"Stump Speaking" (1853-54) by George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), oil on canvas, Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Bank of America.

The Latest New Book Says Politicians Are “The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others”

Political “middlemen” who infringe on the relationship between the people and their elected representatives constitute a growing danger to democracy, according to new book, Politicians, by Bruce K. Chapman.

“Politicians themselves are partly to blame for ceding responsibilities to unelected powers,” says Chapman, himself a former elected and appointed official. “Those powers include bureaucrats and judges, but also media, academics, non-profit cause groups, ‘professional reformers’ and  campaign businesses that ‘live off of’ politics, rather than ‘for it.” A good example of shifted responsibility, says Chapman, is Congress’ relinquishment of authority to government regulatory agencies. Another, Chapman says, is the “scandal business” that increasingly monopolizes public attention and is incentivized by unrealistic federal legislation.

The advent of social media, which might have encouraged deeper public debate on issues, instead has facilitated character attacks and “big data” manipulation, Chapman’s book asserts.

Schools’ declining emphasis on the teaching of civics — history and government — is making popular government more difficult, too, Chapman reports.

Chapman’s contrarian program in Politicians is to “reform the reforms” of the past generation: “strengthening political parties as crucial balance wheels in public life;” “placing checks on ethics investigations…to deter opportunist assaults;” “shortening political campaigns;” streamlining the Presidential appointments process and in the long run “reducing the unreasonable claims and intrusiveness of government” as a whole “to expand respect for the ability of politics to handle its main tasks well.”

The nature of political life as a calling is seldom discussed in America, Chapman states.  “Even historians tend to write about this politician or that campaign, and not about the kind of people we should be attracting to serve in the some 500,000 elected positions at America’s local, state and national levels,” he says.

About the author of Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others: Bruce Chapman, the author of several books and many articles, was elected to the Seattle City Council and later as Secretary of State of Washington in the 1970s. In the 1980s he served President Reagan as Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Deputy Assistant to the President in the White House, and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Organizations in Vienna. In 1991, he founded Discovery Institute, a public policy think tank in Seattle, where he is now Chairman of the Board and head of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.

Publication date is May, 15, 2018.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.