Why politics is not a job for amateurs

Really excellent post from Julia Azari in Mischiefs of Faction:

Imagining a political outsider coming in and curing what ails politics is fun and romantic, and it’s not new. On its face, this idea seems very democratic — what could be closer to the ideals of democracy than casting the bastards out and infusing political leadership with new blood, with people who know life outside of the profession of politics? Like many things, this is intuitive but incorrect. Political amateurism presents a threat to democracy.

Democracy is hard. It’s not as simple as picking an election date and site and counting up the votes. It also requires thinking about how different perspectives and stakeholders will be integrated into a system, what to do with the losers of a particular process, and how to balance individual freedom with community concerns. The practice of democracy requires dealing with the reality that disagreement is bound to crop up anytime you get more than one human being in a discussion…

Movements like WTF embrace the pernicious myth of populism that beneath elite squabbles there exists widespread unity of principles. It is true that most people want broadly similar things: peace, safety, prosperity. But there’s a lot of disagreement about how to achieve those things. Productive approaches to politics acknowledge this — denying it won’t make it go away.

Some nice commentary from Alex Theodoridis when he shared this on FB:

This is an important argument from Julia Azari. There was a time when political scientists lamented the fact that reforms to the nominating process had opened the door to candidates like Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter (both governors of sizable states) who lacked Washington experience. John F. Kennedy was once seen as inexperienced when he ran for president (he had been in Congress for 13 years). Obama (with < 1 full U.S. Senate term under his belt) took inexperience to a new level, and Trump (with zero government or military experience and whose resume basically consists of expanding the family business and grooming himself into a reality television star) has made Obama look like a seasoned pro. I’ve long thought the growing willingness (even eagerness) to embrace candidates without experience was a very troubling development. Experience has always been part liability. In gaining it, you build up a record to attack, make enemies, say things that can be used against you, etc. So, if voters impose no electoral penalty for lack of experience, they set the stage for a neophytocracy.

This New Yorker cartoon nails it:

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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