Matthew Yglesias writes I was too hard on Mike Pence, and I’m sorry. This is based on his early reporting 10 years ago on Bush's privatizing social security plan. "Today, more than a decade removed from the first time I met Pence, I can say that it’s actually quite common for members of Congress to have no idea what they’re talking about." He makes a very depressing point:
What I now understand is that all the factors that push individual members of Congress toward ignorance push would-be congressional leaders even further in this direction. To become a congressional leader means, first and foremost, that you need to be really good at raising money. That’s a difficult and time-consuming task, and one for which detailed policy knowledge isn’t especially helpful.
The ultimate result is legitimately bad. Congress is the most important policymaking institution in the American constitutional system. But individual members of Congress are not knowledgeable about policy and are not equipped to become knowledgeable, and becoming knowledgeable is not a good way to shift into a leadership position.
Pence may well have been dumber or more ignorant than your average member of Congress, but most fundamentally he was an integral part of a larger institutional framework that cultivates and promotes ignorance. That system, more than anything about Pence himself, is what’s really scary."