Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Might Mob Rule Trump Democracy?
Our word for today is "ochlocracy."
Say "ah-CLOCK-rah-see," and you're saying the technical term for "the fickle crowd," from the Latin phrase mobile vulgus.
Up until last fall, it was commonly known as "mob rule." These days, however, you could also say "Trump presidency," and mean the same thing.
Whether Donald Trump wins the United States presidency or not, Americans have been polarized by the brash billionaire's brazen style of rambunctious politics. Even more troubling, however, has been the unbridled adulation many otherwise sane voters have been lavishing upon the megalomaniacal real estate developer. This year's race to fill the White House isn't over, but no matter who wins, it's obvious that mob rule is a concept with which a vast section of our populace is unapologetically fascinated.
Nobody can seem to recall a candidate for such a high office that has been able to profess lust for his own daughter, boast of his serial adultery, taunt the handicapped, deploy strings of insubstantial superlatives and let them masquerade as facts, and call for the elimination of the Bill of Rights as we know it - and see his popularity only balloon in the process. Trump supporters claim to be conservatives, but they don't care that he's built and owned casinos. They don't care about his personal life that is sleazy by anybody's definition. They don't care about his bigotry, his bullying, his tyrannical suppositions for how the Oval Office operates, or his inability to articulate any coherent public policy.
The only logic anybody can detect in Trump's campaign is that he knows how to spew loquacious diatribes full of catch phrases, sound bites, hot button topics, and sassy buzzwords that resonate with the baser instincts of voters Trump himself teases tend to be poorly-educated.
Within his mob-rule hordes, what Trump is doing they call "telling it like it is." Which says more negative things about them than their candidate, frankly.
Little of what Trump offers in terms of his proposed goals as president are realistic. He's either directly contravening the Constitution - a document he and his followers profess to adore - or ignorant of how our three branches of government interrelate. He's fuzzy when it comes to things the federal government does, and what responsibilities states have. He displays no interest in or comprehension of international diplomacy, he rarely offers ideas to pay for some of his grander schemes, and when he does offer ideas - like building a giant wall along our border with Mexico - he seems to be serious when he says he'll make the Mexicans pay for it.
Unfazed, Trump's fans eat this all up, betraying their own cluelessness about the scope of Americas problems, how these problems got started in the first place, and what it will take to actually fix them. It's as if we now have a generation of American voters who have been raised on a strict diet of Rush Limbaughisms about American superiority and the evils of liberalism, devoid of any responsibility on the part of genuine right-wingers for any of America's current predicament.
From the outside, it looks kinda like the same metric of "my-way-or-the-highway" fascism that got Europe into so much trouble a century ago. But remind Trump and his supporters of facts from world history, and they'll scoff as if you were spouting fairy tales.
It's amazing, actually, that the same people who claim to so revere the American way of life can display scant comprehension of how complex our democracy has become. For example, a country doesn't simply build a cross-continental wall, or evict millions of people, without provoking profound disruptions to its economy and crippling its role in international affairs. But try explaining this to Trump and his supporters, and you'll be labeled an obstructionist.
If it were only a handful of Americans who embraced such bizarre political fantasies as Trump's, they could be disregarded as a marginal cohort of malcontents and blowhards. But lots and lots of people appear to be enamored by Trump's pugnaciousness and hubris. To them, Trump represents a rage against the machine that is Washington, DC. Trump is the breath of fresh air that will blow money and security over our land. His may be the most ridiculous mishmash of pie-in-the-sky hyperbole, but his supporters seem so desperate to believe him, they don't care how loopy he sounds.
Legitimate democracy, on the other hand, rarely works as easily as Trump's mob wishes it would. Nobody gets everything they want in a democracy. Patience is essential in a democracy, as are compromise and diligence. Plenty of other presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle misunderstand this as well, but at least they're not making buffoons out of the American electorate with their insistence that mob rule will work better. And that's what Trump and his minions are calling for: mob rule.
With mob rule, equal protection under the law doesn't exist. The Bill of Rights becomes more fable than fact. Power comes not through reason, but through intimidation. Emotion rules; not logic, or practicality, or fairness, or even wealth. After all, the presidency won't inflate Donald Trump's wealth. He's spending some of his own money on this race, instead of loaning himself out to so-called special interests; and yes, even his detractors admit that's an admirable strategy. But if he wins, this is his prize: He'll get to bully a whole lotta people, and that apparently really stokes his ego.
Sure, Trump has the right to run for president. And yes, Americans have the right to vote for him, no matter what kind of statement they're making of themselves in doing do. So far, Trump hasn't said or done anything illegal, and as far as his supporters are concerned, it's not against the law to be uneducated about how government works.
But let's not be fooled into thinking that mob rule is the same as democracy. There's a lot more to a legitimate democracy than being able to vote a blustery billionaire into office.
Hopefully America won't have to learn that the hard way.