Schnee (schnee) wrote,

How democracy should work

From Allan J. Lichtman, Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House (2020 Edition), p. viii–ix:

A properly functioning democracy demands not only fair and accurate systems for voting, but also a candid and wide-ranging exploration of crucial issues and ideas by the presidential candidates and their parties. Yet every four years Americans are subjected to shallow and even offensive campaigns for president. Nothing changes from one election to the next, because the media, the candidates, the pollsters, and the consultants are complicit in the idea that elections are exercises in manipulating voters and in giving us negative campaigns, bland and scripted lines, and meaningless debates. We will not reform our politics and get meaningful participation by the American people until we realize that presidential elections turn on how well an administration has governed the country, not on how well the candidates have performed in the campaign.

If candidates and the media could come to understand that governing, not campaigning, counts in presidential elections, we could have a new kind of presidential politics. Presidential aspirants could abandon attack ads and instead articulate forthrightly and concretely what Americans should be accomplishing during the next four years. Candidates could bring the public back into presidential elections by using campaigns to build grassroots support for the policy agenda they would follow if elected president. And incumbent presidents could prepare for upcoming elections by focussing on the stewardship of the country, not the politics of campaigns.

Lichtman goes on to suggest that this is in fact already happening: that presidential elections in the USA (presumably the same applies elsewhere) are largely referenda on how well the incumbent party has performed, and that campaigns, ads, opinion polls etc. are largely meaningless insofar as the result of the election does not hinge on them.

I like that idea; it's a nice thought that voters, as a whole, are smart enough to not be distracted by the daily political freakshow, and instead voting based on whether they think the country's been governed well. I'm not wholly convinced that this is so, but still — a nice though.

Tags: books, politics
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