Politics, politicians and pundits

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

___H. L. Mencken

  Political pundit David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times, recently ranted about “antipolitics people” (“best exemplified by the Tea Party”) who are “derailing government.” His article appeared in a Charleston, South Carolina paper The Post and Courier on Sunday, February 28, 2016 (postandcourier.com).

Of course, that led Mr. Brooks to criticize Republican senators who think it prudent to delay debate on the appointment of another U. S. Supreme Court nomination (replacing the late Justice Scalia) until a more judicious time after the next presidential election. Brooks says: “The antipolitics people refuse compromise and so block the legislative process.”

Really, David? Do you remember all the nominations blocked and nominees savaged by your uncompromising Democrat friends during the Bush administrations? Apparently, not.

Then, Brooks goes after Donald Trump, Republican candidate for president, who he says is the result of a desire by voters for “outsiders.” Brooks suggests that we have only two ways to maintain an orderly society: “politics or some form of dictatorship.” Our constitutional Founders, Brooks says, chose politics. “Trump represents the path the founders rejected.”

All this is debatable. For instance, the Founders recognized the potential political evils of democracy and demands of factions. They chose a republican form of government. But as Benjamin Franklin told the people, “You have a republic if you can keep it.”

The best they could do was to try to limit the central government, control the powers of its divisions and codify “certain unalienable Rights.” During the past two and one-quarter centuries much of that has been undone by politics and politicians. Brooks’ definition explains why.

“Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests.”

Of course, that only works in societies that have a homogeneous population, educated voters and similar cultural values. That no longer describes America. Trump is not the cause of antipolitics, politics is. He merely reflects the frustration, confusion and anger amongst many who resent losing their culture and institutions to multiculturism and socialism.

Compromise is not possible with people who refuse to compromise. We can’t “balance” interests with unbalanced people who make unreasonable demands. We aren’t able to reconcile with those that have radical, irreconcilable differences in culture and ideology. We can never satisfy the taker-class enabled by the political-class that expects the rest of us to fund all its wants and needs. We can’t tolerate hate-groups who demean and insult American heritage and insist that we remove our historical monuments, names and flags because they are “offended.” We have no compassion for urban politicians who allow street thugs to destroy property, threaten citizens and fight with the police.

In his Political Dictionary the late William Safire defines Politician: one who engages in a career either in government or in a political party on a full-time, usually professional basis.

In addition to the increasing number of ignorant, unscrupulous—even subversive—politicians now corrupting our government (reflecting the character of their voters), we have career (“professional”) politicians who learn to manipulate the system for their personal benefit and that of their supporters.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower had something worthwhile to say about that in 1954: Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.

Our Founders who studied history recognized the problems we would face (Greek philosopher Aristotle in his book Politics wrote, Man is by nature a political animal.), but they couldn’t do anything to prevent a degenerating society and corrupt politicians. They gave us the means to govern ourselves; and we blew it.

Forty-six years after former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew gave a speech in Washington, D. C. his words remind us of some reasons for “antipolitics” suspicions:

Some of the politicians in this country, in their feverish search for group acceptance, are ready to endorse tumultuous confrontation as a substitute for debate, and the most illogical and unfitting extensions of the Bill of Rights as protection for psychotic and criminal elements in our society…We have seen all too clearly that there are men—now in power in this country—who do not represent authority, who cannot cope with tradition, and who believe that the people of America are ready to support revolution as long as it is done with a cultured voice and a handsome profile.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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