"When I've asked Hill staff and elected officials about this, I've gotten an interesting answer: Think about what you need to do to become a politician, they say. Rise up in your local party leadership. Raise a lot of money. Get yourself quoted in the media. Campaign effectively. You don't really need to know that much about policy. And so a lot of elected officials simply don't know much about policy. Even if they wanted to become known as problem solvers and thinkers, they don't have the chops for it, and the pace of modern campaigning means they never have time to develop those chops, either. It's a depressing thought."Yes, it is, Ezra.
We're seeing it here in Oregon, where our governor's race, among others, couldn't be more depressing. A retreaded former Democratic governor who proved only marginally effective when previously in office against the usual GOP gormless bumper-sticker who represents the triumph of belief in magic over actual thinking. Neither one can be forced to make any sort of statement that strays close to fiscal or political reality.
Both pronounce the usual crap about "prosperity", "freedom", "responsibility", and "integrity" without ever having to explain how they'll restore First World public services to the state without reworking the Skinnerbox that is the Oregon tax code or unravel the mystery that is the state government.
Hmmm. I wonder...how could it be that our "leaders" have evolved into this sort of moronic, testicle-less, money-grubbing, mealy-mouthed rodent?Could it be that we prefer to be told these glittering lies than face the hard, ugly truths?
Gee. That's a depressing thought, too.
Update 7/24: Look, let's try and clarify some things here, OK?
1. I have no brief with Ezra Klein or his technocratic bias other than sharng a liberal political outlook. I don't think that making every elected official in the U.S. a "policy wonk" is practical or would sgnificantly improve the lot of the average schmoes like me and thee.
2. But the point of posting this link was not to argue for making every elected official a wonk. It was to point out that, on the contrary, the current U.S. electoral system encourages the average politician to be ignorant of almost everything they vote on and, consequently, base their votes on lobbyist pressure, bumper-sticker politics, sound bites, and the massive influence of the affluent and well-connected.
3. The notion that "changing the primary system" or depending on wealthy "outsiders" (as if someone entering the political lists in this country as a millionaire or a celebrity could and would be fiercely determined to change the very system that produced that wealth and celebrity) will somehow change this balance away from comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted seems unduly naive.
4. And I really don't see any other "white knights" here. The combination of "good-government" socialists, liberals and conservatives, Reds, union organizers, antitrust crusaders - and a Depression - are not in view. The Democrats, what portion of them are not bought and sold, are a political mess. The GOP is, frankly, a moral and political sewer that has failed to repudiate the crony capitalist, oligarchic, and foreign-adventuring slime of the Bush/Cheney cabal. Everything else seems to fall into Naderite vanity projects and Rand Paul libertarian nutballism.
5. So what I'm saying is that this looks to me very like 1890 only without the probable chance of a TR & Co. to pull us back from corporatist oligarchy. I think the next 100 years stands a very good chance of seeing us slide slowly into political senility and social and economic desuetude.
6. Please give me some hope to believe otherwise. Without magical ponies, if you will.