In defense of expertise

IN DEFENSE OF EXPERTISE…. The strain of anti-intellectualism on the right isn’t new, but it is getting worse.

Marco Rubio does not see a problem with Christine O’Donnell’s past of financial trouble and bizarre quotes, noting that system is not designed to elect “a bunch of experts” to the Senate.

Rubio made the comments in a question and answer session with the Kitchen Cabinet, a conservative women’s group which will post the full interview on their website Wednesday.

“We actually have some people running that are not particularly experienced or maybe as skilled as some, in Delaware for instance, where there are some real questions about Christine O’Donnell,” the group asked Rubio, Florida’s Republican nominee for the Senate.

“The republic works and isn’t designed to elect a bunch of experts,” Rubio responded.

Now, it’s true that to hold public office, one need not have post-graduate degrees and years of broad policy experience. And that’s fine, of course.

But as a rule, the political system seems to be more effective when voters elect candidates who aren’t idiots. This year, there seem to be an inordinate number of statewide candidates seeking key offices who’ve never taken a particular interest in learning anything about governing and/or effective policymaking. In some cases, they’re even winning.

Some, including Rubio, may find a certain charm in this. “Outsiders” who don’t know anything about shaping federal policy are running for the high offices, and that’s great — what they lack in intelligence, understanding, and judgment, they’ll make up for with real-world know-how.

Or as Rubio put it this week, “I think the more you are in touch with the real lives of everyday people; the better you are going to be as a representative of those people in a Republic.”

Other than politics, there’s hardly any aspect of modern life where this would be considered credible. If someone’s car breaks down, they don’t usually think, “Who needs an ‘expert’? What I want is someone who can relate to everyday people.”

If someone needs medical attention, they don’t usually think, “All these doctors with their highfalutin science; who needs ’em?”

If someone needs to fly from one airport to another, they don’t usually think, “I don’t care if the pilot has years of training; I care if he/she is in touch with my values.”

But when it comes to government, this perspective is deemed irrelevant. With a candidate like Christine O’Donnell, voters are told that she has no background in government, knows nothing about federal policymaking, and has no working understanding of any of the issues she’d be working on — but that’s a good quality for a United States senator to have.