So much of politics is sheer romanticism. With the exception of the cadre of professional cynics who actually run things, we all willingly blind ourselves to reality. Of the true, died-in-the-wool ideologues, this is so obvious as to merit barely a mention, but it’s no less true of the vast majority of the rest of us as well. Those on the right imagine themselves as hard-bitten realists. on the left as compassionate champions of the disadvantaged. The vast “middle,” which is not really between any of the alternatives, but simply uncommitted to either of the major parties, sees itself as a last bastion of reasoned judgment, too smart to buy into the programs of the ideologues. Never mind that any consistency with regard to policy has long been abandoned by all concerned.
What is fascinating is that all sides regard themselves as typical of The People, and claim to speak for them, or at least on their behalf. This belief is resistant to any attempt at refutation, even scientifically conducted polls which clearly demonstrate otherwise. The only time attention is paid to a poll is when it corroborates the affiliation of a party with The People on some particular issue. Otherwise, it’s “lies, damned lies, and statistics,” to quote a meme attributed to virtually any famous person sufficiently dead to forestall denial. It’s really a symptom of our hog-wild, post-modern ultrarelativism, on which I have droned sufficiently elsewhere, I believe.
In this case, however, that relativism is grafted onto some time honored political tropes, ready made for bandying about when necessary to muddle things up. It has long been noted that when someone dies, what the dear departed would have wanted coincides marvelously with what the survivors want. Frequently, people claim that they are not really fighting over who gets the Rolex, but over what Dad would have wanted. So, too, in politics, it’s never about whose agenda gets advanced, but what The People want. And so we get the spectacle of Ted Cruz, in the face of poll after poll showing the majority disapproved of the government shutdown, swearing he was in it to do The Will of The People.
The left doesn’t get a pass on this account either. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard socialists go on and on about The People’s this or The People’s that, oblivious to the fact that most Americans would disagree. Props to Lenin, for openly admitting to his 3% constituency.
This is not to pass judgment on any particular program or policy; just the pretense about representing people you don’t.
The People, capitalized, almost never coincides with the people, lower case.
Besides, 300+million people can be, and often are, Wrong.
There’s that, too. For millennia, most everybody thought slavery was okay, and that killing everybody you encountered in war was only prudent.
I’m currently reading “The Dark Side of Man,” by Michael Ghiglieri, which speaks to this very topic, the biological roots of male violence. Worth a look if you read such things.
I will, thanks.
Just answered your comment on my site, we were both on each other’s site at the same time – too funny!
‘Society’ is another one this argument applies to.
thank you for shedding light on the vast “middle” and what they don’t stand for. I get so disgusted every time I hear a politician talk about “the American People,” when so many of them– as judged by their record–have no idea who most in the middle are…
I suspect most in the middle don’t know either. We tend to assume everybody has the same interests as our circle of friends. To paraphrase G.B. Shaw, we think the customs of our tribe are the laws of nature.
And, don’t you think we’ve become increasingly tribal in this country?
No doubt. When things get scary, we withdraw there, and it’s big scary right now.