Democracy is not a popularity contest

The old ‘blame the voters’ trick. You either believe in democracy, or you don’t.

Not so fast friend! There is a reason political philosophers including America’s founding fathers where skeptical towards democracy. Through all ages political thinkers have been afraid of precisely the kind of demagogues represented by Donald Trump. Let me quote professor Thomas Jewett writing about Thomas Jeffersson.

He placed education as the foundation of democracy and a prerequisite to vote. Ignorance and sound self-government could not exist together: the one destroyed the other. A despotic government could restrain its citizens and deprive the people of their liberties only while they were ignorant. Jefferson could never completely separate education from government.

We have seen this time and again across the world. Just holding an election does not turn a country into a democracy. Perhaps the most obvious examples of that would be places like Afghanistan and Iraq. But the problem is evident in almost any developing country which has begun the path to democracy.

An educated and well informed electorate is key to a functioning democracy. You cannot have real democracy in an idiocracy.

If you have ever spent some time in one you will see that elections is almost handled as transfer of power from one dictator to another. Every time leadership is changed, all key government positions are filled up by loyalists and supporters, as payment for their support and loyalty. Next it is all about abusing the newly gained powers to make sure you stay in power for another period. Doling one favors to loyalists and punishing those disloyal. Competence, moral fibre and honesty is never rewarded.

Disinformation campaigns and propaganda is pushed to convince voters to keep you in power. Why do you think Putin always wins elections? Formally Russia is a democracy, yet the odds are stacked firmly against anybody who isn’t Putin. These places are not complete dictatorships. Putin’s Russia is not like China, or the former Soviet Union. There is actually an opposition.

This is the kind of leader Donald Trump is. He treats leadership and democracy much like leaders in struggling third world democracies. Ironically as a leader he has more in common with the leaders of countries he likes to call “shitholes” than leaders of actual modern western democracies. It is no coincidence that he gets along better with autocrats like Putin, Erdogan, Mohammad Bin Salman and Kim Jong-un, while his relationship with western democratic leaders such as Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron is terrible.

He get the autocrats because they think like him. He doesn’t get modern western leaders because they don’t think like him. They don’t have the same values as him.

So no, democracy isn’t merely about winning elections. If that was the case we should regard Putin and Erdogan as highly respected democratic leaders. They are not, and neither is Trump. In all cases their ascent to power is the result of a dysfunctional state. The US is very much a dysfunctional state. One needs only to look at the constant school shootings, excessive violence, violent riots, protests that erupts almost yearly. The conspiracy theories which spread rampantly into the mainstream constantly. A political discourse which is a complete circus and not worthy of a western democracy.

Obama won two terms, voted in by the same ignorant, desperate, bigoted, ill-informed electorate presumably. Or the electorate just got real stupid, real fast.

The electorate has always had problems. There was no overwhelming support for Obama. In fact Trump is very much an outcome of the intense hatred the festered among the electorate that didn’t pick Obama during the Obama years. The people going in huge marches. The attacks on Obama where relentless all through his years.

The same shitty party of the electorate which elected George W. Bush and almost picked Sarah Palin was quite eager to go to a new low by picking Donald J. Trump. The part of the electorate that picked Obama are now out in the street doing their best to protest Trump’s attempt at turning America into a third world failed democracy.

All politicians lie, Biden is legendary for it.

Ah that old tactic. Stalin, Hitler and Biden all lied so they are the same. Sure. Let us relativize, so nothing matters. Magnitude matters. Normal politicians like Biden may exaggerate and occasionally tell a lie when pushed up against the wall. All of us lie at times. But this is very different from being a compulsive liar. For Donald Trump, narcissists and psychopaths lying is like breathing air. They will lie, even when it is obviously a lie and when it doesn’t even benefit them. Lying is so natural and cost so little to them, that they will just do it as a matter of course.

Can you blame people for voting for a successful candidate?

My whole point was that he never was successful. It was all built on lies, swindles, cons, deceit and corruption. Al Capone was also “successful,” would you vote on him?

Success is contagious, if someone is good at one discipline, there’s a high possibility that will translate to another field.

The problem is that Americans almost exclusively measure success in monetary terms. There is no phrase more characteristic of the American psychic than:

If you are so smart, how come you are not rich?

By this logic, Albert Einstein was not smart, nor Alan Turing and a host of other brilliant minds in our history. When judging the intelligence of a person you should listen to what he says. How well he articulates himself. How well he or she can reflect and display an understanding of a topic at depth. You don’t judge it by the size of their bank account.

This is how Americans where so easily deceived. They picked an obvious simpleton has leader because they mistakenly though intelligence is measured in the size of your bank account. And why else did Donald J Trump keep his tax returns a closely guarded secret? Because it would have exposed that he was pretty a much a failure in the business world. Decades of massive losses eating away at the enormous fortune his dad passed on to him.

Not to mention the pile of Russian money he held on to. Anybody can come across as rich on massive piles of borrowed money.

CNN is the most criminally biased network in existence.

What is it with you people and CNN? You are so fixated by this channel. If you think it is so bad, why do you spend so much time watching it? I personally don’t know CNN well, but from what I have seen I don’t get what you beef is. Surely it utterly pales in comparison to the train-wreck that is FOX News.

I know e.g. when CNN reports from my part of the world it is not too far away from the truth. However when FOX News reports, it is just one outrageous lie and distortion after the other. I guess the bank on their typical viewer not holding a passport and never actually traveling to the foreign countries they serve up one lie after the other about.

I am sure the old rulers in Kremlin would have picked FOX over Pravda. Seldom have we seen such effective propaganda for the rulers as enacted by FOX. But should we be surprised? After all FOX literally picked Trump as president.

To be clear I know that my writing doesn’t convince you one iota of my perspective. It is a difficult balance. On one end I would love to contribute to less political polarization and bringing people together. On the other hand I feel a certain obligation to put in plain terms how horrible I think Donald Trump is. I don’t want to be remembered as someone who downplayed or trivialized the threat he represented to the world order and democracy.

Had we sat down with a couple of beers I would have put in more effort to be understanding of your perspective, and find some common ground, but I am only human, and social media sometimes brings the worst out in people.

Written by

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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