May 2, 2006

Affinity for unelected officials

One of the most interesting things about the spate of generals coming out against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was the general reverence given to any ex-general. I found it bizarre that no one was the least bit bothered by the fact that the unelected warriors of this nation were trying to oust a democratically appointed civil servant. Now I am not defending how Rumsfeld has done his job because you can't do much worse, nor am I saying that elected officials deserve more respect than our appointed ones. But I think this illustrates a pretty obvious development in American politics of late.Our most democratic institutions, like the House of Representatives is in the pits, while the most undemocratic are also the most revered. Examples include Alan Greenspan and his work at the Federal Reserve or the work by the Supreme Court from the 1930s until fairly recently.I'm not sure what has precipitated this change, but it is pretty clear that it has something to do with the effectiveness of the various institutions. The rise of lobbying, the downfall of the media’s protection of politics, and the start of the nation’s culture wars have all certainly contributed to this issue, but none seem sufficient at answering this fundamental ideological shift. Definitely something worth thinking about.