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Peter Beinart has been at The New Republic since 1999, where he is a journalist and editor-at-large. He is also a contributor to Time magazine and writes a monthly column[…]

Ultimately, the people have the power.

Question: Who has the power in Washington?

Peter Beinart: It’s a complicated dynamic to understand who really wields power; but I think as a general rule what one can say is the less . . . that ultimately people . . . Elected officials are ultimately empowered by the people who elect them. When those people who elect them are very engaged and active in a kind of a . . . in a . . . in a large scale way, it gives the people who represent them a lot of power, vis-à-vis unelected . . . unelected people. But when the people are by and large passive and not involved, then I think the balance tips in favor of . . . of . . . of non-elected . . . of non-elected . . . non-elected forces. And so I think that the . . . the . . . the key is how energized and active is the citizenry. When the citizenry is more energized and active, then I think their democratic representatives . . . their democratic representatives have to listen to them, but are also empowered by them. When they are not, I think that this . . . the void is filled by . . . by non-elected figures who have influence often because of their financial power.

Recorded on: 9/12/07