In Praise Of Anti-Democratic Elites

As Kevin Williamson points out in the NR, much of what made this nation great and exceptional in the first place was the fact that we tempered democracy with many un-democratic, and even some anti-democratic, features – the filibuster, checks and balances, and of course, the most anti-democratic notion of all, “inalienable rights endowed to us by our creator”.

The idea was to moderate the depredations of the majority.

And the “political party” was one of the influences that moderated the passion of the mob. And with all their faults, they worked pretty well in American party politics.  Until “democracy” took over.

It is a little ironic that at the very moment when railing against the “establishment” of either party is so very fashionable, the parties are in fact shells of what they once were. To the extent that there is a Republican-party establishment, it plainly does not have the power to, e.g., call down anathema upon a potential Republican-party presidential nominee. The day before yesterday, Marco Rubio was the anti-establishment, tea-party insurgent; today he is the establishment, if the doggie-treat salesmen on the radio are to be believed. If that leads you to believe that the word “establishment” does not actually mean anything, you are correct.

Williamson echoes a point I’ve been making (emphasis added):

It was democracy that did the parties in, of course. One of the harebrained progressive reforms foisted upon our republic is the so-called open primary, which amounts to something close to the abolition of political parties as such. If anybody can vote in the Republican primary — Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, independent, etc. — then membership in the party does not mean very much, and, hence, the party itself does not mean very much. Instead of two main political parties, we have two available channels for the communication of populist spite; the parties themselves are mere conveniences for political entrepreneurs and demagogues. Trump might as easily have run as a Democrat — he is a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, and he raves about the wonderful things the butchers at Planned Parenthood do — but the opening was more attractive on the R side.

Parties in their classic form did a decent job of moderating the mob.  Not perfect – perfection is anathema to freedom, anyway – but decent.

It’s time to drop caucuses and go to a closed primary.

17 thoughts on “In Praise Of Anti-Democratic Elites

  1. Caucuses are subject to being hijacked by extremists. Even a closed primary tends to bring out the most zealous, but a caucus is far worse. But an open primary is just asking for trouble, and Trump is one illustration of that.

    Trump is, to my mind, a one-issue candidate for the electorate. His main appeal is on the economic downward pressure that our misnamed “free-trade” policies and uninhibited immigration and visa policies put on American workers. His appeal is more one-trick pony than anything more substantive. That he’s getting such success with that one issue should tell you how important it is to the mass of blue-collar voters. Trump would be doing less well if there were no open primaries, but he’d still be attracting a lot of votes.

  2. The primary system is the best example we have of the Golden Rule, i.e “The one with the gold, rules.” We will end this mess when we abolish the primary system. Not until then.

  3. So, Emery, if you’re so opposed to letting party members vote on whom to nominate, will you enlighten us on what system you prefer to representative democracy? The GOP could be like the Democrats and be ruled by the superdelegates rather than party members, I suppose, but I tend to like to have a bit more feedback on my potential leaders than the Democrats are willing to allow. I’ll just note in passing that Sanders is far, far closer in votes than he is in delegates.

  4. You mentioned a “creator” in a story which could, potentially, be read by an agnostic. Where are your sensitivities? Bigot.

  5. We could worry about the format all day, or we could just start letting people know that yes, indeed, past performance is an indicator of future behavior, and if they vote for community organizers that go to “God d*** America” churches or fake billionaires who cheat on their wives and investors, we are going to have some pretty big problems.

  6. nerdbert: A Bernie Sanders or a John Kasich, has to raise sufficient funds to run in dozens of election in the states spread across the better part of six months. This takes money — tons of money. How on earth can any politician of either party run for the presidency without nearly a year of steady campaigning across the country? And, how can they campaign like this unless they have a pot of gold? And, finally, where else can a candidate find all this money without asking for money from the people who actually have it?

    We have created a political system that cannot function without huge amounts of money — most of it donated from individuals such as Sheldon Edelstein or George Soros. And, then, many of us have the chutzpah to criticize these same individuals for bankrolling the very thing we created. Mr. Edelstein, the Koch Bros., George Soros and many others are, in fact, public benefactors. They are the enablers of the mess we all created.

  7. Caucuses are a positive in my book. It’s real democracy in action. I attended my first caucus (DFL) as a junior high observer. It was fascinating. At that time the DFL was still debating abortion. Humphrey was still running for President. Then at 18 I went to a GOP caucus. The people there were fascinating including the local country doctor. For the first time in my life I was confronted with her resolution that there should be a government funded conservative TV network to challenge the big 3 and PBS. It was eye opening.

