You weren’t supposed to have to think about politics

Bonnie Kristian at The Week: “You were not supposed to have to think about politics.

Not this much, anyway. Good citizenship was not supposed to entail paying obsessive attention to a 24-hour news cycle. It was not supposed to demand conversational knowledge, at any given moment, of at least 15 issues of national importance. It was not supposed to be the task of each American to have An Informed Opinion on What the Government Should Do about every matter of state.

America’s founders never wanted politics to be a major occupation of your mind. It was not supposed to feature prominently among your worries. Most of the time, it was not supposed to be your responsibility.

I know, I know, we learn in grade school that America is a democracy, and each of us must do our part to ensure good governance “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” This may be inspirational for children, but it is not entirely true.

The United States’ government has democratic elements, yes, and, in some ways, it has become more democratic with time. (In other ways, it hasbecome less democratic, and I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether the net change is a loss or gain.) To say our country is a republic rather than a democracy is also misleading, but it does remind us of an important point: Our federal system is representational. It is not direct democracy. Each of us does not weigh in on everything. Instead, we periodically vote on representatives who will weigh in on our behalf while we do other, better things.

This is with good reason. At the most practical level, direct democracy was always impossible for a country of the United States’ size. And even now, assuming technology could be secure enough to use without concern over hacking and other malicious manipulation, there is cause to reject direct democracy: A system designed to force every responsible citizen to pay constant attention to politics is not desirable.

We elect representatives to do the great bulk of our politicking for us because we have more important things to do. We have families to raise and jobs to work and homes to maintain. We have our own areas of interest and expertise, our own relationships to cultivate. And, crucially, we have limited time, energy, and mental space. Some of us may choose to make politics our hobby or occupation, but all of us should not have to make that choice.

Politics is one aspect of our society. It is one part of many. We all no more need to be politicos, amateur or professional, than we all need to be philosophers or writers or tailors or dog rescuers or plumbers. Philosophy, books, clothes, rescue dogs, and working toilets are all important, just as politics is, but they are not everyone’s concern all the time. They are some people’s profession and the hobbies of others, but for most of us, these and any other field of work or pastime are only occasionally encountered…(More)”