How Did Conservatives Spot Joe Biden’s Cognitive Decline Years Before The Liberal Elites?

For the past five years, liberal elites (with few exceptions) tried to do everything they could to make it socially unacceptable to declare that Joe Biden was senile. “On what basis?” they’d challenge conservatives, and then pour on the scorn. Now, however, the MSM is embarrassed, humiliated, and angry. They feel like they’ve been caught out carrying water for Joe Biden.

Part of the reason that conservatives saw Biden’s decline faster than liberals is partisan — enemies often tell harsh truths more quickly than do friends.

Joe Nocera writes July 2, 2024:

The Biden debacle is just the most recent example of what I’ve come to think of as ‘the gap.’ By this I mean the gap between what many of us believe to be true, because we’ve seen it with our own eyes, and what the ‘arbiters’ of truth allow us to say… On Covid, on Black Lives Matter, on Russiagate, on Hunter Biden’s laptop, the elites told us there was one correct viewpoint only until finally, years later, they acknowledged that our eyes hadn’t misled us. The elites had.

Why isn’t the news media focused on the threat to national security from Joe Biden’s senility?

There is no decline in interest in the Biden decline story as of July 4.

Not only the MSM, but the conservative media failed to nail down the Biden decline story with overwhelming granular detail.

Conservative pundits provided comfort and strength to people who saw something blindingly obvious but downplayed by our elites. Everybody who said publicly that Biden was senile (such as Michael Smerconish, Mark Halperin) did the Lord’s work by furthering truth.

Red State publishes July 4, 2024:

One journalist who has not been hesitant to assess Joe Biden is Brit Hume. He said in a Fox Interview in September 2020, “I don’t think there’s any doubt Biden’s senile.”

Politifact did a “fact check” back then declaring Hume’s assessment “false,” while noting the term “senile” is an imprecise term.

PolitiFact contacted experts in the health care of older people for their take on Hume’s use of the word senile and its application to Biden. They said Hume’s characterization is wrong.

It’s “a shameful display of ageism and ignorance,” said Donald Jurivich, Eva Gilbertson Distinguished Professor of Geriatrics and Chairman of Geriatrics at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences.

The word “senile” may create a mental picture of someone who has stooped posture, is slow moving and cognitively impaired, Jurivich said. “I don’t think any of these descriptors match Joe Biden’s demeanor and vigor,” he said.

From a geriatrician’s perspective, Jurivich said, “the use of ‘senile’ is a pejorative descriptor and reflects unmitigated ageism.” reports July 3, 2024:

Former Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley dunked on ABC’s George Stephanopoulos after their tense exchange last year about President Biden’s mental acuity resurfaced on Tuesday.

During an interview last August on “Good Morning America,” Haley repeated her assertion that “a vote for Joe Biden is a vote for Kamala Harris.”

“There’s no way Joe Biden is gonna finish his term,” Haley said, “I think Kamala Harris is gonna be the next president and that should send a chill up every American spine. But also think the fact that we have a primary-”

“Excuse me, excuse me,” Stephanopoulos interrupted with a scowl on his face. “How do you know Joe Biden’s not gonna finish his term? What is that based on?”

“Ask Americans, do you think he’s gonna finish his term? Do you think that he’s actually gonna finish what he started?” Haley responded. “We look at the decline he’s had over the last few years. You have to be honest with the American people, George. There’s no way that Joe Biden is gonna finish out a next term. We can’t have an 81-year-old president. We have to have a new generational leader. The Senate has become the most privileged nursing home in the country. We’ve got to start making sure we have a new generation. Everybody feels that- Republicans, Democrats and independents feel that, and it’s time that the media acknowledge that.”

“You all want to talk about Joe Biden and Donald Trump, we want to talk about the future of this country. That’s what we have to start doing,” she added.

“Again, you didn’t answer the question,” Stephanopoulos pushed back. “What evidence you have that he’s not gonna finish the term? What Americans feel has no basis on whether he’s gonna finish his term or not.”