    This still goes on today. Any idea you want to bring can be debated and voted on. It helps keep crazies from going too crazy. Your neighbors basically give you a dose of reality when you want to fund enclosed bike lanes in the city, kind of like a skyway for bikes.

    And you don’t have to be a hardcore GOP to attend, you only have to basically agree with the party platform. I don’t think there was a single person at our caucus who could support every plank of the state GOP platform. Don’t know what the DFL ones are like any more. My wife used to go to them but they got too much into identity politics. She basically had the radical idea that men and women have similar interests in local politics. Safe streets with no potholes, good schools that teach the basics well, and borders that mean something.

    You can speak up at caucuses and say these radical things. And though a small determined minority (like the Ron Paul crowd) can take control. But that’s politics. Sometimes huge populist movements can take control when there are not caucuses. It’s all part of the craziness we call democracy.

  8. Each party used to have a nominating convention in early August. That left three months of active campaigning. Money was important, but far less in terms of media buy.
    If we returned to the Bad Old Days several things would happen:
    * campaigns would require less money.
    * the influence of mega-doners would greatly lessen.
    * the convention system would discourage outliers like Mr. Trump.

  9. Depends on what kind of caucus you’re talking about, 2012, or 2016.

    The 2012 causus was a total waste of time. They took a straw poll, then threw the slips of paper in the garbage.

    In 2016 the straw poll actually decided who the delegates to the National Convention vote for (on the first ballot).

    What we had this year was in effect not very different from a closed primary.

  10. Caucusi make sense. Closed primaries make sense. Open – I am not so sure. What absolutely does not make sense is the length of the process. It is like the alphabet soup network is running the show to pump us the drama and ratings. However, there is something to be said for vetting the candidate – the more people get to know Trump beyond his “Build the Wall” BS, the more they seem to loath him – voting vs polling record shows that. There must be a happy medium though.

    Speaking of sTrumpet, is it my imagination, but do his supports seem to more resemble unhinged lefties than righties?

  11. With an open primary, if one party dominates, it is possible for voters of that party to choose both the Democrat and the Republican candidates.
    Republican voters should choose the Republican candidate, and Democrat voters should choose the Democrat candidate.
    My state holds its caucuses today. I am registered as an independent, so I will not be attending a caucus.

  12. Jpa: Trump is a symptom, not the problem. They (GOP) are also not helped by the large structural advantage they have in the House and non-presidential cycles. It has convinced them reform is unnecessary, and by the time that dam breaks, the flood may be so fast it will be clear they have slipped well below viability.

  13. So the Emery “solution” is to go back to smoke filled rooms? Not my cup of tea, but consistent with an authoritarian bent. And I hardly think that the amount of money would decrease, it just wouldn’t be spent on advertising, it would spent “investing” in party delegates’ projects.

    You can see that the Democrats haven’t moved far from your model right now, Emery. The superdelegates are being feted/employed/funded by the Clinton Foundation, which is the recipient of oodles of fat-cat cash. For Bernie to win, he’d need more than 65% of the delegates left because of the Democrats dependence on party leaders.

    There’s a reason Trump could make inroads in the GOP that he couldn’t in the Democratic primary, despite the fact that he’s more Democrat than Republican.

  14. Yes I agree, Trump can easily pivot to the middle during the general election. Trump can disown his previous positions and statements by stating: ” I had to say those things to get the nomination”. Trump would be rewarded for his candor and attract even more undecided voters.

  15. The ideal of modern, progressive-run democracies is to place the progressive agenda off limits to voting, while allowing people to vote on things that don’t matter. This preserves the illusion of democracy.
    So you aren’t allowed to vote on whether same sex marriage should be permitted, but you are permitted to vote on whether the deposit on green glass recyclables shall be increased by one cent, or whether public funds shall be spent on a new athletic field or a new concert hall.
    The way democracy is supposed to work is the the opposite of this, of course. Because the government consists of a small number of a demographically unique section of the populace, the public has to determine public policy, or it will be captured by career politicians and bureaucrats.
    Democracy in many countries is considered necessary for a stable political state. The people are educated and have significant economic power. If they are locked out of public policy decisions there will be civil discord. In the US, democracy is justified by enlightenment philosophy. People know their own interests, and stable government is achieved by balancing those interests at the ballot box. To prevent factionalism (see Federalist #10), the domination and exploitation of a minority by the majority, the power of government is limited, and the federal government guarantees all citizens basic political rights (aka rights to influence public policy and protection from misuse of state power).

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