If you’re a traditional Republican in Arkansas, you have a terrible choice to make Nov. 8.
Consumed by your fear of what President Hillary – whom you don’t trust at all – can do to shape the Supreme Court for the next 25 years, and anguished over how she would lead the country, you might pull the lever for Donald Trump.
Yet inside, you suspect he is mentally unfit, marginally unstable and wildly uninformed for the job.
You’ll be hoping that (somehow) he will be controlled by his handlers (against all evidence), and he will “shake things” up in Washington without breaking them, and the country will be better off.
Your worst fear is that he’ll go nuts and drop a tactical nuclear weapon on ISIS, or some other rogue actor, claiming he is defending his (and your) honor trying to “make America great again.”
But, if you’re a Democrat, or an Independent, don’t be too smug, because the frightening reality is this:
Trump isn’t a one off.
There is another Trump coming unless America’s political and media culture changes significantly.
And the next Trump will probably win.
That Trump could just as easily come from the left and be a Democrat, a communist, a socialist (remember Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, all voices of the people).
Zealots and demagogues come from both sides of the political spectrum and arise when the system is broken, people are worn out, and they want change.
Reality TV Stars, Political Pundits, The Mad Prophet
Trump is the logical successor to Sarah Palin.
In the 2008 race, she was a telegenic, politically hungry, clueless, inept vice presidential candidate who quickly rose to national fame because the new and old media was obsessed with her.
The “national media” is no longer a handful of major networks, but instead, 320 million Americans, almost all on smart phones, logged on 24/7/365, blogging, tweeting, texting, Facebooking, Pinteresting, Instagramming, and Googling their brains out.
The two-party system arose from the interaction of newspapers and the emerging political party structure. The Internet, coupled with the smartphone that Apple launched in 2007, has deeply eroded both parties’ control.
Cable news networks, meanwhile, hungry for ratings, are devolving into entertainment shows similar to Network‘s vision.
Without Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, and the media’s slavish attention to his 3 a.m. Tweets, he wouldn’t have won the nomination.
Compounding the problem, the vast percentage of voters have little meaningful knowledge of history, economics, agriculture, culture, the humanities, science, et cetera.
Yet, voters know something is wrong ~ the stagnation of the middle class, the increasing inequality in the country.
The voters want change.
Together, the forces of globalization, the fragility of the financial system, and the dominance of an elite class have created a precarious balance.
Without well-educated, independent minded citizens, democracies are susceptible to demagogues.
We’ve seen the Arab Spring turn into the civil war in Syria, the near anarchy in Libya, the new dictatorship in Egypt, the terror of ISIS.
None of this should surprise us.
The danger of democracy
In his seminal book on politics, The Republic, published in 380 B.C, Plato worried that unbridled democracies inevitably degenerate into dictatorships.
“Tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy,” he wrote.
America was a sharply curtailed “representative democracy” with limited voting rights when it was founded 240 years ago. Today, it is a mass democracy where the qualifications to vote are, essentially: American citizen ship, either by birth or paperwork; age of majority; clean criminal record; registered to vote.
There are no other criteria.
You don’t have to: pass a test; know how to make a law; know the purpose of law; know U.S. history; understand basic economics. Literacy is optional.
And your vote counts as much as the next person’s.
It wasn’t always that way (see chart below).
He mowed down his un-media savvy opponents and hijacked the Republican Party with a level of political dialogue unprecedented in American politics.
He now has an outside shot at getting his hands on the nuclear codes, becoming commander in chief of the most powerful armed services organization in the world, and directing millions of federal employees on his payroll.
Call it the summer blockbuster of 2016, Trump versus Clinton: Democracy In Peril.
The deeper point is this: We seem unable to clean out the political corruption of our government from money and lobbyists.
We have lost perspective on what it means to vote, to elect public officials, and to inform ourselves as citizens.
Inevitably, we’ll smack into this wall of national dysfunction that we have built, a wall far more damaging than anything Mr. Trump ever imagined.
Maybe then the realization of the destruction we have wrought will shake us from our complacency. Then what?
For reference, see:
1. Network https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_(film)
2. Andrew Sullivan, nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/america-tyranny-donald-trump.html
3. Eric Hoffer, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_Believer
4. The History of Fascism, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism
5. The Mind of Donald Trump, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/the-mind-of-donald-trump/480771/
6. Game Change, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_Change
7. Plato, The Republic, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_(Plato)