In the interview, Mr. Rasmussen describes an influential individual "successful on both Wall Street and in D.C." who spoke after him at a business conference. Mr. Rasmussen described the man as opening his remarks with the following sentiment, indicative of what Mr. Rasmussen calls a "typical political-class attitude":
"The problem with self-governance is that people are so bad at it. They are just too stupid to govern themselves."In my own view, the sentiment above is not exclusive to either Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives. I know that many liberal Democrats would probably disagree with the above statement, as would many conservative Republicans. Likewise, I suspect that the same cross-ideological diversity holds for those who think that the above statement expresses a profound (if unfortunate) truth about Americans.
The most recent example of this mentality, of course, comes from the left, evidenced by the condescending temper tantrums thrown by some liberal pundits in response to the American public's disapproval of the stimulus package and health care reform bill, among other things.
Earlier this year, frustration over Obama's inability to quickly enact the sweeping social and political change his most ardent followers had envisioned led a number of left-leaning pundits to theorize that perhaps America was simply "ungovernable." Writers like Michael Cohen and Jonathan Chait wrote angry screeds about the "nihilism" and "ignorance" of the Republican Party and the American people, respectively. Slate's Jacob Weisberg put the blame for America's "current predicament" not on the politicians, but rather on "the childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large."
However, conservatives have also had their fair share of the-public-is-too-dumb-to-know-what's-good-for-them moments in past years when the GOP was in power.
So is it simply a case of political opportunism -- each side paying lip service to democratic values but disparaging democracy when it inconveniently clashes with their own ideological views?
Or is the unnamed "political class" VIP above correct? Are Americans too dumb to govern themselves?