Election Spin and the Voice of The People

There’s nothing quite like the post-election spin and hype machine, a 24-hour media scramble to interpret the Voice of the People.

CNN reports that “a Republican tide ripped the Senate away from Democrats.” And everyone seems to be jockeying to promote their preferred answer to the question of whether the election was a referendum on the President, the Democrats, or the political system in general.

The people have spoken and our political pundits are here to tell us what they’re saying.

It is times like this when I most appreciate the words of Walter Lippmann, “In this deadly conflict between [the Founding Father’s] ideals and their science, the only way out was to assume without much discussion that the voice of the people was the voice of god.”

We are taught that the essence of a democracy is to revere the voice of the people as, indeed, the voice of God. As the highest form of Truth. And when every election rolls around, we look hopefully to the polls, desperate to understand what The People are trying to tell us.

But, alas, it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

That is not to say that people, as individuals, are idiots. Lippmann’s view was far more nuanced than that. His disdain for the The People or The Masses should not be confused with a disdain for people.

The challenge, you see, is that, “We have been taught to think of society as a body, with a mind, a soul and a purpose, not as a collection of men, women and children whose minds, souls and purposes are variously related.”

The voice of The People is nonsense, not because the people are nonsensical, but because The People is not a coherent whole.

Individual people do individual things for individual reasons. Perhaps there is some meaning we can gather from their collective data, but…a referendum on a person, a party, or an institution?

No. Individual people can declare opposition to those things. The People cannot.

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