WHY POLITICAL ELITES MATTER

HillaryJeb Bush

^ that these two candidates are “elite:” is NOT a reason to not vote for them.

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There’s much talk, among commentators and on social media, about “elites.” For most of the talkers the word emits pejoration. Why so ? What is wrong with political elites ?

By “elites” we seem to mean “people who have been around a long time,” or “people who have lots of money,” or some combination of the two. I don’t see how these attributes detract. Those who have lots of money usually take a lot of care to preserve or extend it; which necessarily involves them in understanding markets, industries, and politics. Those whose names have “ben around a long time” owe their longevity at least in part to mattering for a long time, either because they are always asked for an opinion, or because they take part in newsworthy decision making. (Not always, but often enough.)

Elites thus have experience of affairs. I don’t see how that’s bad. Experience of affairs cautions one to take many points of view into account, many factors, disciplines, chance. Experience breeds healthy skepticism even as it — should — arouse experiment.

For example : Hillary Clinton was exactly right when she said this (according to a report) at a fundraiser this weekend : “‘…I don’t believe that elections that are going to result in leadership decisions should be about personalities, should be about insults, should be about rhetoric, should be about a lot of what we see going on in this campaign.’ 

Democracy premises that anyone can be Governor, Senator, President. True enough., But it cannot — or should not — happen with a mere snap of the fingers. The Byzantine Empire, for much of its history, chose its Emperor with what amounted to a snap of fingers. An inspired churchman would have a vision that so and so was called; or an itinerant hermit would suddenly announce that this or that ordinary man — a shepherd, come to town, perhaps : it happened — was It, and so it was. Who could tell whethe4r the Emperor thus chosen ruled brilliantly, or carelessly,m or downright drunk (yes, there were utter sots who ruled the Byzantine world.) The only reason that the empire didn’t collapse, ruled by a  drunk, was that the imperial bureaucracy kept on keeping on, no matter what. The Emperor might murder his rivals, torture his nobles, exile his bishops, and tax rich men into poverty, but the bureaucracy kept on — kept on and on. We in 2015 America have, I hope, a better way. We don’t go helter-skelter. We enable people of vast experience and, yes, much money, running for office; and we usually want it that way, and should this year too.

I do not mean that you must vote for either of the two major “elite” candidates running for President. There are other well worthy men running who have just as strong resumes and almost the same fame. But to support someone on the grounds of “not being of the elite” is really quite inconsistent with the reality.

As far as I’m concerned, only two questions need be asked of a candidate seen as “elite” :

  1. Do you intend to govern in the national interest and not merely in your own financial interest ?
  2. Do you commit to governing for the sake of everyone, not just the elites ?

After that, the contest becomes a question of which candidate’s platform you prefer. That is all.

Let’s be quite honest ; everyone wants to rise into “the elite,” or to see his or her children do so.  Elites have a wide circle of connections as well as money and famed name. Elites simply can touch more lives first-hand than those who are not of the “elite.” What we do ask, and justly, is that the elite be open to all who aspire to it. This has been the way with the wisest prior elites : think the Catholic Church during the years from about 400 AD to today. A poor boy’s son had — has — just as much chance of becoming an archbishop, even a Pope, as a rich man’s. Education was his opportunity. And we who devote the bigger part of our taxpayer dollars — or tuition fees — to education know very well that school is the escalator to elite condition., Would we spend generous dollars if we did not believe profoundly in the desirability of becoming of the elite ?

Why, then, do we, in political time, scorn the elites ? They are elite because of us; and in most cases, we are3 not wrong to have caused them.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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