Frank Furedi writes an article on intellectual/political anti-populism:
The belief that the public is too simplistic or too gullible has led some Democratic Party activists to blame the defeat of their presidential candidate in two successive elections on the stupidity of the people. One liberal activist, Michael Gronewalter, states that “civility and intelligent dialogue are useful tools among intelligent people” but are inappropriate for engaging with the public.
While his point is oversimplified — there is indeed something wrong if a voter can’t be bothered to find out current information about their own core interests — it would be a sad thing if the lesson the Democratic Party took from the last two elections was that voters were too stupid to understand them.
I’m actually interested in the political process, and in the last two elections I still haven’t really understood why I should be voting for the Democratic candidate, rather than against Bush. I don’t recall much, if any indication of how the country was going to get better under the Democratic candidate, so I voted to keep the country from getting worse. That’s not exactly an inspiring choice. (To give them credit, Al Gore had good ideas that he would communicate on occasion, and John Kerry had the moral force and energy for reform, if he would mention where the reform would happen. Perhaps they should have been melded.)
I wonder if this is an inevitable consequence of the running to the moderate wing in a national election. Will the ideas truly be different, or will there just be incremental changes between the two platforms? In other words, would the “No, I have a better idea” moments outweigh the “That’s a good idea, but I would spend more on it” moments? Combine “moderatism” with the idea that big campaign donors are not really interested in a wide variety of ideas, and you are going to get a lot of elections where “people just don’t vote in their own self-interest.” I mean, how can they tell where that is, aside from “Life’s okay now, so I’ll stick with the status quo” vs. “My life’s horrible, so I’ll vote the bastards out”?
Of course, after running on moderate platforms, what happens? The ideology comes out, and you’ve got four years of change based on the political beliefs of the party in charge. Yep, that really builds up trust in the political process.
Anyway, Furedi’s article largely hinges on the EU Constitution process — truly a momentous conflict of ideas, yet one that seems to get presented as if it were a department store merger. 🙂