On Populism and Democracy
The New York Times ran an extremely interesting op-ed which detailed the rapid proliferation of amateur candidates into our elections. Over the last decade, both the left and right have seen their share of independent citizens with little or no campaign experience become more and more politically active. On the right, the Tea Party movement yanked the Republican establishment further to the right, while on the left, a Bernie Sanders inspired wave of progressives is currently fighting an intense war with the Democratic establishment. Even in our presidency, a billionaire who has never held elected office managed to defeat Hillary Clinton. Since then, Donald Trump has done nothing but prove his staggering incompetence - proving the inherent danger in electing unqualified, but popular candidates.
The wave of progressive populists could very well be another aspect of the populistic, Trump phenomena, even though these progressives are totally and utterly opposed to Donald Trump. When Trump rose, the moderate and pragmatic wing of the GOP was virtually obliterated. Similarly, the rise of the Sanders wave, if successful, will destroy the moderate and pragmatic wing of the Democratic party. Sure, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are about as inspiring as a bag of bricks, whereas Sanders and his populist left-wing agitators can rile up thousands. But, Democrats like Pelosi and Schumer are vastly more competent when it comes to governance compared to the Sanders wing. When it comes to foreign policy, Sanders doesn't know much, and the candidates he supports probably know even less. The progressive movement's entire worldview seems to be based on that of income inequality, rather than pragmatic and rational realpolitik.
Politics is not a competitive sport. It cannot be compared to a game of football or a basketball game because the true statesman focuses on developing the best solutions for his people, rather than simply winning election after election. Sure, progressive desires to help the poor and provide universal healthcare sound nice - until you realize that they will add 21 trillion dollars to the national debt. Ludicrous proposals such as a Muslim ban or imposing 45% tariffs, likewise, may win elections, but will never further a nation in terms of progress and development.
And sure, the (relative) success of Bernie Sanders in the primary can be partially attributed to Hillary Clinton's numerous flaws. I personally wanted Sanders to win the primary because I knew that he would have a much better chance to beat Trump by simply showing that he is a better person (and Sanders would be vastly better than Trump based on intelligence alone). But the new wave of populists and progressives are campaigning solely on being further left than their moderate counterparts. This is not good. Idealism is incompatible with politics. Politics should be based on developing the best solutions, no matter how unpopular they may be. Unfortunately, the American voter may be too ignorant to realize what is truly best for him.
America needs competent elected officials, not foolish but popular officials. Unfortunately, it appears that Alexander Hamilton's fear of talentless but well-liked officials may be coming true, as more moderates convert to populism and more populists run for office. If this trend continues, America will be more polarized and most likely end up with a downright idiotic foreign policy. The current trend of populism and the popularization of politics cannot end well.