Conor Friedersdorf has a great post today on the importance of open governance to democracy. People cannot “meaningfully decide” whether or not they should support a leader if they do not know the policies s/he pursues in secrecy. To put it another way, how valuable is your ability to choose your leaders if you don’t actually know what they stand for?
This relates to Andrew Sullivan’s defense last month of President Obama’s “long game.” Leaving aside that Sullivan got facts wrong and presented others misleadingly to posit Obama has adopted and successfully implemented a long game strategy, his defense of Obama embraces secrecy and faith in the leader. It is fundamentally undemocratic.
Sullivan’s theory precludes serious critique of Obama because it posits that Obama hides his true intentions. Plus, it assumes that Obama knows best; he always has great intentions, but in the long game you have to “appear” as if you are breaking actual promises or betraying your values to hope to get close to achieving them. Where does the long game begin? I would guess from even before the election if I took Sullivan seriously. And if that were true, then you the voter–the purported sovereign of the American Republic–may have voted for Obama because during his campaign because he said he would do X while in fact he always intended Y (Y = the realistic goal in the “long game”). Obama was actually playing the “long game” during the campaign, because he knows what’s best for you.
In a democracy, the people should have a say in the policies of their country. Secrecy and retrospective “long game” defenses do not allow that.