Prognosis: A Chance of Sanity…
Posted July 5, 2016on:
How was your weekend of handling small explosives and scaring the pets? If your weekend included extended family get-togethers, I hope the appropriate rules of non-engagement and détente were in place. There’s nothing worse than tainting an otherwise enjoyable cookout by having to clear space on the grill for a brother-in-law whose attendance could just as well have been handled by a socially awkward doorstop.
Each 4th the fireworks get a little stronger and our unifying principles seem to become more mottled. Being the habitual optimist, perhaps we are on course to solving some of the disunity with Hillary’s election, but even with Hillary’s experience and deft hand at working across the aisle, impediments will remain.
If you listen to the “meat puppet resembling a Demon Sweet Potato,” all we have to do is be less politically correct, rip up trade agreements, default on the sovereign debt, and kill the families of suspected terrorists. Translated that equates to glorifying intolerance, plunging a world economy into free fall, and creating revenge-seeking terrorists whose rage will burn white-hot for generations.
The real question is not what the Demon Sweet Potato says, but why someone who has no political experience, no visible network of support, and can’t even spell the word temperament has license to say them as a presidential candidate?
What has gone wrong?
And before we get all high and mighty about the Republicans losing their way, we need to come to an honest reckoning with why a Socialist, who wasn’t even a Democrat fifteen months ago, could garner 43% of the primary vote? Then there was the viperous Texan who was the last candidate standing against Trump who built his career on committing dominicide by killing effective government.
From the article I’m suggesting to you:
Trump, Sanders, and Ted Cruz have in common that they are political sociopaths—meaning not that they are crazy, but that they don’t care what other politicians think about their behavior and they don’t need to care. That three of the four final presidential contenders in 2016 were political sociopaths is a sign of how far chaos syndrome has gone. The old, mediated system selected such people out. The new, disintermediated system seems to be selecting them in.
The biggest obstacle, I think, is the general public’s reflexive, unreasoning hostility to politicians and the process of politics. Neurotic hatred of the political class is the country’s last universally acceptable form of bigotry. Because that problem is mental, not mechanical, it really is hard to remedy.
Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of historical institutions. As the influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.
A second virus was initially identified in 2002 that between 25 and 40 percent of Americans (depending on how one measures) have a severely distorted view of how government and politics are supposed to work. These people are “politiphobes,” because they see the contentious give-and-take of politics as unnecessary and distasteful. Politiphobes think the obvious, commonsense solutions are the sorts of solutions that they themselves prefer. But the more important point is that they do not acknowledge that meaningful policy disagreement even exists.
Washington doesn’t have a crisis of leadership; it has a crisis of followership. Our most pressing political problem today is that the country abandoned the establishment, not the other way around.
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My apologies to the author of How American Politics Went Insane. I’ve butchered Jonathan Rauch’s very thoughtful essay in order to provide a taste of his prognosis and cure. It is a long read, but it is a worthy investment of your time. There is no better way to honor the spirit of July 4th than contemplating ways in which we can bring sanity back to governance.
Please don’t limit your comments to the reading. What’s on your mind today?
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