Well, politics for me has become a spectator sport, it has become less and less entertaining for me over the years, so I’m less and less interested in it. I have not voted for perhaps 20 or 25 years. But even as a spectator sport, as I say, like other sports, it’s less and less interesting to me, and I feel it’s-I’ve come to a rather cynical belief that has been held by a large number of American conservatives, beginning with the Constitutional Convention, and philosophers in Victorian England and in Athens; that there are many illusions incorporated in democratic philosophy. They tend to be very pleasing and satisfying, but they are misleading and they are fantasies. And one of them is that the democratic ideal is even possible, that there is such a thing as participatory democracy. I think one of the illusions we have, and it’s very comforting, is that by voting we are participating in government. I maintain that is a delusion, it is a ritual routine. The right to vote, I feel, is indispensable to our contentment; in application it is absolutely useless.
Joseph Heller, schrijver van de wereldvermaarde satire Catch-22, zag in 1988 al scherp wat de politiek was geworden.
Parlementaire democratie, aldus Heller, leidt ofwel tot lethargie ofwel tot populisme.
What I’m trying to say is that the emotions of people in a democratic society are no more rational than they are in any other type of society, that they are manipulated. It is the function of a leader of a democracy, if he wishes to be a leader and retain popular support, to manipulate the emotions and the ideas of the population, and in the case of the motion to invade Syracuse, which worked out in retrospect and even at the time the argument of the men opposing it was absolutely irrational, suicidal and pointless and romantic.
One of Plato’s biggest fears and one of his most severe criticisms of Athenian democracy was that — I’m trying to quote the translation accurately — was that the people would set up a popular leader to champion a popular cause. Now, to us, we would assume that that is the function of a political leader, to give the people what they want. For Plato, that would mean a chaotic government.
Heller werkt deze visie nader uit in zijn roman Picture This (1988).