“I mean, if you look at the decline… every person should be able to tell what country they were in the week before. He couldn’t do that,” Haley told the anchor. “Every person should be able to tell how many grandkids they have. It’s the reason I’ve asked for mental competency tests for anyone over the age of 75. I don’t care if we do it for over the age of 50! But we need to understand that the people in DC, they’re making decisions on our national security. They’re making decisions on the future of our children’s economic policy. We need to make sure we’ve got someone at the top of their game. Joe Biden is not at the top of his game. You know it. I know it. The American people know it.”

Conservatives have more faith in common sense than liberals do. Liberals want studies. Liberals believe more in science than in common sense.

Liberals wanted to wait for credentialed medical elites following protocol to declare Joe Biden unfit for office. Regular folks didn’t wait for this expertise. They trusted what they saw. They trusted their common sense.

Incidentally, I don’t side with either common sense or studies. In some circumstances, one will be superior to the other. I don’t think there’s a magic key to detecting reality. The best tests of a theory are explanatory and predictive value.

With regard to dealing with covid, the liberal approach was more adaptive. With regard to transsexual surgeries, the conservative approach is more adaptive.

During the 2016 Brexit debate, virtually all of Britain’s elites opposed Brexit, and yet the people passed the referendum and it became law. As of 2024, this looks like a massive mistake.

Populism has no thinktanks. There are few career prospects for a populist intellectual, while dozens of scholars have jobs churning out articles and books promoting American intervention overseas.

As children of the Enlightenment, liberals have more respect for facts (in many parts of life that don’t touch on their sacred values) than do conservatives. While “common sense” for conservatives means something that strikes you as obvious, for liberals, “common sense” means the consensus of experts. Without medical experts following protocol diagnosing Joe Biden as senile (or the equivalent), the MSM wasn’t going to pronounce on something that struck millions of conservatives as obvious.

The MSM takes “ableism” and “ageism” as substantial moral categories, while conservatives are just as likely to mock these classifications as revere them. For the liberal, [r]eporting on anyone’s old age requires extreme sensitivity.” For the non-lefty, not so much. It would never occur to me to exercise sensitivity in reporting on a public figure’s old age. If a public speaker looks like he’s dying of AIDS, I note he looks like he’s dying of AIDS.

Rachel Ulatowski writes:

The 2024 presidential debate left much to be desired of President Joe Biden’s performance. However, instead of offering valid criticisms of his performance, many are simply resorting to ableism and ageism.

This hero system is foreign to me.

You can’t think straight about anything you regard as sacred.

When I Google “Trump unfit for public office,” I get arguments that are primarily moral and psychological and often referencing the diagnoses of experts. When I Google “Biden unfit for public office,” I get visceral answers that are primarily physiological. Conservatives trust their instincts, liberals trust expertise.

Journalist friends say the MSM didn’t want to make a partisan talking point and to get caught up in Hillary’s email type nonsense but this story was real. Also, the decline may have been recent.

The rage directed at the Biden administration is not primarily about Joe Biden’s poor debate performance, rather it is about the bad faith exhibited by Biden’s team. Notes Cornell Law School: “Bad faith refers to dishonesty or fraud in a transaction. Depending on the exact setting, bad faith may mean a dishonest belief or purpose, untrustworthy performance of duties, neglect of fair dealing standards, or a fraudulent intent. It is often related to a breach of the obligation inherent in all contracts to deal with the other parties in good faith and with fair dealing.”

Remember all the talk about brilliant Trump playing 3d chess and then he becomes president and it became obvious he is not good at running things and there was no 3d chess. I don’t think there was any brilliant Democratic strategy to embarrass Biden and get him out of the race with an early debate. I don’t think the deep state has been running Biden. Instead he’s looking to crack addict Hunter for advice.

Rony Guldmann writes in his work in progress, Conservative Claims of Cultural Oppression:

* Liberals’ bemused incredulity toward conservative grievances may itself be a natural byproduct of the very oppression being alleged, because the dominant culture’s language and concepts will always privilege the perspectives of its ruling elites, who shape the “common sense” to which oppressed groups are made to answer.

