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Democratic FailureNOMOS LXIII$
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Melissa Schwartzberg and Daniel Viehoff

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479804788

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479804788.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 17 May 2022

Pretextual Politics and Democratic Inclusion

Pretextual Politics and Democratic Inclusion

Comment On Darby

(p.247) 9 Pretextual Politics and Democratic Inclusion
Democratic Failure

Turkuler Isiksel

NYU Press

According to Darby, Du Bois rejected the argument from voter ignorance as a legitimate basis for excluding people from the franchise and defended inclusive democracy as the key to empowering the masses to better their condition. As Darby points out, however, the voter ignorance argument functioned primarily as a pretext for robbing African Americans of political rights. I argue that Du Bois’s struggle with the voter ignorance argument (that is to say, his cognizance of its covert racist intent and his simultaneous attempt to rebut it as a democratically motivated position) illustrates the trap of pretextual arguments in democratic politics, whereby practices that are blatantly at odds with democratic principles are justified on the basis of those principles themselves. Pretextual arguments are difficult for democrats to counter, because they abuse the presumption of sincerity—however rebuttable—built into public discourse. In taking the voter ignorance objection seriously, Du Bois ends up shadow-boxing with a claim that has little persuasive hold on anyone engaged in the debate (racists and anti-racists alike). The important takeaway is less Du Bois’s rebuttal of voter ignorance as a democratic problem and more the persistent menace that pretextual arguments pose in democratic politics.

Keywords:   democratic politics, African Americans, inclusion, political rights, voter ignorance

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