Saturday, February 4, 2017

Trump New Yorker Cartoon

These smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane?”
You may have seen this cartoon from the New Yorker magazine. It points out via parody that there really are such things as experts. The obvious comparison is to the election of Trump. An intelligent person wants the expert to be able to do his job without being second guessed by people who lack such expertise. No one wants a non-pilot trying to fly a plane. If you're charged with a crime you want someone who understands and is trained in the law. If your car breaks down then you want it repaired by someone who is mechanically inclined and keeps up with all the relevant certifications. If you discover that you have a life threatening disease then you want someone who has spent the requisite amount of time in medical school and has a proven track record of battling and hopefully curing the malady. Not many people have an issue with any of that, or at least not many smart people. The issue arises when you try to frame this "let the experts do their thing" idea into a rule of thumb for politics. Not only is that not how our system is set up (the only office holding requirements are things like age, citizenship and residency) but this sort of comparison misses the point by a country mile. There are indeed objective criteria that qualify someone to call himself a doctor, lawyer, or auto mechanic. If a doctor tells me that doing x, y and z is a bad idea then I should probably listen to him. If a lawyer informs me that the law means such and such then I should give a little more weight to that opinion. 

But political leadership is different.There's no qualification that means that I should automatically give candidate A's preferred approach to health care coverage more weight than my own. I can understand and appreciate that candidate A has great experience in governance and leadership while still thinking that their chosen solution to the rise of China is prima facie evidence that they shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the White House. Spending some time down South I picked up a few sayings. Some of them didn't make a lot of sense to me then or now but one aphorism which I liked was "Put it where the goats can get it". As goats eat grass, and everything, down to the root this meant that you needed to communicate simply enough so that everyone can easily understand you. You have to speak in language that your audience understands and use examples which resonate with that audience. Right now Republicans and conservatives are doing this better than Democrats and liberals when it counts, at election time. If liberals and progressives really do see themselves as smarter than everyone else, then they may lose sight of the fact that political legitimacy doesn't come from being smarter and having the right solutions but from winning the votes of the people. In other words Trump and his team may well be drooling morons with no idea of how to run successful foreign or domestic policy. But they were better than their rivals at getting enough people to buy into their vision. Democrats must relearn how to do that. I think they will. Eventually.
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