* While the liberal elites present themselves as defending uncontroversial democratic norms, they are in fact exploiting the prestige of these norms to advance their parochial cultural predilections as taken-for-granted common sense. And this new common sense consists in the systematic inversion of all the values held dear by the largely powerless and often voiceless ordinary American: the replacing of competition and “standards” by bureaucratic intervention and social engineering, of patriotism by multiculturalism or anti-Americanism, of capitalism by environmentalism or socialism, and of traditional morality by sexual libertinism or feminism. The elites may present themselves as public-minded pragmatists, but they are in fact driven by a perverse will to effectuate these inversions.

* The anointed reject the common sense of the benighted because its very commonness is an affront to their identity, which requires them to systematically invert every inherited norm and understanding. Their identity presupposes a world that resists their prescriptions, a world too benighted to recognize their superior wisdom and morality—and thus all the more in need of these. Whether the issue is the rights of criminals or the merits of avant-garde art, there is, writes Sowell, always a “pattern of seeking differentiation at virtually all costs.” Amorphous abstractions like the “politics of kindness,” “community spirit,” and “love of learning” permit just this, because they can always be reconfigured so as to generate a new chasm between the anointed and the benighted. Liberals are always “moving the goal post,” say conservatives, and this is because their political vision is also a vision of themselves. Since the vision of the anointed can at most enjoy the passive acquiescence, and never the lucid assent, of the great majority, it must be promoted and defended by an unaccountable intellectual class. Having captured America’s most influential institutions, including the media, Hollywood, the universities, public education, foundations, government bureaucracies, and, perhaps most importantly, the courts, the liberal elites employ their privileged position to foist their parochial values upon a silent and largely powerless majority of ordinary Americans. Even where democracy has not been legally disabled by the courts and the administrative state, this residue of freedom comes too late when informal coercion can achieve unofficially whatever cannot be achieved officially.

* …liberals have now managed to insert elite prejudice into mainstream common sense. The “Ruling Class,” says Codevilla, “cannot prevent Americans from worshipping God.” But “they can make it as socially disabling as smoking—to be done furtively and with a bad conscience.”

* [Liberals despise] unreflective common sense.

* Conservatives’ preferences cannot be permitted to enter into the utilitarian calculus because these preferences reflect what a failure of virtue, a failure of discipline, a failure to resist reflexive “common sense.”

* Someone might embrace a liberal “Nurturant Parent” morality in his politics and yet be a Strict father in private family life, or vice versa. He might also be a Nurturant Parent politically and yet be a conservative Strict Father in his professional life. This constellation of attitudes, notes Lakoff, describe many academics, who are politically liberal but for whom “academic scholarship is conceptualized metaphorically as a version of Strict Father morality.”142With scholarly life having been neurally bound by that morality, it follows that “[t]here are intellectual authorities who maintain strict standards for the conduct of scholarly research and for reporting on such research,” that “[i]t is unscholarly for someone to violate those standards,” and, therefore, that “[y]oung scholars require a rigorous training to learn to meet those scholarly standards.”

* [Conservatives defend] individual self-reliance and common sense against the claims of expertise and professionalism.

* Harris writes that the social ascendance of the “cognitive elites” betrays America’s original self-understanding as “the promised land of common sense,” eroding the spirit of “cognitive egalitarianism” which it was once assumed “would keep the common people from being manipulated by intellectual charlatans of every ilk.” As we saw in Chapter Two, conservatives see the liberal elites as the charlatans of today, pretenders who employ their claims to intellectualism, expertise, and professionalism to cow ordinary Americans into silence and submission. Conservatives oppose, not only the specifically left-wing cultural priorities of the anointed, but also their more general assault on cognitive egalitarianism, on the ordinary American’s capacity for autonomous self-reliance, the psychological bulwark of his conservatism.

* Questioning whether the post-war professionalization of education, business, and journalism was genuinely necessary, Gelernter observes that universities had an obvious interest in “convert[ing] as much of the landscape as possible into fenced-off, neatly tended, carefully patrolled academic preserves,” so that the “smooth, manicured green lawn of science” might replace the “wild sweet meadow-grass of common sense.”

* Religious traditionalists may downplay the secularism of America’s founding generation. But this downplaying is a distorted articulation of their primordial intuition that we are porous by default and that what now presents itself as essential human nature—the buffered identity—is a cultural superimposition upon this default condition. This is why traditionalists believe they represent the common sense of humanity—the “center” rather than the “fringe” as the Websters put it—and that “religious neutrality” unjustly compels them to undergo a cognitive dissonance with which the liberals who reject that common sense are not burdened.

