From the American Conservative, a well-written reminder that no one trusts our political institutions very much anymore. This is a pretty big issue: in America, the most common binding factor among supporters of candidate A is not that they like candidate A, it is that they hate candidate B. And if you’re not voting for a strong policy position, then you’re really only voting to let someone else pursue their own flavor of bad idea.
Functionally, the incentive for American politicians to think deeply or offer policy ideas founded on underlying principles is finishing and it wasn’t ever terribly strong to begin with. Their optimal strategy is to be not as hated as much as their opponent, which is a much different sort of environment to optimize within.
To add insult to injury, poor performance is almost never cause for replacement. In historic terms of enacting legislation, this Congress is the most inactive in a century, seemingly incapable of getting anything done – and this, with a single party in control of both the House and Senate. We’ve fought two wars for a decade+ and can’t seem to win them, declare a loss, or even just leave, yet the number of high-ranking officers that have been stripped of command for failure to perform is basically nil (though we do seem to fire them for sleeping around). There’s a case to be made that they’re not responsible, which is a reasonable point… but where is the CIA’s falling on the sword for poor intelligence? Or mea culpas from politicians forced to resign in disgrace? The NSA lies to Congress behind closed doors in committee and then again out in the open because they feel like they don’t need to tell anyone anything, other than the President, but we still have the USA PATRIOT act and Snowden as an exile so it isn’t like Congress has actually managed to do much in the meantime.
It’s no wonder that institutional trust is at an all-time low: our institutions are failing and have only managed to learn how to avoid punishment rather than learn from their mistakes, and the voting public is largely given the option of either being complicit in it by re-electing incumbents or selecting a replacement who promises to add to the dysfunction.
The greatest failing of democracy is that it foists upon the people the government they ask for.