Blaming ‘Too Much Democracy’ for Trump

The latest lament of the neocon establishment is that America is suffering from too much democracy – leading to Donald Trump – but the opposite is more to the point, how elite manipulation set this stage, explains Mike Lofgren.

By Mike Lofgren

British expatriate writer Andrew Sullivan recently returned to the public eye with a piece that has aroused considerable comment, some of it reasonably on point, and some bloviatingly incoherent.

What is all the fuss about? Sullivan, in critiquing the Donald Trump phenomenon and the political factors that gave rise to it, makes a few good points, but buries them under a ridiculous premise: The culprit responsible for Trump is too much democracy, and the cure is more elite control of the political process.

Writer Andrew Sullivan

Writer Andrew Sullivan

Sullivan gets everything backward. It is as if a safety inspector had gone aboard RMS Titanic, minutely examined her watertight hatches, boiler and steam turbine, and then declared her safe because he judged that the lack of lifeboats reduced the chances of capsizing from too much top weight.

In a nutshell, Sullivan attributes Trump’s nomination for the presidency by one of our two major parties to the rise of what he calls “hyperdemocracy.” Accompanying this alleged excess of democracy is a mania for equality that leads to all manner of pointless leveling of social classes along with an undermining of authority.

As chief witness for the prosecution, he calls to the stand no less than Plato, who argued that the ripening of democracy births manifold horrors like gender equality, the treatment of foreigners as equals, an abatement of cruelty to animals, and the rich mingling freely with the poor.

One wonders if Sullivan could have cited a more relevant critic of the contemporary political system of a continent-sized nation with 320 million people than a metaphysician dwelling in a tiny city-state more than 2,400 years ago. And a rather implausible critic at that: the bedrock of Plato’s philosophy was his belief that physical objects and events are mere shadows of their ideal forms, which exist only insofar as they crudely simulate the perfect idealizations of themselves.

This kind of patently silly epistemology may make for a great debate topic at the Oxford Union, but it’s hardly a usable tool for analyzing the world around us. Sullivan might better have used the testimony of Alexis de Tocqueville, who at least laid eyes on the political system he was critiquing. Sullivan produces as his killer quote a passage of Plato’s that sounds like a half-senile Fox News viewer grumbling about kids these days.

Serious thinkers like Karl Popper, who experienced the rise of fascism up close and personal, have considered Platonism not as a model for human society, but as an absolutist philosophy that buttresses a totalitarian mindset.

Sullivan employs the arguments of a profoundly anti-democratic elitist who held that wise philosopher kings ought to rule over the riffraff. But is his specific charge true that too much democracy is responsible for Trump’s Mongol devastation of the Party of Lincoln, allegedly because during the 1970s the parties adopted direct primaries as a substitute for the selection of candidates by party bosses? The evidence is wanting.

Hyperdemocracy or Elective Oligarchy?

Let us suppose our presidential nominees were still chosen for us via the smoke-filled room (a method known in Sullivan’s mother country as the old-boy system). In 2016, on the Democratic side, our nominee would be Hillary Clinton. On the GOP side it would be Jeb Bush, a truly exciting prospect.

President George W. Bush is introduced by his brother Florida Gov. Jeb Bush before delivering remarks at Sun City Center, Florida, on May 9, 2006. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

President George W. Bush is introduced by his brother Florida Gov. Jeb Bush before delivering remarks at Sun City Center, Florida, on May 9, 2006. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

In reality, of course, we have the direct primary system, but it has hardly given rise to a mob-instigated revolution: for 28 of the last 36 years, a Bush or a Clinton has occupied the presidency or the vice presidency, and we still have in Hillary the thrilling potential for a further eight years of the same dynastic dyad.

The other institutional features of Sullivan’s alleged hyperdemocracy do not strike one as particularly Jacobin. Gerrymandering has achieved such perfection that in many congressional districts it denies a large number of voters fair representation. Wherever they run state governments, Republicans have engaged in shortening voting timesclosing DMV offices, requiring onerous identification procedures and other measures to suppress voting by constituencies they dislike.

