Democracy Requires An “Articulate Majority”
Margaret Chase Smith on the Importance of Voting

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | October 26, 2020                      

U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith, Republican of Maine (1897-1995)

U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican representing Maine, wrote about the importance of being an informed and active constituent for her syndicated newspaper column for United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

The column was mainly just an abridged version of a speech she gave in Oct. 1945. Now it was 1949, during Democrat Harry Truman’s first elected term. With his low approval ratings, Truman had been considered a long shot to hold on to the Presidency in 1948.

The topic of voting was one Smith would revisit for years to come in her writings and speeches. Her words remain especially pertinent in the United States today, a country still abundant with ‘low information’ voters — if they vote at all.

November 7, 1949

Washington And You

By U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith

Washington—It’s election season again. What happens this year can well influence and foretell what may happen next year and in 1952—can but not necessarily will.

But it stresses the responsibility of all of us to vote. Individual freedom enjoyed by citizens of a democracy such as ours carries with it the responsibility not only of thinking individually but also of “thinking out loud”—of making ourselves articulate together with those who share our beliefs and opinions.

Elections are the times when establish a policy of government for the next two or four years—a policy that public officials whom we have elected are to follow. If maximum voting is combined with our two-party system, there is a greater assurance of effectuating the will of the majority.

In elections we should vote for policies on vital issues, for the candidates are merely symbols and media for action. We must know our candidates and what they stand for—even at times force candidates and parties to reveal their positions on vital issues.

The best time to exercise the pressure is before and during the election—not after. There are two principal ways to determine whether a candidate’s views and opinions on vital issues agree with your own—

(1) by his past record or

(2) by his promises and professed position

Both are of indicative value. But the past record tells a much more dependable story. Actions speak louder than words. I campaigned on that theory last year for the Senate with the slogan of “Don’t Trade a Record for A Promise.”

Too often, votes are carelessly judged on personalities, really pseudo personalities, rather than on character. There was a startling instance of this a few years back in the election to Congress of a man of unknown ability and views, solely, it appeared, because his name was the same as that of a person prominent in another field. This led to the political phenomenon of “popular name filing” of candidacies—if you had the sure name of a celebrity or well-known person you had a good chance of being elected.

It is the articulate majority that runs a democratic government—democratic spelled with a small “d.” But the articulate majority does not always represent the real majority. Quite often the real minority by “thinking out loud” makes itself the practical, effective articulate majority. For proof of this one need only look at the presidential election figures, where he will find that usually the victorious candidate and party not only have small margins of victory but poll considerably less than 51 per cent of the eligible electorate.

The articulate action of a citizen, or group of citizens, must be constructive—must seek to improve, to build instead of destroy. It’s just as much a crime to be “agin” everything as to be a “me tooer”.

There is not only too much silent or negative thinking. There is too much defiant shouting prompted by unenlightened partisanship. We should think before we speak. We should not criticize unless we can offer something better, because if we cannot offer something better, it is a good sign that we either don’t know what we are talking about or haven’t thought enough about what we are criticizing.

We should elect those candidates we want rather than defeat those we dislike. We should make our articulation informed and positive, not ignorant and negative.

Why Don’t Americans Vote?
Why Don't They Vote? | The Perpetual Conundrum of U.S. Voter Apathy


Related links:

Voters This Year Will Choose Between Liberty and Socialism | Feb. 12, 1950 editorial

Make Popular Vote Effective | Wilmington Morning Star, Nov. 5, 1952

Why Do We Call It Electoral ‘College’? | August 18, 1952 editorial

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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