Populists believe that wisdom resides with the people rather than the elites. With regard to Biden’s unfitness for office, the people saw this years ahead of the elites.

Stephen Turner noted in his 2021 essay, “Ideology of Anti-populism & the Administrative State”:

* The people, the state, and expertise form an unstable triad, and relating the three in a coherent way, either institutionally or theoretically, is ultimately not possible. Finding a way of dealing with these relations nevertheless is a problem that needs to be solved and re-solved…

* Harvey Mansfield defined populism, by which he meant populism as a political idea, as the belief in the virtue of the people. ‘A populist let us say is a democrat who is satisfied with his own and with the people’s virtue’ (Mansfield, 1996, p. 7). Populism is thus based on a myth as well. But it is a myth whose role is primarily negative: it does not constitute an order, but rejects one in the name of the people. Actual rule requires more. But to deny the myth of the superior wisdom of the people is to threaten the democratic idea itself. And this poses a special problem for ostensibly ‘democratic’ regimes. The need for rulers requires its own ‘democratic’ myths, such as the theory of representation. But the myth of the people constrains these myths.

Mansfield follows his line on the populist with another: ‘This distinguishes him from a reformer who is satisfied with his own virtue but not with other people’s. Giving over government to the people is not the same as lecturing them’ (Mansfield, 1996, p. 7). Progressivism took this tack. The progressives of the early twentieth century wanted the support and enthusiasm of ‘the people’, and envied populism for this. But they wanted to lead the people themselves.

* Progressivism was to be the alliance of experts and an aroused ‘people’ (Turner, 1996). And this followed an emerging practice of social movements based on expertise, notably the prohibition movement, which employed the techniques presently associated with climate science under the heading alcohol science (Okrent, 2010; Turner, 2001, 2014), through this and other movements, became the third leg in the modem triad. And anti-populism came to take the form of a set of assertions about expertise and governance.

* The place to begin, with populism, is with the pure democratic idea itself. Classically, it means rule by the people, the demos. But we are accustomed to adding disclaimers and qualifications, or specifications, to this idea: that expressions of the will of the people must take the form of laws and procedures, such as election laws and laws governing representation; or from a liberal perspective, that genuine democratic will-formation requires free individuals with freedom of speech and various individual rights; or from the Left, that substantive equality rather than mere formal equality is required for meaningful democratic participation.

* Populism is intrinsically a denial of the special superiority of rulers and elites. …one can think of government as a scheme of reconciling the two: of adjusting the relation between the wishes of the ruled and the superior power of the ruler necessary to achieve political goods. …desirable governmental actions require expertise that the public lacks.

* The anti-populist, who is, unlike the populist, not satisfied with the people’s virtue, faces a fundamental problem: to deny populism is to deny democracy, or a founding element of the democratic idea, that the people should be, and are the best, governors of themselves. Thus anti-populism, if it pretends to be democratic, cannot overtly deny the myth of the people. But the need for rulers and for the justification of their rule creates an opportunity to redefine the democratic idea, to create an appropriate counter-myth that enables the people to have a place, but not to rule.

* Populism, by asserting the superior wisdom of the people, rejects the identification of power and expertise. But in doing so it calls into question the notion of democracy itself. If governments are legitimated by experts, what, exactly, is the point of democratic accountability? What role do ‘the people’ have other than to obey, or perhaps to occasionally ratify the system of governance as a whole?

* Populist movements happen when political parties, traditional leaders, elites, and politics as usual fail to deliver the expected goods, or fail to accord with the popular sense of reality, or are perceived as untrustworthy and corrupt.

* Populist tendencies are prone to co-optation, and typically do not outlast the situations that produced them, though they do represent a reserve of general sentiment against elites and particular ruling groups that can be activated in new situations. They differ from ideologies and ideological parties in that they are situational rather than analytic, in the sense that they have concrete targets and grievances rather than a developed analysis of political life that is extended to new situations and refined and elaborated. This accounts for many of the distinctive features of populist movements, especially the preference for leaders who promise to act decisively, in contrast to normal ‘politicians’, and their hostility to ‘politics as usual’.

