14 Comments

Good one! I marched in Chicago at the Democratic Convention, in response to which the process was 'democratized', and had no idea that the aim was to block Humphrey, whom I loved. I was even more clueless than most voters. I just thought I was supporting the Left, that I wasn't going to read up because I had schoolwork that interested me to do, so I would take it on faith to follow the leaders of the Left and do whatever they said I was supposed to do. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Give me the smoke-filled rooms!

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Fascinating perspective that points to a larger truth, perhaps: We need a different story in politics. Left and Right have become caricatures of themselves. Populist hucksters are the only alternative voters currently have. We (the West) need a different political vision -- rooted in realism, common sense and common decency.

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It is an interesting theory, but I am uncertain that the "professional" politicians are good enough gatekeepers for this. The big problem of this age, the one that has infected the traditional old democracies with rampant populism on one side and activist-first agendas (which are another form of populism) on the other, is the radicalisation of societies enabled by the social media, an environment in which the groups that talk constantly and scream louder can win.

The interests of vocal minorities trump the interests of the many, who yet get somehow convinced that those interests are very important due to enormous exposure to them. But the even worse problem is the generalised mood of anger and resentment, in which very few can actually look beyond their personal interests towards the common good that comes from mediation of conflicts.

Even the most professional of professional politicians cave in to these pressures from the base: the lots and lots of angry people who have elected them. The business companies cave in, terrified of angering the internet mobs that now take easily to the streets or, on the opposite side, boycott effectively.

Maybe the ordinary person who votes without belonging to a party or does not vote at all is less angry? I have no data, but looking around, I doubt it. Spaces like Persuasion are the last bastions of sanity in a maddened world.

I wish that it were so simple as having efficient professional politicians. But I am afraid that while what makes a professional politician is time spent on the job, who puts that politician there in the first place is the people who elect him/her. I am afraid that politicians, professional or otherwise, are a good mirror image of the people who vote them: this is true for Truss, Johnson and Corbyn, as much as it is for Trump and the others, not to speak of the EU. It is in the countries that something rotten is coming up. It is in our collective souls.

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In 1968, I was one of the protesters at the Chicago Democratic Convention that (to my young mind illicitly) selected Hubert Humphrey as their presidential candidate. Public unhappiness led to the empowerment of the primary system over the old "smoke-filled room," a decision I then applauded, but have since regretted, over and over.

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"Professional politicians in the GOP were aghast at Trump’s rise, but they couldn’t stop it. Worse yet, the patently unfit insurgent actually did get elected, leading to an epochal catastrophe for America’s democracy and its international standing that is far from over. It turns out that removing the safety mechanisms that keep figures like Donald Trump out of office can prove disastrously counterproductive."

If the "professional politicians" you so revere had not been so successful at foisting patently unfit catastrophes such as Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz and Kamala Harris and George W Bush on the electorate Trump never would have happened.

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Let me disagree with the author by offering some good words for referendums. In the 1990s, the people of California voted for Proposition 209. Prop. 209 outlawed racial discrimination in contracting, admission to college, etc. Sadly, this was an issue that no politician was willing to touch. However, voters were quite willing to outlaw racial discrimination (and did).

Much more recently, the entire political class in California sought to legalize racism by supporting Proposition 16. Only the people (by a large majority) said no. Essentially every institution in California endorsed Prop. 16 (which would have overturned Prop. 209 and make racism legal again).

The bottom line is that we live in a world where the political class has one worldview and ordinary folks have another. Referendums are one of they only ways the public has to express their opinions.

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Yes, yes, YES!!! You know, it's ironic the way Republicans have been clinging to the phrase, "we're a republic, not a democracy" in recent years. In their minds, it's a justification for the Electoral College, which happens to distort Presidential elections in their favor at the moment, as well as possible future attempts to upend an election by corruptly influencing the governments of individual states.

But what's described in this article is what is *actually* supposed to be the point of a republic. Not only because straight-up democracy is impractical, but because populism is dangerous. This is an uncomfortable idea for many because it is, in a way, fundamentally "elitist". But only in the sense that "elite" refers to having attained specialized knowledge through practice of a certain discipline - not in the sense of nobility or "elitism by birthright". The latter is indeed anti-American; the former is anything but. Yet we continually denigrate it through terms like "technocrat", which is often (though not always) used pejoratively. It needs to stop.

