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Can voters really prevail?

Mark Hare expresses his faith that universal suffrage would "fix" the American system of government (guest commentary, September 26). He cites Alexis de Tocqueville who, in 1835, wrote, "When a people begins to touch the electoral qualification, one can foresee that it will sooner or later make it disappear completely."

I wish I could share Mr. Hare's optimism.

Professor Harvey C. Mansfield, one of the translators of de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America," writes: "For [Tocqueville], the danger is not so much factious interest or passion as the degradation of souls in democracy..."

In Part IV, Chapter 5, of "Democracy in America," "What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear," de Tocqueville concludes:

"Thus, after taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them, and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd."


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