Populisms are situation-driven rather than analysis-driven, or to put it differently, driven by specific crises or grievances, rather than by a permanent ideological viewpoint… Populism typically arises in situations in which there are larger failures, failures which extend beyond normal political processes, and therefore beyond mere legislation within existing political practices.

* The antinomy of populism is elite rule. Elites rule through particular strategies, and fail through typical issues. Elite solidarity is essential to elite rule; division among the elite is a typical cause of elite failure (Shipman, Edmunds & Turner, 2018). Elites rule through alliances between the elite and a significant non-elite group. The most stable of these alliances have been with the middle classes, normally under an ideology of meritocracy, property rights, and support of business, an alliance which is played off against the demands of the excluded group, the poor. But an upstairs-downstairs alliance is always possible, and the upper hand the elite has in dealing with the non-elite segments of society depends on its ability to choose alternative groups to ally with. Thus pluralism favours the elite, because it provides more opportunities to change alliances. Populism, in contrast, must produce enough unity in the population to effectively counter the elite, and must therefore transcend differences between segments of society in the name of the people. Both Left and Right populisms are anti-pluralist, as a simple consequence of the dynamics of elite alliance-making: neither kind of populism could succeed if the elite used its alliance-making power to divide the movement. To the extent that elite rule depends on manipulating and shifting alliances with non-elite groups, as is the norm (Shipman, Edmunds & Turner, 2018), an attack on pluralism is a threat to elite rule as a political system itself.

* Weber famously praised [William E.] Gladstone for his ability to break out of the constraints of party and speak directly to the people, and promoted a constitutional design that was intended to maximize the possibility of this kind of leadership. He thought of this as the only means to control the bureaucracy, which parties would not do. Just as Weber viewed the fundamental form of democratic rule as plebiscitarian, and wished to amplify plebiscitary possibilities and forms, the American populists endorsed ‘the legislative system known as the initiative and referendum’ (National People’s Party Platform, [1892] 1966, p. 95).

The point of anti-populism was to prevent the use of these means, and restrict accountability even more – to the point that it was anti-democratic in the name
of democracy.

Another reason that populism doesn’t get much done is that it tends to be narrow, shallow, and lacking in complexity. It’s often politics for dummies.

A 2011 academic paper “Ears Wide Shut: Epistemological Populism, Argutainment and Canadian Conservative Talk Radio” noted:

* What is the epistemology of AOL [Adler On Line, hosted by Charles Adler] and how does it function? Broadly, it is a perspective which we call epistemological populism since it borrows heavily from the rhetorical patterns of political discourses of populism to valorize the knowledge of “the common people,” which they possess by virtue of their proximity to everyday life, as distinguished from the rarefied knowledge of elites which reflects their alienation from everyday life and the common sense it produces. Epistemological populism is established through a variety of rhetorical techniques and assumptions: the assertion that individual opinions based upon firsthand experience are much more reliable as a form of knowledge than those generated by theories and academic studies; the valorization of specific types of experience as particularly reliable sources of legitimate knowledge and the extension of this knowledge authority to unrelated issues; the privileging of emotional intensity as an indicator of the reliability of opinions; the use of populist-inflected discourse to dismiss other types of knowledge as elitist and therefore illegitimate; and finally, the appeal to “common sense” as a discussion-ending trump card. Let’s examine how these parts fit together in concrete terms.

“Opinions that are armed with life experience, that’s what we’re looking for on this show.” One of the many promos that transitioned AOL into commercial breaks, this particular declaration offers an excellent entry point into our analysis of AOL’s epistemological populism as it deftly captures the program’s unequivocal preference for political sentiments which emerge directly from the crucible of both ordinary and extraordinary experience at the individual level. Such individual experience is what lies at the core of the common sense which is consistently celebrated on the program as a counterpoint to the excessively ideological, intellectual or idealistic politics of those who lack grounding in the “real world.”

