Fake news is in the news, part of the nauseating task of dressing the ugly wound of the presidential election. The OED has named “post-truth” its word of the year, and the Republican candidate for president aligned himself with the kind of wilful confusion that is known to be a deliberate tool of autocratic regimes.
Olympic fever. My TV has been pretty much stuck on NBC this week (fine, NBC, I guess I see why you paid $1.23 billion for the broadcast rights!), their questionable programming choices aside. (And I certainly did NOT find… other means to watch the women’s gymnastics all-around final live today. Nope, nothing to see here.)
Jonathan Rauch has an essay called “How American Politics Went Insane“in The Atlantic this month that I would recommend reading.
Party-dominated nominating processes, soft money, congressional seniority, closed-door negotiations, pork-barrel spending—put each practice under a microscope in isolation, and it seems an unsavory way of doing political business. But sweep them all away, and one finds that business is not getting done at all. The political reforms of the past 40 or so years have pushed toward disintermediation—by favoring amateurs and outsiders over professionals and insiders; by privileging populism and self-expression over mediation and mutual restraint; by stripping middlemen of tools they need to organize the political system. All of the reforms promote an individualistic, atomized model of politics in which there are candidates and there are voters, but there is nothing in between. Other, larger trends, to be sure, have also contributed to political disorganization, but the war on middlemen has amplified and accelerated them.
There is a populist snowball effect at play. Distrust of politics and politicians leads to a demand for processes that are more direct and less shady, which leads to the dismantling of systems of brokerage and compromise, which leads to next to nothing getting done, which leads to more distrust of politics and politicians, which leads to “screw ’em all” amateur candidates, which leads to nothing at all getting done, which leads to distrust of politics and politicians…