I'm a Mark Steyn groupie, and I'm not about to let anyone up on the pedestal with him. Nevertheless, there are other opinion writers who come awfully close, and Jonah Goldberg is one of them. I was hooked after I read this column introduction and, by the end, completely reminded about the danger of populism and (I added in my own mind, since Goldberg didn't touch on it) its cousin, demagoguery:
Politics has a math of its own. Whereas a scientifically minded person might see things this way: One person who says 2+2=5 is an idiot; two people who think 2+2=5 are two idiots; and a million people who think 2+2=5 are a whole lot of idiots—political math works differently. Let’s work backwards: if a million people think 2+2=5, then they are not a million idiots, but a “constituency.” If they are growing in number, they are also a “movement.” And, if you were not only the first person to proclaim 2+2=5, but you were the first to persuade others, then you, my friend, are not an idiot, but a visionary.
Of course, idiocy and its distribution in the population isn’t the point. You can build a movement out of true observations—i.e. 2+2=4—as well. The point is that political power flows from numbers and, more importantly, that such power becomes self-justifying for those who enjoy its effects. Passion becomes more “legitimate” as more people share it, no matter what the content or object of that passion is. Any unified field theory of politics would have to include this basic law of the political universe. It is true in democracies and dictatorships alike. Like the laws of gravity or thermodynamics, it can be exploited or minimized. But it cannot be repealed. It is a constant of the human condition.
Again, this is one where I urge you to read the whole thing.