(Or: “Churchillian Drift,” Part 1,398….)
On the eve of the British General Election, Metro UK declares: “Winston Churchill said the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
This is alas a reappearance of an ever-popular red-herring quote that Churchill never said.
Churchill had thoughtful critiques of democracy. See in particular his essay on “Mass Effects in Modern Life” in his book, Thoughts and Adventures. But he also had more respect for the average voter than this non-quote suggests. In the House of Commons on 31 October 1944 he said:
At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper [we still vote that way in New Hampshire]—no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point.
Churchill’s faith in the people to elect sensible candidates is the cause of some debate on both sides of the Atlantic these days. And yet the fabled “Little Man” has always been able to vote-in the right candidate at the right time, occasionally in last-ditch situations. Of course Churchill assumed the little man would be carrying some valid form of voter ID….
—From remarks at the Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar, “Churchill’s True Greatness: Lessons for Today,” Denver, April 21st.