“Democracies fail when people lose faith in them and elites abandon their norms for pure political advantage.”
One Donald J. Trump has exploited this dynamic as unconscionably as any figure since…honestly, no one within my political experience has ever reduced complex, structural problems to bullshit and conspiracy quite like Trump has.
I can’t out-do Larry Diamond’s article on this subject on any level, so I won’t bother. I can only encourage anyone who hits this post to read it. I’ve talked about the ahistorical growth and peculiar circumstances that made what we call American exceptionalism in posts that…well, I will kill shortly (look, they weren’t that good anyway; also, too damn rambling and long).
I’ve long held this theory that, for all the rhetoric about “freedom,” I don’t experience my life all that differently from some random, roughly middle-class guy from China. Sure, he can’t get on Chinese twitter (aka, Weibo) and rail against the syphilitic bastard who’s running for national office – or even against the party hack who will in all likelihood lead us into the Bland New World – but he, like me, wakes up and goes to work every morning, probably by way of a shitty and overlong commute. When he gets there, he will carefully monitor what he says, if for different reasons, and he’ll go home at night, maybe read a book, maybe drink too much, maybe jack off, maybe watch a movie slightly less interesting than what I can pull up (then again, in the era of never-ending superhero movies, does that even hold?), but, at the end of it all, he’ll curl up next to his wife, kiss her goodnight, fall asleep and do it all over again.
There is a difference between the U.S. and China, though, and it comes with elections, e.g. the alleged mechanism for accountability, the means to call to account public officials who abuse the public trust through their actions in office. In a hyper-partisan era, it’s worth questioning how well that feedback loop works at all; by that I mean, the public screams for “change” in every election, but they never ask for it and /or get screwed out of it by way of the available options. And maybe that’s why “people lose faith.”
By way of answering that, I’d argue that politics aren’t so much unresponsive as they’re responding to hundreds of thousands of signals, if not millions, which makes the response necessarily vague. Where politicians can help, however, is by being honest and being ethical. The value each individual politician has put on that in recent years is enough, frankly, to make me wonder if I wouldn't be better off in China. And, jesus, god, I wish I was joking. The point is, the politicians on offer seem less and less ethical with each passing day, and it feels like Star Trek promised me that the future would look, like, a lot better, but it doesn't. It looks more and more dystopian and orange every goddamn day, so, yeah, China. Then again, that also has a lot to do with “us” and how we, The People, respond when we hear the truth (one example).
What I believe, and fervently, is that Trump, and Trumpism, isn’t the answer. It’s just a bigger, dumber lie.