Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Blowing Off Steam - Is Democracy at Fault?



Is Democracy at Fault

Usually, the “bottom line” appears at the end of a lengthy article.  Today I will start off with the “bottom line.” Everything that is wrong with Donald Trump doesn’t matter.  His 33% approval rating doesn’t matter.  The Republicans can tolerate that.  If he is impeached or chooses not to run in 2020, they will be relieved because his logical replacement, Mike Pence,  has far less troublesome baggage dragging along with him.  The important thing, the “bottom line,” is that the Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, because of the gullible voters who supported “super-salesman” Trump at the ballot box, have been able work toward “deconstructing” half a century of American progress and start building a program in all three branches of our government to benefit some corporations and most importantly, the very, very, very wealthy who fund their campaigns, people I sometimes refer to as “almost-anarchists.”  That’s the “bottom line” and it makes me sick.  We are headed back to 1932, before FDR was elected.  



But here goes with what I have to say today:

  

Donald J. Trump is what he is, just as all of us are what we are.  That cannot be helped.  All we can do is to try to do our best, given the skills and abilities we have.

The President is a super-salesman and as do all super-salesmen, he believes fervently in himself and what he is selling. Such sales people often do this to the point where they no longer recognize the difference between veracity and hyperbole. Sometimes they become so involved in their “pitch” that they do not even have a full understanding of what it is they are selling. This is par for the course with some crackerjack salespeople; I think any of us who have bought an automobile or a home understand this, and accept it. 

But is it acceptable when that salesman is our head of State and continues to lead a life punctuated by hyperbole, often walking the tightrope between truth and downright lying?  As great a salesman as Donald Trump is, his skill set as a promoter and salesman lacks the attributes needed for the job he now holds. He is not promoting a real estate development, running a beauty pageant nor appearing on a “reality” TV program.  He is the President of the United States, making him responsible to and for the entire nation, where he gets no points for hyperbole and cannot get away with half-truths.  

How did it come to pass, then, that Trump ended up in the White House?  Where does the blame lay for putting an incompetent in the White House and thereby endangering the future of the nation?

Some of it should be placed on the “almost-anarchists” in the Republican Party who believe in as little government as possible.  Grover Norquist for years advocated "drowning government in a bathtub."  


They concede the need for armed forces to defend the country and some sort of revenue to support them, but see little need for government to do anything else.  Many of these people were raised on a diet of Ayn Rand’s phony libertarian political theories.  

Really, these Republicans survive only with the support of the very wealthy, also “almost-anarchists,” who don’t want to pay the taxes needed to enable government to function on any more than the minimal level mentioned above.  They see no need whatsoever for government to play social or economic roles in what they happily envision as a totally laissez-faire, free enterprise, unregulated nation, a place where their accumulated wealth will never be threatened.  These people are the ones who fund institutions, campaigns and candidates who espouse these ideas.  They share the blame.  But not all of it.

The bulk of the blame for Trump, however, rests on the American people who repeatedly elect candidates whose positions on issues are usually counter to measures which would benefit them!  

This blame rests upon the gullibility and ignorance of the American voter who voted for Trump and the Republicans, and there are about 62 million of them. 


To better understand this, one must watch Fox News, particularly when they interview Trump voters, some of whom still walk around with those silly red “Make America Great” hats.  These people epitomize ignorance and gullibility, have been terribly used, and are more to be pitied than scorned. The "evangelicals" among them who seem to ignore their religion's teachings when they vote are the most naive of Trump's supporters.  (Only when they go to meet their Maker will they become aware of the errors of their ways.)  Watch Fox News for a while and learn from what the nation is suffering. 

But getting back to where this piece started, the problem is not Donald Trump.  He is merely the result of the malfunctioning of the workings of democracy in our republic.

Two things essential to the successful operation of a democracy are (1) an unfettered, objective and most importantly, an honest free press and (2) an educated electorate.  Stretching the definition of “a free press” to include all media, printed or electronic, one might conclude that we no longer have such an institution.  There is a lot which passes for part of a “free press” which is totally lacking in credibility.  Calling "truth" fake news and reporting "lies" in the guise of truth has compromised the role of a free press.

The same goes for an educated electorate.  Education at all levels in this country has deteriorated precipitously. We pay teachers poorly. Public schools are becoming secondary to opinionated private institutions and home schooling.  Real literacy and knowledge of who we are and what our country is all about are no longer prime goals of eduction. While technology is important, it should not be emphasized at the expense of liberal arts, including the social sciences.  Those who are ignorant of history, it has been said, are doomed to relive it.  And Americans are woefully deficient in their knowledge of history as well as needing a lesson in what used to be called “civics.”

Thus, lacking a credible free media and a well educated electorate, it appears that democracy can no longer work effectively in the United States.  The presence of Republicans majorities in Congress, and Donald Trump in the White House prove the case. The people put them there even though their programs were not in their own interest! The people supported candidates who are philosophically dedicated to the “deconstruction” of our government for the benefit of the “almost-anarchists” who want, for the sake of preserving their wealth, to be free from the yoke of government.  Sounds stupid, but millions of American voters see it that way.

And because they were elected democratically, it must be that it is “democracy” which is at fault.   
The United States embarked upon a great experiment in democracy in 1789 and since then, it has worked pretty wellRight now it is sputtering and it is up to us to fix whatever is wrong.  Us....  that means you and me.
 
And here are two brief recommendations to help you in this task.  First, watch “Morning Joe” (MSNBC) for thirty minutes any morning you choose.  Then switch to Fox News (FNCHD) for a like amount of time to watch “Fox and Friends.”  The comparison will be a great learning experience.   And if it is too late in the day to watch these early morning programs, check out a recent E.J. Dionne column pointing out what is happening to our government by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.  And now, go back to the top of this article to read “the bottom line” for this article.

Addendum: So eventually we may impeach him, or he will resign to avoid impeachment.  If that happens, it will be to the great relief of the Republican Party which has been ashamed of him since the day he took office.  But as I have said above, it won’t matter.  The forces of darkness have been given control the Supreme Court for the next few decades and for the time being, evil-doers will control both Houses of Congress as well. The currently pending tax reform bill, a givaway to the wealthy, proves this.  The only thing we can do about it is bend every effort to help Democrats wrest seats in the Senate and in the House from the Republicans in 2018 and 2020.  Because of state-controlled gerrymandering, that will be a daunting task insofar as the House is concerned.  Democrats must take over State legislatures as well to remedy this.  In view of the enormous amounts of “dark money” (please read the book with that title by Jane Mayer) that is available to the evil-doers, these tasks will not be accomplished in my lifetime. 


      
                                                                                    The future

Jack Lippman


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