The population of California is 66 times that of Wyoming, and both states elect two U.S. senators. These arrangements do not resemble the systems of highly democratic states like Finland or New Zealand, but they would fit comfortably within the Whig oligarchy of Eighteenth Century England. The Electoral College is an archaic system that inflates the power of small states. The conventional wisdom is that “it has served us well,” but it has not: four times (1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000) it elected the candidate with fewer popular votes.

Sullivan might object that in any case he is not arguing in favor of majoritarian democracy. But would he suggest that the travesty of 2000, when the philosopher kings of the Supreme Court chose a president too stupid and incurious to pay attention to an intelligence briefing warning of imminent attack on the United States, was a better outcome than obeying the will of the people?

Trading Fort Wayne for Empire

This anti-democratic tendency suffuses much of our governance. The most recent Congress completed, the 113th, saw a record number of filibusters, whereby a minority of senators was able to thwart the majority.

Important trade bills, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are examples of oligarchical engineering at its most sophisticated. These trade pacts are negotiated in secret, with members of Congress not allowed to know what’s in them; on the other hand, task forces of corporate lobbyists and lawyers are an integral part of the negotiating process.

President Barack Obama uncomfortably accepting the Nobel Peace Prize from Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009. (White House photo)

President Barack Obama uncomfortably accepting the Nobel Peace Prize from Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009. (White House photo)

Once the agreements are complete, representatives and senators can only view them by going to a secure room; copying or note taking is not permitted. Only when the full Congress votes to “fast track” the agreement (thereby nullifying its ability to amend the agreement) is the measure made public.

It is only through an occasional leak that we learn what our corporate overlords are up to, such as bulldozing food safety standards in TTIP, or allowing corporations to sue governments for alleged “lost profits” due to health, safety or environmental laws. These schemes undermine the very concept of democratic self-governance in favor of rule by corporations.

But so-called trade bills are deceptive in their very name: they have little to do with trade as commonly understood, or at least the promotion of exports that might help an assembly-line worker in Toledo or Muncie. They are increasingly about making politically untouchable the prerogatives of the wealthy investor class, and a vehicle for the Beltway elites’ obsession with finding novel ways to protect their favorite client states.

It is not too much to say that “trade” agreements are actually our ruling class’s mechanism for hanging on to Pax Americana: they offer allies and satellites privileged access to our domestic market in exchange for those countries’ submitting to Washington’s foreign policy diktats. If, as a consequence, Joe Lunchbucket in Fort Wayne, Indiana, takes it on the chin, it’s a price our Beltway Metternichs are willing, nay, eager, to pay.

But Joe Lunchbucket has gotten a little tired of the charade, and he’s told the Republican and Democratic establishments what they can do with their trade agreements. If he is now following a charlatan like Trump, who at least makes noises pretending he is on Joe’s side, is the man entirely at fault? How about Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama, or Paul Ryan, who never saw a trade bill they didn’t like, or enlightened voices of the Upper West Side, like Thomas Friedman at The New York Times, who once said he didn’t even have to know what was in a trade bill to be in favor of it? Don’t they share a little of the responsibility?

Or maybe Andrew Sullivan, another bard of the comfortable classes whose Nietzschean über-heroes Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher gleefully inaugurated the cutthroat Ayn Rand economics that gutted the social position of the working classes and left them prey to mountebanks promising relief? Sullivan now affects to be horrified by the outcome, what with the blue-collared rabble supporting Trump rather than the Bush dynasty’s latest pretender to the throne.

The Rule of Organized Money

These aspects of the American political system did not fall like an asteroid from outer space upon an unsuspecting country. And they are hardly the stigmata of hyperdemocracy, whatever Sullivan imagines it to be.

Some, like the Electoral College, are anti-democratic legacies handed down at our founding. But unlike slavery, female disenfranchisement or whipping at the pillory, they have not been reformed out of existence. Others, like gerrymandering and voter suppression, arise from the natural criminal instincts of political operatives when they are not kept on a short leash by a vigilant public.

The principal factor, however, is the dominance of money in politics. It has always polluted American public life, but ever since Buckley v. Valeo in 1976, and climaxing with the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions of 2010 and 2014, our system has been twisted and corrupted by money.

