I think I've finally put my finger on what it is that has turned me off of politics, and I mean about 10 minutes ago. It is the conceit that your vote, in the context of a democracy of 300 million, is actually meaningful. And the greater conceit is that your opposition to the mendacity of the mediating bodies of democracy is meaningful. I think they are not, and I suspect this is something lawyers know but the rest of us do not.
Anyone who follows American politics knows that the Left is seduced by and then compromised by the Democrats and the Right is seduced by and then compromised by the Republicans. Real people think that few on the other side have the courage of their convictions, except for the bodacious ones they hate. More often than not, however, those bodacious ones are not elected. But since talking points are best generated by talking heads and the blogosphere is the best public place to hash it out, a great deal of real thinking actually gets done in this democracy. The problem is that, while our government is responsive to the voice of the people, its only marginally responsive to the most thoughtful of those people. And so you have a situation in which the government is always a day late and a dollar short, the Democrats are pushing and the Republicans are pulling, and the smart people and the smart money are largely on the sidelines duking it out in various virtual salons - except for the ones rich and powerful enough to have a real seat at the real tables of power in Washington.
It's not a bottom up process nor a tops down process. It's a middle outward process. The smart margins influence the middle which changes the conventional wisdom and then various interpretations are radiated the poles. It's hacked into partisan language and then raked over the coals of compromise and horse trading. What comes out is political sausage with all the intellectual nutrients you need to survive, which you can certainly live on if you don't know any better.
Take this Tea Party thing as an example. You cannot plan a Tea Party any more than any scandal today is a truly a 'gate'. Students of history know that the political destruction of Richard Nixon came from his coverup of the break in at the Watergate Hotel. In the odious media shorthand, it became known as 'Watergate' and perhaps the only new tragedy that has merited it's own name since then is '9/11'. But all this shorthand serves the purpose of communication to the masses which is what the majority of the broadcast media has been fouling up since the end of Paley's CBS News, with a slight hiatus for the early CNN. My point is that nothing new fits the old clothes - it all becomes costume drama.
I'm not the sort who wishes ideas floated through the ether fully formed into the public consciousness devoid of spin, inaccuracy, false analogy, hype or partisan bodewash. I understand through my reckoning of information theory that there is a thermodynamic component. It takes energy and time to radiate a pristine message, and I know that most of us have different sorts of interpretive hardware and software as our brains and minds. But I know that this massive game of political 'telephone' introduces all kinds of distortion which makes for such a stochastic mess that it's a safer bet to follow the money than the message.
I am of the firm opinion that we have yet to devise any mechanism suitable for accurately gauging public opinion on political matters of any gravity and sophistication. We are in a democratic Stone Age. The feedback loop is horrendous. But it serves as an adequate franchise. People understand enough to be placated, unless and until it rises to the level of oh.. say a miscarriage. Ask that woman about healthcare policy. She will have a million things to say of which 7 become real talking points. Seven talking points on obstetrics cannot and will not be traced through the media to anyone's satisfaction. The media does not have time for that, and you can't Google it. You have to be a specialist and all those specialties are not navigable. Not today. There is no collaborative framework. So it is all about buying and selling influence.
That is the reality of a national political information feedback loop in a country our size. Billions of arguments are flying back and forth on the web and we do not process the bulk of them through any responsible democratic process.
I know all of this. I've been knowing all of this for over a decade. I've designed a collaborative framework that addresses it, and maybe it's time to dust it off and turn it around in my head again. But that's another matter. My point is that, given what I've been talking about with respect to Peasant Theory, that much of what passes for political discussion might as well be sports talk. Not because people aren't knowledgeable and the very idea of democracy is wrong, but because no matter what you know and what you say in politics, as with sports, you're not the coach. You kinda sorta elect the assistant coach once every other year or so. That has almost no impact on the daily game, no matter how passionate and conceited you get.
So tangential to a 'Tea Party' movement, I get Roger Simon lambasting David Brooks for mischaracterizing the motivation of the Tea Party activists. That's all any pundit can do. The grass roots is not integrated. Washington *is* insider stuff. Statehouses *are* hermetic. And we all live with it, but we don't really acknowledge it until we get our issue. Nobody with their issue is satisfied until money changes hands and that is the tractable first order function of policy. We out here writing paragraphs...
I do happen to think that writing my paragraphs is more significant than casting my vote. That's because writers are in control of the conversation. My vote is a proxy - I give license to legislators, or committees that have some vague approximation of my political demography or whatever abstracts they use. (Income level probly) and they go off and do what they think they have a mandate to do, but that feedback loop is broken. Nobody can claim that our proxies are not responsive - Scalia made that point very well and the Europeans actually shutup about it in the video I posted last month. American politics does follow the will of the people, but it is just accurate enough to be called responsive - it does not capture the expertise of the people.
What I look forward to will be the political equivalent of Open Source, and I am convinced that it must eventually come to be. The idea is too powerful and the technology and framework is at hand. Until then, I scoff.