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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/25/16

The Death Knell of Representative Democracy in the USA

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2017 looms less with promise and hope than dread and queasiness. When the new regime installs itself as autocratically played as Napoleon crowning himself in 1804, one feature of this election will stand out. People do not care if the issues are approached using logic, experience, data, and intelligence. Voters want to hear what results the candidates can offer, not the reasoning and planning that will bring those results, and certainly not the painfully suspect methods required to bring those results. We need to get things done! Who is best able to do that? When a country is in crisis, agility, reliability, rapidity, and audacity are the essential traits of a leader. The USA has become a demagogue's paradise.

Now, more than ever, the scourge of partisan duopoly has silenced the only means possible to avoid what will be the final step away from the people of the USA having any say in national politics. We already have had to forget about Congress. Political scientists have conclusively shown that members of Congress are twice as likely to endorse laws favored by big donors compared to laws favored by their constituents. It does not matter what proportion of the public wants any specific policy. That makes it almost a good thing that Congress has been so unproductive, since it means fewer measures favoring corporations are passed.

All that remains is who sits in the Oval Office. In one corner is the political neophyte who typically gets what he wants eventually merely by demanding it repeatedly. In the other corner is the political maven who has only gotten what she wanted three times in her life but now knows how to handle the machinery needed to make any demand a reality.

There remain two corners that offer little solace in that their occupants have less substance between them than the typical candidate for judge for surrogate's court. Believing makes it come true magic regarding the alleged futility of voting for third choices is as pervasive as Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. It is the same argument used throughout the ages to discourage people from pushing for something different if not better. People are told, far too convincingly, to sit on their hands when they are disgusted with the GOP and Democratic candidates rather than going to the polls and stating a preference, any preference other than what is being offered.

Taking that third approach is the only viable path out of this swamp. One can only go so far in trying to overcome the ignorance about nearly everything that pervades the GOP candidate's base. While there may be quite a few people hiding their support for Donald Trump from poll takers, it's likely they are not enough to tip the balance in the states in which this would be most common. On the other side, too many people remain convinced that the Democratic candidate is plausible despite the daily drips from WikiLeaks adding to the pool of information demonstrating how false that conclusion is. Enough people refuse to accept that the Clinton campaign has been engaging in Nixonian dirty tricks since Spring 2015 at least that we can almost see a complete repeat of 1972-74, landslide and all.

To this comparative political scientist, the evidence is overwhelming. We are witnessing the exact same polarization and power struggles that occurred at the end of Republican Rome, Restoration France, Imperial China, Tsarist Russia, Weimar Germany, the Soviet Union, and twice under the Stuarts in England. Unfortunately, the docent who can be counted upon to use the study of the particular in order to grasp the attributes of the general and apply them to subsequent cases has no hold over the shaping of political discourse in this country. Even if he did, expertise is, if anything, a reason to deride the logical use of facts in this political environment. The briefest foray into that environment leads to only one conclusion, that Cassandra's plight is alive and well.

Almost all Americans paying the least bit of attention to the election have split the doctrines of the Know-Nothing Party between them and embraced the ones they found most appealing. A good sixty percent or so of the populace wish only to have our nation operated by figureheads (one is tempted to say "bobble heads"). Whether they are prepared or not to issue orders and make decisions in the Oval Office hardly seems relevant when both major candidates are making the election out to be one about the style of leadership the country needs, not the substance of governing necessary to rescue the country from its impending doom.

Our politicians are preyed upon by employees of organizations that claim to be involved in gathering and broadcasting news, but have forgone the basics of journalism in favor of looking for the most popular method of holding up any incident as compelling evidence of one thing or another. Where once reality was observed and fitted into our understanding of the world, what is sold as news now is anecdote peddled as synecdoche. Every utterance of public figures, every recurrence of gun violence, every instance of brutality represents the Problem in today's world. Equally, evidence that contradicts the assumptions of Trump's deplorables, Hillbots, or Bernie-or-busters is a clay pigeon waiting to be shattered by a spray of deeply offended shot.

Any use of incidents as examples of a broader pattern, even when those incidents appear to occur randomly but demonstrate a troubling consistency, is fraught with difficulty because explanation by way of examples has ceased to hold any meaning. Every action or event has its own idiosyncratic spin like bosons, with no two being able to exist in the same quantum of space. Conversely, when every occurrence is similar to every other, such as Donald Trump's pronouncements on any subject, we can all be assured that everyone, except those deplorables, draws the same conclusion. Or rather, anyone who does not must be a deplorable himself.

What is even more bizarre is that people are complaining about the timing of when information becomes public and the motivations of those making the information public. Why does it matter? A lot of people initially did not believe or did not want to believe Woodward and Bernstein. The problem was that it came out during the election campaign against a candidate who could rightfully say he had, in the past, been wrongfully challenged about his ethics. As a result, Nixon landed a handy landslide. All that left us with was eighteen months or so of painful discussion about the involvement of the White House in the Watergate break-in. Would a McGovern presidency have been better for the country? Possibly not actually. He was a rather weak leader.

Facts are facts. Nothing in this world can ever make up for the various times in which Hillary Clinton has demonstrated her condescension toward true progressives, her unchanging focus on being elected president for sixteen years, her deal-making regarding the Iraq War vote that sums up her incapacity to represent New York State effectively in the Senate, her ruinous hubris as Colin Powell described it, and her efforts to cover up the truly wrong things she has done by using the inept attacks of the right as proof that she can't possibly be doing anything wrong. Indeed, the GOP, Tea Party, and Donald Trump have consistently picked the wrong things to criticize about Clinton, which makes perfect sense because they are far from being considered rational, intelligent opponents. They are so bad they chose Trump as their standard bearer. Their ineptitude should not, however, give Clinton a free pass to the White House.

Any right-thinking person ought to be able to see that this situation requires an upwelling of participation by everyone who does not want the lesser of two evils. There is a reason the people most knowledgeable about political analysis are shaking their heads in disgust and wondering what it will take for Americans to see that their political system really does need to be overhauled. The only thing that defines if a goal is realistic is if it is achieved.

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Bear Kosik is a political scientist by training. His Remaking Democracy in America was published in the fall of 2018 by Stairway Press. Well-received science fiction novels (two under Hugh Dudley) are available on Amazon. Several screenplays (more...)

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