Making Politics Possible Again

There is a remarkable assumption behind the argument that the best—maybe the only—reason to have voted for Donald J. Trump was that he “was better than Hillary Clinton.” Supposedly this somehow distinguishes, and taints, the Election of 2016. It does not. That one candidate is likely to do better in office than the other is always the only good reason to give him your vote. Indeed, this is merely a description of what an election is.

Yet the lamentations along these lines are still with us, and people nod their heads in doleful agreement that however bad Clinton might have been, the choice of Trump is still somehow tarnished—if not downright ignominious—because he isn’t all one might hope for in an American hero, or something. It seems we should despair and imagine ourselves in some uniquely regrettable state of human affairs: that two deeply flawed human beings were vying for the nation’s highest office.

Pardon me, but I’ve seen this movie before, and quite recently. It’s just that in the 2012 version, those deeply flawed human beings used much more “polite” language while insulting each other. So perhaps we can be forgiven for not noticing that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney was destined for Mount Rushmore . . . or even worthy of an airport homage. I also saw this movie in 2008. I’ve seen it in every presidential election of my lifetime, and I’m more or less certain that it describes every democratic election that has ever taken place at any time, anywhere.

If the Election of 2016 was unique, it was not because the people involved in it were flawed but merely because the scales were removed from the eyes of so many voters about the nature of the political choice before them.

Read the rest at Law and Liberty.

About Julie Ponzi

Julie Ponzi is Senior Editor of American Greatness. She holds an M.A. in political philosophy and American politics from the Claremont Graduate University. She was an Earhart Fellow and a Bradley Foundation Fellow while studying at Claremont and also earned a Publius Fellowship from The Claremont Institute. Formerly the Director of Academic Programs at the Claremont Institute, she also taught American politics at Azusa Pacific University. Her writing has appeared in the Claremont Review of Books, The Online Library of Law and Liberty, The Columbus Dispatch, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Washington Times. She was also a regular and long-time contributor to the Ashbrook Center's blog, No Left Turns. She lives in California. You can follow her on Twitter at @JuliePonzi

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2 responses to “Making Politics Possible Again”

  1. An excellent articulation of why President Trump and the Deplorables are a ‘problem’ for elites, both left and right. I share the author’s skepticism about ‘conservatism’. The idea that ‘politics’ is about personality has always been around, but the recognition that politics is really about policy is more constructive. Nonetheless, as a lapsed leftist, I hold to the notion that politics is about collective power rather than individual power (for which, curiously, we seem to have no specific term).

    The notion of the People as sovereign is the fundamental cornerstone by which politics in America proceeds to create and renew itself. The Declaration is an enunciation popular power as the basis of politics the Republic. Strip away ‘popular power’ and there is not ‘there there’ in either the Declaration or the Constitution. The Progressive notion of technocratic rule is anathema to the American Project. Without ‘populism’ — Vox Populi — to counterpoint ‘elitism’, the Republic devolves into just another kind of aristocracy — Vox Aristoi — and Republican politics ceases to exist.

    These are not abstract issues. As Ms. Ponzi articulates, Vox Populi versus Vox Aristoi is at the heart of the different policies under debate with regard to trade, immigration, and regulation.

    Through popular politics, individuals decide collectively what sort of rules they are willing to live with in order to flourish as individuals (as well as the smaller collectives in which they are embedded such as families and locales). The Revolution was a break with the political orders of its day, but did not seek to ‘fundamentally transform’ the People. The People were ready to be sovereign, in large part due to the collective acceptance of ‘common’ English inheritance in the form of ‘common law’ and manners. The Progressive Left have attempted to uproot this common inheritance, infiltrating itself everywhere it can, like kudzu slowly strangling a great oak.

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