Entries in MassPoliticsProfs by Jerold Duquette
Tomorrow I will meet my fall 2017 semester students for the first time. Though I am teaching three different courses, all three of my opening day lectures will focus on the same point. All of my students will read a concise description of the dangers of political amateurism written last month by political science professor and blogger Julia Azari.
Azari’s thesis is simple and her perspective widely shared by political scientists. Democracy is not easy and widespread public political ignorance and apathy has long created fertile ground for populist calls for the elevation of political outsiders to power. The problem is that political outsiders inevitably promote what Azari calls “the pernicious myth of populism that beneath elite squabbles there exists widespread unity of principles” among average Americans. Of course, there is no such consensus. Americans are committed to broadly defined ideals, like freedom, equality, and individual rights, but not agreed on precise definitions of these ideas or on how to realize them. For that, they need professional help.
Early voting puts the emphasis where I think it should be…on the voter’s preferences. Increasing the flexibility of voters increases the chances of and opportunities for voters to focus on THEIR interests and principles and what they want the government to do, not on the reality TV style competition being choreographed by the campaigns. Over time, voters will adjust to the reality of early voting and those not captive to media framing and candidate-centric propagandizing will find in early voting an opportunity to engage in this most crucial duty of citizenship on their own terms and on their own time.
The level of corruption, confusion, and incompetence on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue right now is truly unprecedented. The GOP establishment’s decision to accept Donald Trump as their party’s standard bearer is looking worse and worse by the minute. But, to be fair, no one thought he would actually win the presidency. How could Mitch McConnell and company have known that Trump would get so much help from the Russians and the far left? Now we have the dumbest, most dishonest president in history and a Congress held hostage by right wing extremists.
Donald Trump’s first speech to Congress last night was full of “good optics.” Trump’s effort to make Americans forget that he had, only hours earlier, blamed the military commanders for the death of Navy Seal William “Ryan” Owens was hailed by Liberal commentator Van Jones as the moment when Trump “became President of the United States.” WOW! I say, the moment Van Jones declared Trump has become the P.O.T.U.S. is the moment when optics finally and totally eclipsed substance in American politics.