Vox thinks things are only democratic if they approve of them

July 5, 2022

By Tim Worstall

When decisions are decided in a way that Vox approves of, that’s democratic. When decisions don’t go Vox’s way, then that’s anti-democratic.

This isn’t quite what democracy means – rather, it’s a system in which we the people have our say. As an example, take this from Vox:

“Abortion rights are literally on the ballot in both red and blue states this year following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

Well, yes, that’s rather the point. The court decided that abortion was one of those things to be subject to democracy. It’s not a constitutional right – one of those things where either democracy doesn’t hold sway, or a supermajority to overturn is necessary – it’s something that folk get to vote on. You know, vote, decide democratically?

“Voters in California and Vermont will consider ballot measures that would enshrine the right to abortion in their state constitutions. Meanwhile, Kansas and Kentucky are weighing their own measures to clarify that their state constitutions do not establish a right to an abortion, and Montana is considering whether to provide personhood protections to infants born alive after attempted abortions.”

Yes, that’s the system. We the people decide. Democracy. Vox has a tone of shocked horror that this could be the way such a question is decided. Which is a little odd. Even that partial view of what democracy is. For in other discussions of democracy they seem to be entirely in favor of it.

For example, democracy seems to be good if Democrats do well at it, not so much if they don’t. More democracy is what black and brown movements are fighting for, and rightly so. A useful addition to democracy would be to strip certain courts of powers to decide.

No, really: “It could, for example, strip courts that are known to be stacked with Republican partisans of jurisdiction to hear any lawsuit challenging new voting rights legislation.” Or, as we might put it, if a court is going to give a decision against Democratic Party interests then we should not allow that court to have power over that thing. This is apparently very different from the court saying that abortion is for the States to decide though.

Finally, we rather like this complaint: “And then there’s the Supreme Court. These past few years, the Court has been dominated by a Republican-appointed majority that has issued rulings that happen to strengthen Republicans’ anti-majoritarian hold on power.” So it’s good that the court has relinquished power over abortion and allowed democracy to decide instead, right?

Except that’s not how Vox does seem to think it should work. They’re confusing the process – democracy – with the outcome they desire. They’re then describing the outcomes they desire as democratic ones, ones they don’t as not so. Which isn’t in fact how it works at all. Democracy is the process of, by us all weighing our views and beliefs, reaching a compromise between those different views. It’s not about the victory of any one or other.

Vox markets itself as “explaining the news”. By doing so it is just inside the top 100 news sites in the U.S. and gains 21 million visits a month. Explaining the news is a good thing, but it depends on the understanding of those doing it.

Democracy is a process, not an outcome. Vox clearly identifies outcomes it approves of as being democratic, those it doesn’t as not. This isn’t the right way to explain the news.


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