The three key right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, from left to right, Antonin Scalia, John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy. (From the official 2010 photo of the U.S. Supreme Court)

In 2010, the three key right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, from left to right, Antonin Scalia (now deceased), John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy. (From the official 2010 photo of the U.S. Supreme Court)

Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of North­western University examined almost 2,000 surveys of American opinion on public policy matters between 1981 and 2002, and discovered how those preferences correlated with policy outcomes.

“[T]he preferences of economic elites,” Gilens and Page conclude, “have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do.”

In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Gilens added, “I’d say that contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their govern­ment does in the United States (my emphasis). And economic elites and interest groups, es­pecially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policymaking over the last few decades reflects the prefer­ences of those groups – economic elites and of organized interests.”

President Obama concurs: During the 2012 election campaign, he in­formed a group of wealthy donors that included Microsoft moguls Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, “You now have the potential of 200 peo­ple deciding who ends up being elected president every single time.”

Contrary to Sullivan’s essay, the role of money in politics has not been a dud, some exceptions notwithstanding: In 2008, the supposed insurgent Obama turned down public financing in order to raise funds privately, and as we can see from his flattery of the tech tycoons in the quote above, he assiduously courted them.

The practical result of this dominance of money over politics is an appalling wealth inequality in the United States: The bottom 90 percent own a smaller share of the national wealth than in the 27 other countries that track such statistics. Sullivan gives a perfunctory nod to these conditions, but fails to consider that they are the logical outcome of the Reagan-Thatcher-Bush economic policies aimed at the so-called “ownership society.”

As economist Thomas Piketty has shown, the tendency of capital to accumulate faster than wage growth means that over time, the big owners of capital will acquire almost everything, including, increasingly, the political process.

Bernie Sanders is not entirely a walking refutation of the dominance of money, as Sullivan would have it, although his candidacy symbolizes the fact that many people are fed up with the status quo.

His opponent, Hillary Clinton, is a candidate with historically high negative favorability ratings. She is also a poor campaigner who cannot even state a compelling rationale for her candidacy in one sentence. Yet it appears she is about to prevail as the Democratic nominee, because oceans of money and control of the party organization have overcome both the enthusiasm of Sanders’ supporters and her own personal liabilities.

It is noteworthy that Sullivan takes a gratuitous swipe at Sanders as “the demagogue of the left,” implying a symmetry between Trump and the Vermont senator. This is the laziest sort of “both sides do it” false equivalence that the mainstream media habitually resort to, a practice that political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann have trenchantly skewered.

Now that he has sewn up the nomination, Trump has in any case already ditched one of the marquee attractions of his pseudo-populist appeal: his refusal to take money from big donors. He is now moving full-bore to buck-rake among the plutocracy, with one of his early catches being the saturnine Sheldon Adelson. The roster of his supporters also includes familiar names like Carl Icahn and T. Boone Pickens.

Calling Dr. Frankenstein

Superficially, we obtained an anomalous result from the most recent batch of presidential primaries, at least on the Republican side. Had Sullivan’s desire for elite control prevailed, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and his pals, backstopped by big money boys like the brothers Koch, would have anointed Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio or some other walking ATM machine for the plutocracy.

But notwithstanding the pearl-clutching by GOP mugwumps, the elevation of Trump was a natural culmination of the philosophies and tactics of the Republican Party over the last several decades. They engineered Trump the way Cold War biologists at Fort Detrick engineered a virulent, weaponized strain of anthrax. Or, more precisely, they engineered a constituency that would be enthusiastically receptive to his toxic tirades.

President Richard Nixon, speaking to the nation on Aug. 8, 1974, announcing his decision to resign.

President Richard Nixon, speaking to the nation on Aug. 8, 1974, announcing his decision to resign.

Going back to Nixon’s Southern Strategy, the GOP has employed dog whistles and code words to condition their base, and particularly the emerging white working-class core of that base, to respond on cue to the siren song of cultural resentment: against elites (invariably defined as college professors rather than bank CEOs), against ethnic and religious minorities, against homosexuals, against pretty much any group that needed to be scapegoated as the need arose.

In the last two decades, the party has built up a formidable Conservative Media-Entertainment Complex that allows a human guinea pig to immerse himself 24/7 in a fact-free, Manichean alternate universe. Trump’s bizarre performance art is merely a funhouse-mirror reflection of the propaganda construct the Republican Party had already created.

