I CAN THINK OF A FEW LETTERS I’D LIKE TO BUY…. Pat Sajak is perhaps best known as the host of the television game-show “Wheel of Fortune,” but those who keep up with conservative media outlets also recognize Sajak as a prominent far-right activist.
How far-right? The game-show host published an item for National Review this week to question whether public employees should be “able to vote in state elections on matters that would benefit them directly.”
In what appears to be his first post, Sajak pointed out today that no one in his family, or even his “kids’ teachers or the guys who rotate my tires” is allowed to appear on his show, because there is at least the appearance of a conflict of interest. “In nearly all private and public endeavors,” he continues, “there are occasions in which it’s only fair and correct that a person or group be barred from participating because that party could directly and unevenly benefit from decisions made and policies adopted.”
So, he asks, what about those state employees who have a greater stake in a vote’s outcome than the rest of us?
“I’m not suggesting that public employees should be denied the right to vote, but that there are certain cases in which their stake in the matter may be too great,” Sajak writes.
As a rule, any sentence that effectively begins, “I don’t want to disenfranchise law-abiding Americans, but…” isn’t going to end well.
In this case, Sajak argues, “[I]f, for example, a ballot initiative appears that might cap the benefits of a certain group of state workers, should those workers be able to vote on the matter? Plainly, their interests as direct recipients of thebenefits [sic] are far greater than the interests of others whose taxes support such benefits.”
It’s quite a concept. Voters might be asked to consider a ballot measure on the fire department, which Sajak suggests might be grounds to stop firefighters from voting. Or in the case of a ballot initiative on schools, teachers could be barred from participating in the election.
In case this isn’t obvious, let’s be perfectly clear about the merit of such an idea: this is crazy. Preventing Americans from voting based on whether they’d benefit from the outcome goes against the principles that allow for elections in the first place. It’s a feature, not a bug — voters make decisions, rightly or wrongly, based on whether they expect to benefit, directly or indirectly, from the results.
By Sajak’s reasoning, if conflict-of-interest concerns might need to disenfranchise Americans, we’d have to start with candidates themselves, insisting that they not vote at all, because of their stake in the outcome.
A democracy is not a game-show. Screening for participation makes sense with the latter, but went out with Jim Crow in the former.