“Opinions are great, I always say on this program. Opinions are wonderful. But opinions armed with personal experience, knowledge. Man, those opinions are a whole lot better” (December 14, 1–2 p. m.) On this view, knowledge that grows out of an individual’s lived experience is knowledge one can trust. Indeed, knowledge and experience become virtually identical. An individual’s lived proximity to something becomes an index of their capacity to truly understand it, care about it, develop valid opinions about it and speak about it with authority. Conversely, the more abstract the form of knowledge and reasoning, the less rooted in concrete individual experiences, the more such knowledge is to be regarded with suspicion, especially when their conclusions contradict the wisdom of common sense and practical, everyday experience.

…the type of guests, callers and experiences through which the program legitimized certain opinions and knowledge about crime rely on and reinforce epistemological populism. There was virtually no discussion of statistical crime rates at all. Instead, evidence of the urgency of this issue largely took the form of guests and callers serving up a mix of anecdotal confirmation and common sense observations which themselves function as theoretical generalizations while simultaneously disavowing their theoretical status. Has violent crime become a major problem in Canadian cities? Has Canadian penal practice become a revolving door for violent offenders? The answer for Adler was clear. “If I opened up the lines and simply discussed situations that people are aware of,” he explained, “I mean, some people actually, you know, have scrapbooks on this stuff, of situations where people involved in heinous crimes are either those out on parole or have committed two, three, four, five, six other crimes and simply sit in the bucket for a year or two. We could do a show like that and go for twenty-four hours and still have phone calls to do” (January 6, 1–2 p.m.) As the anecdotes pile up in segment after segment, they not only immunize listeners against countervailing arguments and evidence about declining crime rates or the futility of law-and-order campaigns. Equally importantly, they valorize the accumulation of anecdotes as a viable form of populist knowledge making, enabling out-of-hand dismissal of contradictory arguments, reasoning or facts as untrue.

What is key here is how Adler’s affirmation of a mode of experiential political reasoning, which effortlessly shifts back and forth between personal experience (either one’s own or others) and broader social and political questions, invariably champions the former as providing answers to the latter. Broader trends or perspectives are never allowed to challenge the generalizability of certain individual experiences. But one of the challenges faced by such an experience-based epistemology is that not everyone’s experience is the same. Not all anecdotes fit the common sense conclusions served up by AOL. So how does Adler distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate forms of individual knowledge, experience and common sense?

Part of the answer lies in a straightforward ideological filtering of guests which, for the most part, strains out those whose experiences, opinions and epistemological framework differ from Adler’s own.

* Epistemological populism, however, goes well beyond opening up space for individual experience as one type of valid knowledge that deserves its place alongside a variety of others. Rather, epistemological populism tends to elevate individual experience as the only legitimate form and extend that epistemological authority well beyond the realm where the person’s immediate experience itself might be seen as relevant.

* …police officials and correctional workers though not social workers were consistently positioned as having a monopoly on expert knowledge in this area.

* Adler’s introduction encourages the audience to accept the constable’s opinions as facts—as the objective truth—not on the basis of any evidence presented but rather because the constable’s “day to day level” experience as a police officer… grants him a special, automatic epistemological authority.

If the persuasive force of epistemological populism flows, in part, from its ability to activate and apply (at an epistemological level) the populist celebration of “the people” and common sense, it also uses the other side of the populist trope—the attack on elites—to dismiss contending forms of knowledge and political opinions. The laudable voices of the people are contrasted with the “elitist” views of academics, defence lawyers and political progressives who were condemned as representing the “special interests” of criminals and gangs.

* we call the performative model embodied in AOL’s discourse argutainment and argue that this style has several defining characteristics. Self-consciously adopted and defended by means of a populist logic which defines itself as a utopian alternative to
mainstream models of journalism, argutainment justifies itself through its ability to speak to and represent the interests of “the people.” In defining what is good for the people, it moves effortlessly between political and market tropes in which commercial success and the public good are fused together. What people want in commercial terms (as evidenced by market share) and what people need in political terms (alternative perspectives which cut through the morass of mainstream media) is represented as ultimately the same thing: a provocative and entertaining style of debate, defined as highly emotional and passionate, strongly opinionated, simple and brief and very confrontational. Moreover, argutainment assumes that an aggressive and opinionated host is needed to filter out ideas and modes of speech which he… judges the audience does not want to hear…

