Why Ben Shapiro is Wrong About Needing Political Elites

Does America need "political elites"? Ben Shapiro says, we do.

As consumers, we tend to pick experts for jobs, from established brands. In our politicians, we do the opposite. That makes fringy mediocrity a calling card.

Enough is enough. I’m a Tea Partier down to the bone — I want power out of Washington, D.C. and the federal government slashed down to minimal size. But I agree with the founders that we need elites — people who are better than we are at the business of politics — in the business of politics. By all means, oppose elitism. But we must stop conflating elitism with being elite. You wouldn’t want a non-elite plumber. You shouldn’t want a non-elite politician.

I’m anti-establishment, too — I don’t think that Republicans who are interested in cutting bipartisan deals for the sake of “making government run” are doing us any service. But if by establishment, we just mean “people who have worked in D.C. for awhile” or “people who know how to write a bill,” that’s not disqualifying. Those should be basic job prerequisites. Incompetence can defeat conservatism just as surely as malice.

Politics is about more than attitude. It’s about the people electing the best people to be representatives. That’s what separates republican government from democratic government.

The Founders wanted elites. They didn't want political elites.

People who are "better than we are at the business of politics" are not going to be on board with slashing government. Because they're in the business of politics. They will tell voters what they want to hear every election. But then they'll go right back to business. 

Plumbers don't set out to end plumbing for good. Neither do politicians.

Politics was never supposed to be a profession. That was the central clash between the Tea Party and previous political insurgencies against the establishment. What the Founders wanted was for successful men to volunteer to perform politics as a civic duty. They would take a break from their farm to be a representative. And then go back home. It was the Cincinnatus model. 

It's still a viable model. But it's much more challenging in the Imperial City where knowing how things work can take a lifetime. But responding to that challenge by embracing the business of politics is why every reform effort falls apart into meaningless lip service.

But the populist style has nothing to do with policy stalwartness and decentralization. It has to do with being “anti-establishment,” meaning contrary on an attitudinal level, and “non-elite,” meaning “not qualified.” The populist style elevates people who are actually kooky, because they’re not embraced by the “elites.” In this game, personality disorders become a recommendation: they’re no better than we are, so at least they don’t look down their noses at us!

The anti-establishment has run some fruitcakes. But so has the establishment. 

The establishment will always point to Roy Moore. We never hear much about Larry Craig or Dennis Hastert. When an anti-establishment politician acts oddly, that's movement defining. But the behavior of John Boehner, John McCain or Lindsay Graham never reflects on the establishment. There's plenty of personality disorders and eccentricities in politics. And it's not limited to either side.

 

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