07 September 2018

Interesting times

An interesting phenomenon of recent times is how a significant number of politicians, ostensibly committed to the notion of democracy, demonstrate their commitment to another set of values that overrides their support for majority voting.

Thus we witness, for example, a White House member of staff boasting anonymously in the New York Times* about his (or her) efforts to subvert US President Trump's policies.

The writer is vague about what is so objectionable about the policies that it justifies such behaviour, though he tries to paint a picture of a President who is erratic and deluded. The writer summarises his complaint in terms of Trump's alleged "amorality", by which he apparently means that the President "is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making". I can see why someone might dislike lack of commitment to principles in a politician, but it is hard to understand why it should be grounds for subversion.

A Republican commentator has expressed disapproval** of the article, arguing that the writer's behaviour will only make the President "more defiant, more reckless, more anti-constitutional, and more dangerous". The commentator recommends that the President's aides should rather resign, or work towards impeachment.

The commentator might have suggested that the writer, and like-minded colleagues, should attempt to overcome their antipathy and comply with the President's wishes as far as possible, on the basis that Americans voted in a way that implies they would like them so to comply. However, the commentator does not do so.

This revealed weighting among elected politicians and commentators between (a) the results of a vote, and (b) their own personal preferences is surely one of the most significant contemporary issues in political affairs, and worthy of attention.

Exercise for the academically inclined
1. See how many recent scholarly articles you can find on the phenomenon of Western politicians opposing the results of majority voting, in which the authors regard it as something that needs explaining.
2. Contrast the number you get in part 1 (which may well be zero) with the number of articles which ask how it came about that voters recently made 'bad' decisions and which suggest remedies for preventing it from happening again.

* 'I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration', anonymous op-ed, New York Times, 5 September 2018
** David Frum, 'This is a constitutional crisis', The Atlantic, 5 September 2018

● The third and final part of EC v Apple should be on the website later this month.