The delicious (or sick) plot twist is this: The GOP had spent more than three decades patiently explaining to its base the virtues of laissez-faire economics, free trade and small government (while baiting them with the standard culture wars baggage and dog whistles), only to discover that its voters didn’t care a tinker’s cuss about Sullivan’s precious Thatcherite economics, and they certainly were not about to sacrifice their own Social Security or Medicare on the GOP’s altar of entitlement reform.

The party intended the culture wars and the dog whistles purely as a sweetener, to make predatory capitalism digestible, but in an irony worthy of O. Henry, the only thing that really stuck was a gooey residue of cultural resentment, bigotry and xenophobia. That’s where Trump mopped the floor with his befuddled rivals, who thought they could keep ladling free trade and corporatocracy down the gullets of the proles as if they were Strasbourg geese.

Sullivan’s Travails

What really riles Andrew Sullivan in his essay is how the Trump candidacy is entwined with the crudest manifestations of popular culture. It is certainly true that American pop cult is an unedifying phenomenon. Sullivan presents as his Exhibit A an early incident in the ascent of Sarah Palin.

In 1996, according to the Anchorage Daily News, she turned out at an event to see Ivana Trump, “who, in the wake of her divorce, was touting her branded perfume. ‘We want to see Ivana, because we are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture.’”

A nice story, but what’s Sullivan’s point, exactly? That the rubes in the backwoods are gauche for conflating glamour and culture? Sarah Palin would be a footnote to history had she not been discovered by Bill Kristoleminence beige among what passes for the neoconservative intelligentsia, and inflicted upon a suffering world by John McCain, son and grandson of Navy admirals and Annapolis ring-knocker, each an epitome of the neoconservative establishment that since the Reagan era has settled in on the Beltway like a permanent infestation. She became a key precursor of Trump.

It is all too easy to make sport of the Archie Bunker replicants on Staten Island or the miners in the West Virginia coalfields who cleave to Trump with dog-like devotion. Trump rallies typically do not reflect the better angels of man’s nature. With all that stipulated, who created him?

In one sense, the Republican Party created him, or at a minimum, as we’ve seen, the ideological space for him. But Trump, the actual personality, is a construct of the so-called gatekeepers of the corporate news media, centered in Manhattan. Because of their relentless hyping, Trump was able to inflate the market value of his name, which he then licensed to be sold as an appellation for a host of tacky products.

In the same way Lehman Brothers’ securities were backed by the grossly exaggerated value of subprime mortgages, the main prop to Trump’s empire has always been the media-inflated collateral of the Trump moniker.

During the late 1980s, the heroic Reaganesque Age of elbows-out acquisition, business cable channels like Financial News Network (a precursor of CNBC) drooled over The Donald’s every move. Later, NBC, an institution that once upon a time maintained its own symphony orchestra conducted by Toscanini, gave Trump his own reality TV show that was beamed to the remotest hollows of eastern Kentucky.

And now, the media are giving him $2 billion worth of free publicity. Les Moonves, chairman of CBS, once the network of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, has half-confessed and half-boasted that Trump’s campaign has been “damn good for CBS.”

When we contemplate horrors like “Duck Dynasty” or “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” or the umpteenth sequel of some idiotic superhero franchise, it is hard not to feel sympathy with Sullivan’s critique of popular culture. But there is a factor that he misses. Who creates taste?

The populations of the Scandinavian countries like Sweden or Finland have a very high readership of serious newspapers and intelligent books; tiny Iceland has highest level per capita of book publishing in the world. These countries are notably democratic and egalitarian, the furthest thing from what Plato or Matthew Arnold had in mind when they thought of culture.

Ninety years ago, H. L. Mencken asked why the trackside towns near Pittsburgh yielded the most hideous habitations known to man. People commonly thought the miners and steelworkers who inhabited them didn’t know any better because they were mainly unlettered immigrants. But why, he inquired, did they build charming villages in their home countries?

There is something about the rawness of American capitalism that with an alarming lust surrenders to what Mencken called “a libido for the ugly.” That capitalism is not controlled at its commanding heights by the residents of trailer parks.

