Port: We need not be slaves to public opinion


MINOT, N.D. — Thanks to social media, we live in what is perhaps one of the most populist eras of American politics.

It’s fashionable to suggest what ails our republic are political leaders that won’t listen to their constituents, but I would argue that the opposite is true. Our elected leaders are listening to the point of distraction. Whether we’re talking about Bismarck or Washington, D.C., our policy agenda is too often dictated by what’s getting the most likes and retweets.

We ought to disdain this chest-thumping “we the people” stuff because it’s not at all how the American republic was designed to operate. “In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason,” James Madison wrote in Federalist 55.

“Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates,” he continued, alluding to the direct democracy of ancient Greece, “every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”

American politics, in the thrall of social media, has become an exercise in mob rule, and I’m certain I don’t need to tell you that there are few like Socrates posting on Twitter and Facebook.

Continue reading…