Yeah, I kind of started to fly off the handles there. I actually kept going, but realized about was about to start raging against the machine, so I chopped off the last bit and posted that.
Now, about our form of government. We have a democratic republic, not a republic or a democracy. This means that the people democratically, and for whatever reasons, selects it's leaders. (Yeah, I know, heavy handed, but bear with me for a moment.) This means that the best we can do isn't to "make elected officials aware of our concerns," it's to get rid of the ones who aren't responsive, and install ones who are. The power, ultimately, rests with the people, and elected officials are the conduit through which that power is channeled. (It would be hard to have the country run by 300 million votes on every single issue).
Now, within this system, there is some leeway in terms of how this process is run, which I think basically boils down to the state of a country's political culture. The government can be run in a more democratic manner, or a more republican manner. And it is up to the people. We can elect officials on the basis of how closely they represent the popular will (democratic), or we can elect them on the basis of them being smarter than the public, and able to make decisions that are superior to those of the people (republican).
I, obviously, generally favor the former viewpoint. Not totally, of course. I see the utility of elected people with a firmer grounding in law and economics than I possess, and people who are whip smart. In fact, I think that much of Obama's support at present stems from the idea of the philosopher-king. We don't all agree with him on everything, but he seems uniquely suited for dealing with this huge mess from the last eight years, so we aim to give him the shot. But despite this, one thing I find shocking, and shocking that others have not really picked up how shocking it is, is the degree to which he personally emphasizes how political change should be the product of the people's will, and that it is his job to facilitate that will being expressed. Community Organizer. Project Vote. Change from the bottom up. Almost all of the man's political career has been devoted to getting people to realize that the government is theirs, if they would just think to reach out and take it. Of course, no one seems to notice this, and focus on the hero worship instead. (I think you can basically sum up Obama's political career with the scene in Life of Brian where Brian is speaking to the mob outside his window.)
I digress. Anyways, One of the arguments you seem to be making, obliquely, for a more republican culture in electing officials, is that "'the "people' are no more guaranteed to be right than any other group." Well, yes, true. The people can be wrong or right. The elite can also be wrong or right. But if the elite are wrong, then there is really no reason to have them around. And a lot of the time the reason the people are wrong is because the elite are lying to them. I guess I see the elite as redundant. They either lead us right or lead us astray, but either way having them makes us less free. All things being equal, I prefer to be free. And I don't think it's equal, I think the people are generally, except when lied to, right.
And I don't think your LBJ example really works either. People were not as far forward as LBJ. Because of Civil Rights, right? It lost the south of a generation. But LBJ didn't run for reelection because of Civil Rights. It was Vietnam. Take out Vietnam, and LBJ would have coasted to reelection, becoming the the 2nd longest serving president in history. He probably would have gotten his face on some money in the bargain. He may have lost the south, but what he did became vastly popular. I just fail to see how LBJ's liberal accomplishments were far out of the mainstream. I see them as a legitimate response to mood of the country that, even if more forward than the mood of the country at that moment, were on the right track. At the most is was an example of a president acting as slightly out of step with public opinion in a good way. And sometimes presidents act step with public opinion and do really bad things. It's a wash.
Oh, and my bit about the libertarians. What I meant was, if the people are not the source of political action, but elites are, then the government is a separate entity. It is not them, and should be treated as such. Distrusted, feared. However, if the people are the source of political action, than the government is nothing more that expression of the people's will. It is collective action. A communist endeavor, if you will: the product of efforts of investing in the community. Thus there is no really need to fear the government, or shouldn't be. The government is us. (Well, we still might fear it, I find myself quite frightening sometimes, to say nothing of my neighbors.)
This is nice. Keep it coming.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I comment I posted elsewhere that i wanted to preserve in it's entirety: