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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Why you may not have noticed that America ended

We tend to forget and ignore those voices that have thought democracy cannot work.  But after the election of Donald Trump as president, those voices have taken on a new relevance.  Whereas the  U.S. was once held up as the living proof that democracy, although messy and cumbersome, can work,  since the reign of Donald Trump it is held up as evidence that it doesn't.

While thinkers have probed the weakness of the democratic ideal since Plato, one of the most commanding voices to express doubt about the efficacy of democracy was Thomas Carlyle's.  He said:

I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
Democracy will prevail when men believe the vote of Judas as good as that of Jesus Christ.
Published 2016
A book published last year by a Georgetown professor is one of the latest examinations of why democracy is not the blessing we like to think it is.   Jason Brennan contends:

But democracy is the rule of the ignorant and the irrational, and it all too often falls short. Furthermore, no one has a fundamental right to any share of political power, and exercising political power does most of us little good. On the contrary, a wide range of social science research shows that political participation and democratic deliberation actually tend to make people worse—more irrational, biased, and mean.
The election of Donald Trump, after a campaign of displaying all the traits that are the opposite of the values our country once professed, proved Brennan's point.  Irrational rejection of science,  lying, defamation, and most expressions of debased character became the operating principles of the nation.   After Trump's constant exposure, the people who voted for him were either knowingly voting for his degenerate values or were too stupid to know what they were doing. That has caused a split in the American people which cannot be reconciled because it is not a political divide:   it is a split over basic values of decency.

After winning some elections Tuesday throughout the nation,  Democrats are claiming a resurgence and a reunification.  They do so with a foolish disregard of their own turmoil.  The contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has produced a strain of hatred for Hillary Clinton that parallels the malice and mindless rage of Trump's defamations against her.   Many Democrats are repulsed and dismayed by this fall into degradation and choose to disassociate themselves from those who indulge in it.

And that leads to the status of Democrats in South Dakota.   I have written many times about the diminishing number of Democrats I noted when  I was the keeper of the list of most active party members.  While attrition, including moving out of state, accounted for much of the loss, there was a significant number of people who simply dropped out of active participation.  In some cases, people told me that the social experiences and treatment they received at Democratic functions was not something they wanted to put up with.  These experiences were connected with the tactics and internal manipulations by people within the party.  When people within a party display conniving and mean-girl behavior,  they call into question the integrity of the party as a whole.  And this not only drives people away from the party, but it calls into question all political activity.  People give up on politics as a degrading experience.

South Dakota's voter registration figures illustrate the trend.  In the chart below the Republicans comprise 46 percent of the voters, the Democrats 30 percent, and independent-non-affiliated 22 percent.  While the Republicans have added voters,  as the Democratic rolls have diminished, the largest surge is in the independent registrations.  

Current Statewide Voter Registration Totals
DemocratRepublicanConstitutionLibertarianNPA/IND*Other**Total Active VotersTotal Inactive Voters
Tuesday's elections were considered referendums on Trump.  The Democrats should not be so foolish as to consider a rejection of Trump as a success of their party, when they often display the same kind of behavior as Trump and the GOP does.  

Increasing numbers of voters are repulsed by the entire political enterprise as it has been conducted of late, and the Democrats have contributed to the growing perception that democracy as it is practiced is not working.  People who do politics are perceived as not very nice people--ignorant, irrational, biased, and mean.  

There are alternatives to Democrats and Republicans, and informed people are exploring them.  Brennan suggests "epistocracy" which means governing by the knowledgeable.  American democracy has lost the belief and trust it once had.  The election of Trump has proven that Americans are as susceptible to moral and intellectual failure as the Germans of the 1930s.  American democracy, as we have come to understand it, is going out of business.  

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States