Trump: a stepchild of the Deep State?

Donald Trump is a product of elite structures like the Republican establishment and our corporate media, as well as the anti-democratic tendencies that have become an increasingly prominent accompaniment to this country’s wage-cutting, outsourcing, laissez-faire economic orthodoxy. But there is one other powerful faction with an equity stake in Trump: the national security complex.

For the past 15 years, the people who form the bipartisan elite consensus that makes up a crucial element of what I call “the Deep State” – politicians, generals, media personalities, think-tank experts – have been drumming into our heads the message that we must be very afraid of terrorism, despite the fact that we are more likely to die slipping in the bathtub than in a terrorist attack.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

It has worked. Voters in the Republican primary in South Carolina, where Trump won in a walk, declared terrorism their foremost concern, eclipsing a low-wage economy, deteriorating living standards leading to an increase in the death rate of GOP voters’ core demographic, and the most expensive and least available health care in the developed world.

This fear that our elite consensus fostered has awakened the latent authoritarianism and paranoia that lurk in all too many people. This dynamic explains why Trump’s candidacy took off like a moon rocket in November and December of 2015, the period of the terrorist attack in Paris and the murders in San Bernardino.

Government officials and the media whipped up a mood in the country that approached hysteria; Trump deftly exploited it. By being the only politician brazen enough to openly advocate torture – not merely to gain information (a dubious claim), but to inflict pain for its own sake – he tapped into the revenge fantasies of millions of Americans who have been fed a steady diet of fear since 9/11.

We delude ourselves in thinking that the United States could be a “normal” country while waging a seemingly endless war on terror. Sullivan, too, got swept up the mania that prevailed in the period between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. He became a militant proponent of the Bush administration’s “you’re with us or against us” foreign policy line by condemning “the decadent Left” for being a fifth column.

He later recanted his Trumpism avant la lettre, principally because the Bush administration botched the invasion and resorted to torture. But criticizing the effects of the invasion, which soon became obvious to any observer, rather than the original rationale for it, was a too-easy dodge of the moral core of the issue.

The decision to make aggressive war is the father of all the crimes that flow inevitably from it. As Justice Robert H. Jackson stated at the Nuremburg tribunal in 1946, “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

The torture and the other excesses, therefore, were logical outcomes of the decision to invade Iraq, not deviations from an initially exemplary desire to preempt Saddam Hussein from employing terrorism against us. Just as Sullivan was stampeded by the hysteria over Saddam’s fictive intentions, he now appears to lose confidence in democracy itself because of the dread apparition of Trump.

No Genteel Conservatism anymore

Like his fellow conservative David Brooks, Sullivan yearns for “elite mediation,” a polite term for letting our social betters from the Ivy League run the show. But how did that work out? The 1953 overthrow of Iran’s government by the CIA’s Yalies led to an inexorable chain of events culminating in a smoking debris field in lower Manhattan.

The Dulles brothers of Dillon, Read & Co. staged a coup against the first democratic government in Guatemala for the greater glory of United Fruit’s shareholders; in the repression that followed, hecatombs of corpses sparked a destabilization throughout Central America climaxing in the mass immigration to the United States that is the heart and soul of the Trump backlash. The best and the brightest, of course, engineered us into the quicksand of Vietnam, a disaster of almost Hegelian perfection.

CIA Director Allen Dulles

CIA Director Allen Dulles

For all of his occasional apostasy against the new Republican orthodoxy by being an openly gay conservative, Sullivan still has just enough emotional attachment to a patrician, largely imaginary version of “classic” conservatism as to want to protect his ideological mirage from contamination by the Trump craze. He favors some fantasy version of the conservatism espoused by his idol, the British political scientist Michael Oakeshott.

It is his delusion that there now exists a conservatism purged of its reactionary impulses that can function as an anti-ideology rather than the ideology it actually is. Contemporary conservatism, with its harping on tradition and values, is an elaborate evasion of the fundamental political question all societies face: Who gets what, and on which terms?

When Abraham Lincoln spoke of “the mystic chords of memory,” he did not mean the dead hand of custom, but rather a steady confidence in popular government derived from the inalienable rights of the governed.