Adler frequently uses populist tropes to implicitly and explicitly justify his style of discourse. He regularly celebrates his style as ushering in a “broadcast revolution” in which the antiquated conventions of journalism and the bland, empty rhetoric of public relations are swept aside in the interests of energizing political discussion and debate. He invites us to participate in a populist renewal of the public sphere in which public discussion and debate simulates what he imagines at kitchen tables and coffee shops of the nation, a frank, honest and confrontational exchange of opinion that is open to anyone who wants to join the conversation. Unsurprisingly, one of the most powerful rhetorical defenses offered for his style is the supposed contrast between it and the decayed elitist forms it seeks to replace. For Adler, mainstream media’s traditional commitment to balance, objectivity and politically correct speech—all of which tend to be lumped together—have led to an anemic (and boring) public sphere in which an unconditional respect for the views of others has emasculated our capacity and desire to make difficult but necessary political judgments. According to Adler, such norms have become the shelter of those whose claims could not otherwise withstand the scrutiny of common sense reasoning and experience. Calls for balance and objectivity merely encourage an apathetic public sphere and allow the political claims of vocal special interests to exercise disproportionate influence. In this context, a style that is confrontational, aggressive and highly passionate is politically valuable since it shakes people free from an elite-induced apathy and ignorance.

* For Adler, a pervasive elitist commitment to a polite, nonconfrontational, politically correct style stands in the way of an open, honest and frank discussion of social problems and how they should be addressed. Complexity is stigmatized as little more than an excuse to avoid asking the tough questions and, conversely, a willingness to violate PC conventions of “cultural sensitivity” becomes, in and of itself, a sign of lucid and honest speech. In fact, it becomes a sign of moral courage.

* Adler often openly ruminates on the value of his style, congratulating himself for having the fortitude to challenge political correctness as an organic defender of the people’s interests and pointing to his ratings as the market share equivalent of a democratic vote of confidence in support of his approach. In the final days of the campaign, for example, Adler boasted that the show’s higher ratings were a tribute to his bold and aggressive style.

* The populist genius of talk radio may very well lie in its ability to portray the logic of commercialism (treating political talk as an entertainment commodity) as a politically virtuous invigoration of democracy. According to this logic, the discipline imposed by the need to entertain also keeps political speech honest, accessible and authentic and counteracts the mainstream media’s counterproductive pursuit of diversity, balance, objectivity, moderation. In this view, “giving the people what they want” does not lead to the decline of public discourse but instead to its invigoration and democratic rebirth by welcoming in the values and priorities of ordinary Canadians. Market logic, the logic of commercial culture, is recast as an instrument of political democratization, the means by which the people are put back in charge of the public sphere…

* Adler consistently reminds his audience that serving their needs and interests is his top priority and that all interventions he makes to discipline and shape political speech are designed to make the discussion more palatable to them.

Philosopher Stephen P. Turner wrote in his 2003 book Liberal Democracy 3.0: Civil Society in an Age of Experts:

* Expertise is a kind of violation of the conditions of rough equality presupposed by democratic accountability. Some activities, such as genetic engineering, are apparently out of reach of democratic control, even when these activities, because of their dangerous character, ought perhaps to be subject to public scrutiny and regulation, precisely because of imbalances in knowledge. As such we are faced with the dilemma of capitulation to ‘rule by experts’ or democratic rule that is ‘populist’; that valorizes the wisdom of the people even when ‘the people’ are ignorant and operate on the basis of fear and rumor.

* …the socialist idea was implicitly an idea that was antipopulist or at least hostile to the notion that untutored legislative preferences, that is to say the opinions held by ordinary people of what laws should be enacted, ought to be paramount, and thus implicitly hostile to a related idea that government by discussion ought to be the center of constitutional order. The ‘collectivist current’ and socialist doctrine emphasized instead the superior wisdom of the state, and the consequent necessity of intrusions into freedoms of individuals.

In his 2013 book The Politics of Expertise, Turner wrote: “populism [relies upon] the expertise of the people… [in] contrast to that of the administrative class.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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