We need to return to an America where the virtue of personal humility is still valued. Where our American swagger does not beget the smug arrogance that unduly inflates our own opinions and begrudges those who have legitimate claim to expertise.

To be sure, there is blame to go around on both sides of the political divide for this current state of affairs. In many ways American academia has cocooned itself in a progressive bubble not as dissimilar as we'd prefer to think from the hermetically sealed universe of right-wing provocateurs, corporate toadies, religious fundamentalists, and libertarian fanatics that liberals have observed for years with dismay.

But for those who constantly shake their fist at coastal, progressive America for supposedly looking down upon the folks of heartland America, you may find it interesting to learn that the 9/11 terrorist attacks that occurred 21 years ago actually prompted a wave of navel-gazing and self-reflection from those very same coastal "elites". About their own vulnerability in a world where their specialized expertise gave them little in the way of "real" life skills - the kind that folks in "real" America proudly boast of - and about their reliance on the heroism of the blue-collar types who protect us in law enforcement, emergency services, and the military. All over blue and blue-ish America, urbanites fretted about not even knowing how to change a tire, repair a light fixture, or generally fend for themselves when stripped of their modern conveniences. In many ways a newfound respect blossomed which could have brought Americans much closer had it not been for the divisive nature of the Iraq war and the Bush administration.

So if you want to know why the people you dislike sometimes look down on you, it's not because you lack a college degree or work with your hands. Rather, it's *precisely because* of the fact that you politically support clownish ignoramuses like Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Marjorie Taylor Greene, etc. - the very people who serve as instruments of your revenge, yet who have no business being anywhere near the levers of power in our national government. It's precisely because you so value "owning the libs" that you consider it prudent to regard this as a qualifying characteristic for elected office. It's precisely because you have thrown in politically with people so unhinged in their views on gun control, abortion, and the integrity of democratic norms that you don't even try to pretend you care about anything beyond "winning" our toxic culture wars.

If you want respect from your fellow Americans, start respecting our institutions and the people qualified to guard their integrity. Otherwise, you're only validating your critics and justifying their belief that our democracy can only survive by opposing you rather than accommodating you.

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Thank You. I agree with most everything, which is why I "liked" Your post. The electorate gets the government they deserve, and You've pointed out a lotta problems with them. However:

"If you want respect from your fellow Americans, start respecting our institutions and the people qualified to guard their integrity."

First off, I'm not certain how many (*if* any) major institutions *have* much integrity. Academia? Government? The Media? (Mainstream and Social?) The Ds?? The Rs? Purveyors of our Culture? These point to the idea that the people who were *supposedly* "qualified," in fact, were not.

I'm sure (or at least hope) there are others that still have a measure of integrity. I just can't think of any off the top-of-my-head. Likewise:

"Otherwise, you're only validating your critics and justifying their belief that our democracy can only survive by opposing you rather than accommodating you."

Both parties mirror each other in this way, right?

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Ok, giving the grassroots power to determine the candidates for federal, nation-wide office has led to multiple screw ups (e.g. in Venezuela, recently in the US, and in Great Britain), but the old system of having pols “vet” potential candidates also had major problems, including rampant corruption and cronyism. So, where’s the sweet spot here? It’s not enough to say giving power to the grassroots has created disasters, and having the professionals (i.e. “the adults in the room”) take back that authority. If those are our only choices, liberal democracy is circling the porcelain bowl.

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In the not too distant past, the Republican National Committee and Democrat National Committee allocated significant funds to candidates and, therefore, maintained a level of control. Now, however, who would otherwise be fringe candidates are able to raise funds independently bypassing the national committees and party principles.

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Thank You, M. Toro. Interesting read. Book recommended sounded interesting as well. TYTY.

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Is this reasoning the Dems used to torpedo Bernie in 2016 and 2020? He possibly could’ve won the White House over Trump in 2016

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What is your calculus for the idea that Bernie possibly could have won? He could have won the nomination if he was a Dem, but he couldn't have won the White House by any means.

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No real calculus- just seems Clinton had so many negatives that made it harder for her to pull off the win.

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