As with other right-of-center polemicists of late, Andrew Sullivan seeks to distract us by playing down or ignoring the role of movement conservatism in creating the ugly carnival that is Trump by waving shiny objects in front of us labeled “political correctness” (so he can blame “the Left”) or popular culture (to diffuse the blame throughout society).

Sorry, Andrew: The conservative movement, and the elites who back them, built this Frankenstein monster. They own it.

Mike Lofgren is a former congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees. His latest book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, appeared in January 2016. [This article first appeared at http://billmoyers.com/story/elites-vs-much-democracy-andrew-sullivans-afraid-popular-self-government/]

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24 comments for “Blaming ‘Too Much Democracy’ for Trump

  1. dahoit
    May 25, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Typical beltway descriptions of Trump.Charlatan?How much worse than Obomba could he be?
    America First is a winning hand,but hated by Zion,of course.
    The party of Lincoln?No,the rethugs have been the party of Zion,just as the demoncrats.
    Trump will hopefully restore the republican party as of the American people as it used to be.

    • Silly Me
      May 27, 2016 at 6:27 am

      You must be joking or are paid to disseminate dissent. Both parties are a sham.

    • May 30, 2016 at 10:21 am

      this essay makes some very sharp points, but, has one HUUUUUGE OMISSION: the DEMOCRATIC Party–especially BILL & HILLARY CLINTON’S role–in COLLABORATING with Corporate Elites Agenda of Government OF the Corporations, BY the Corporations & FOR the Corporations. Bill Clinton— with CHEERLEADING from Hillary in their “co-presidency” that Hillary cites in her resume— pushed & pass “free trade” NAFTA, collaborated on “welfare reform”—gutting New Deal social safetty net—with hypocrite of the Religious Right Newt Gingrich (serial adulterer & ehartless pig who served his first wife with divorce papers while she was in the hospital for cancer), worked to beat the GOP at their rqacst “Law & Order” game with the Bill & Hill ESCALATION of “war on drugs”–JAILING MORE PEOPLE THAN REGAN DID!, “3 strikes & you’re out” LIFE sentences (2/3 for NON-VIOLENT crimes) ADDING 50 MORE crimes eligible for DEATH PENALTY; working to achieve the Republican agenda of DE-REGULATION OF WALL STREET & BANKS in 1999 repeal of Glass-Stegal law that PAVED THE WAY for 2008 economic meltdown & home foreclosure of millions of families (HALF of them headed by women of color who were TARGETED FOR MORTGAGE FRAUD by Banks)—if elected, Hillary Clinton REFUSES TO RESTORE Glass-Stegal and she BLAMES HOMEOWNERS for being the victims of her Big Bank buddies FRAUD. Bill & HIlly CONTINUED Bush I’s first war on Iraq, with economic sanctions responsible for deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children denied access to vaccines & medicine, BOMBING Iraq 2 or 3 times A WEEK and also engaging in WAR ON YUGOSLAVIA and HAITI—the last country ahs been a GOLD MINE for the CLINTON’S FOUNDATION. Google YouTube video of BILL CLINTON recently talking with GOP Speaker of the House PAUL RYAN about how Hillary will CUT MEDICARE and SOCIAL SECURITY if elected. The DEMOCRATIC Party is AS responsible for Trump as the GOP is.

  2. Bill Bodden
    May 25, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Too much democracy? What democracy? The ability of some people to vote for candidates is a mere fig leaf pretense of democracy. For the most part this nation is run by plutocrats and their well-funded consiglieri from the political duopoly riding shotgun on democracy’s hearse.

    • Erik G
      May 26, 2016 at 6:57 am

      Yes, often democracy is not policymaking by reasoned debate, but a symbolic war of ignorant armies clashing by night, tempered only by minority rights. But even when consensus does not emerge, the majority coalition wins. Of course the democratic institutions of the US, the mass media and election process, are controlled by economic concentrations, so we do not even have democracy. The nice thing about reasoned debate is that premises such as “too much democracy” and special rights for an elite can be excluded as premises or policies out of bounds, as they rationalize not only oligarchy or monarchy but also dictatorship of the proletariat, and so the premise serves no one but those so naive as to suppose that by force they will win rather than lose, those who would discard centuries of experience for a dream of savage predominance.

