There’s a utopian strain that runs through U.S politics: the notion that the “ugly” can and should be removed because it “gets in the way.” It’s a hardy perennial: somehow we can make politics pure and not subject to partisanship, rancor, horse-trading and log-rolling. Purge it of its worst proclivities and eliminate negative campaigning, special interests and the influence of money. Imao, this actually displays a certain contempt for the workings of democracy and diversity of opinion.
The genius of our system is that it assumes those ‘ugly’ things are, always have been and always will be part of politics – but we mitigate the effects by pitting factions against each other within a framework of checks and balances. This is why we’re a small-r republic and not a small-d democracy (the rule of 50%+1).
When the rough & tumble gets you down, just remember that politics aint beanbag. Or, if you prefer, as Reagan put it: “They say politics is the second oldest profession, but it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”
Professor Harvey Mansfield, reviewing Democracy Without Politics by Steven Bilakovics, points out that Democracy is “loved in theory and despised in practice.”
Steven Bilakovics has written a promising first book that will give concern to all who reflect on democracy today. It begins from the simple observation that although everybody loves democracy, everybody is disgusted by democratic politics. Yet what is democracy if not the rule, the politics, of the people? Democracy is loved in theory and despised in practice, it seems. Its theory requires careful deliberation and argument, but democratic peoples demand decisive and immediate action. How can an anti-political democratic people that cannot stand “politics as usual” be so insistent that democracy is the best form of government?