomination process is much more important than the election process. I startle a lot of my colleagues who think they know England pretty well by asking them how candidates for election are nominated in England. They don’t have conventions or primary elections. So the important thing is who names the candidates. In any democratic country, if you could name the candidates of all parties, you wouldn’t care who voted or how, because your man would be elected. So the nominations are more important than the elections.
  3. We [Americans] have democracy because around 1880 the distribution of weapons in this society was such that no minority could make a majority obey. If you have a society in which weapons are cheap, so that almost anyone can obtain them, and are easy to use — what I call amateur weapons — then you have democracy. But if the opposite is true, weapons extremely expensive and very difficult to use — the medieval knight, for example, with his castle, the supreme weapons of the year 1100 — in such a system, with expensive and difficult-to-use weapons, you could not possibly have majority rule. But in 1880 for $100 you could get the two best weapons in the world, a Winchester rifle and a Colt revolver; so almost anyone could buy them. With weapons like these in the hands of ordinary people, no minority could make the majority obey a despotic government.
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