Monday, February 1, 2016

Democracy and the Political Machine

Tonight, voters in Iowa take the first step in determining who the next President of the United States will be. It's just the beginning of the nomination season, but already I'm tired of it. Election years can be so draining. Donald Trump has been leading the way for Republicans in the early going, and Hillary Clinton seems to have a pretty good lead over Bernie Sanders. The prospect of a Trump vs. Clinton showdown in November does not fill me with anything close to delight.

As a young adult, I was not what you would call a politically-minded person. I was vaguely aware that there were various crooks and liars vying for control of the country, but their names and faces were mostly just a blur. I didn't vote at all because I felt like I never wanted to be part of it. National politics were too far removed from me, and local politics didn't matter much because I wasn't in one stable place.

Nowadays, I'm considerably more aware of the specifics involved. There are still various crooks and liars vying for control of the country, but at least I know who some of them are now, and I can see that some are worse than others. I vote now, but mostly it's to keep someone out of office rather than to put someone in. It's always a least-of-all-evils situation. I sometimes wish I could get caught up in the magnetic pull of a candidate I really believed in, the way so many people seem to be caught up, but I've never even come close. I guess the closest I ever did get to that was Obama's first turn. The idea of someone different being in charge was a pretty nice one. He didn't look the same or speak the same, and he was so much less embarrassing on the world stage than Dubya. But people tried to make a deity of him, which set him up to fail.

He didn't quite fail - overall I think Obama did a pretty good job with what he had to work with, which was constant opposition and an increasingly circus-like atmosphere in Washington. I think he'll go down as a middle-of-the-pack president, maybe a bit better than that.

Anyway, getting to the point I wanted to make here... I'm really disheartened by the whole state of politics in this country. I'm not sure it's fixable. One of the biggest problems is the general ignorance of the population. A democracy simply can't function properly if its constituents are not educated well. I don't mean we need a nation of Rhodes Scholars. We just need people to not be completely foolish. Young Earth creationism? Really? That's a thing that a significant number of people in this country adhere to? And the so-called "anti-vaxxers"? Our anti-intellectual culture has allowed a variety of such fact-challenged worldviews to proliferate among the masses, and their influence has allowed those pulling the strings to manipulate them into voting against their own best interests time and again.

And those strings are getting tighter. All that dark money will ensure that whoever wins the seat in the Oval Office will be beholden to the interests of the elite. That, or they'll be Donald Trump, and they'll just be awful.

The ancient Greeks knew that the biggest weakness of democracy, the thing that could bring about its downfall, was an uneducated voting population. We know that now, too, of course, and that knowledge is used to keep people dumb and distracted enough that they can be manipulated more easily. I guess it's better than having a totalitarian in charge, but it's not the shining light of hope that people seem to think it is.

The United States set an awesome example for how to have a functioning nation, but it has been surpassed. In the marketplace of ideas, the US has stalled out. The framers were breakers of tradition who wanted ideas rather than people to be held up as examples. How would they feel about how often their names are used as if they are gods or saints, to be venerated like kings?

We spend too much time staring in the mirror and admiring ourselves while the rest of the world moves on. It would be so much better to spend that time figuring out how to improve.

Anyway, I'm tired and at this point I'm just ranting, probably somewhat incoherently. Maybe I'll come back and fix this post up tomorrow. Probably not. No reason to spend time fixing it when I could write another instead.

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