      • Erik G
        May 26, 2016 at 7:50 am

        I should add that it is for that reason that I advocate a new Policy Analysis branch of federal government, temporarily the College of Policy Analysis, to make just such reasoned debate of policy alternatives, as well as debated analyses, for every region and functional area (sociology, economics, history, etc.), in which every viewpoint is protected and heard (minority views, “enemy” views, unpopular solutions) and actually represented in debate, producing summaries per topic in which variant views are commented.

        All debaters’ input (statements, questions, criticism of others’ statements) should be reviewed by moderation/correction teams on each side and corrected before being submitted to the other side. New debate topics, and suggestions for re-phrasing or re-premising others’ inputs can be generated where debate leads to deeper questions or failure to come to common terms.

        True that most politicians do not care for the truth and will ignore policy analysis, and attack its source falsely, where it disagrees. And as H L Mencken noted (approx.), “The common man avoids the truth as diligently as he avoids arson, regicide, or piracy on the high seas, and for the same reasons, that it is dangerous, that no good can come of it, and that it doesn’t pay.”

        But if a policy analysis college is finally made a branch of government with (mutual) checks and balances upon the executive and legislature, it can bring the knowledge of society into public debate. And in the meanwhile, it could make mad assertions by extremists more readily identifiable. Why does a Trump or Hillary assert what had been shown in such debate to have no valid premises, evidence, or argument? Why do they ignore what the experts know? Why do they propose what is known to lead to disaster?

        Comments appreciated from all sides.

        • Brad Owen
          May 26, 2016 at 8:31 am

          A policy analysis college is a good idea. It would give the PERFECT example of a TRUE “Aristocracy” of “noble” (as in bright, genuinely well-schooled, of good character, etc…) Statesmen/women with an eye constantly trained upon the General Welfare.

        • Bill Bodden
          May 26, 2016 at 12:33 pm

          Good idea, but a democratic, civilized society is only feasible with an informed and vigilant public. The United States and most other nations are nowhere near that admirable condition with their ill-informed and apathetic citizens.

          • Brad Owen
            May 26, 2016 at 1:55 pm

            And this is when a democratic Republic in such a degraded condition can default to a genuine “Caretaker” Aristocracy, with a concerned eye for the General Welfare, whose main mission could be to RESTORE the citizenry to an informed, civilized, civics-minded level; rather than a default to a thuggish, self-seeking Oligarchy of Plutocrats. Such a College of Policy Analysts could set up an Emergency “Free Education” Clinic for those people so-inclined to be good citizens of a great Republic. The Course Title could be: “What does it take to be a good citizen of a democratic Republic?” In fact THAT would be Mission #1 of this College of DeFacto “Aristocrats”, given our current, sorry state.

          • Erik G
            May 26, 2016 at 11:17 pm

            Yes, the idea is to conduct moderated textual debates largely via internet, resulting in commented analyses of situations and syntheses of predicted developments with or without accidents, new policies, etc. These would be made available via the web, and persons taking a quiz on any debate (the various viewpoints, premises. arguments) could then comment on each blog.

            To avoid bias accusations, the conclusions are to be presented per viewpoint with their critique of the other views, and impermissible premises are to be limited. To ensure fairness, administrators are to be selected for concern for truth and justice, lack of past or present ties to interest groups, and awareness of past major policy errors and causes, and must be monitored financially.

            It is very true that a public heavily propagandized will not spend much time on such things, but acceptance among students and educated people should gradually increase understanding of the value of hearing all sides in informed debate.

        • May 26, 2016 at 10:59 pm

          Thomas Paine writing 230 years ago about his time reminds me of our time. his critique of contemporaries such as Edmund Burke reminds me of consortiumnews.com challenging cnn/bbc.
          Paine describes the concept of RES PUBLICA, from where we get “republic” as RES PUBLICA interpreted as “A PUBLIC MATTER.” what is necessary to a “rule by the people,” or DEMOS KRATOS, is a tool for influencing the elected body. it is impossible for 350 million citizens to gather at the “agora” and vote directly, so representatives are elected, and HIRED, to represent their portion of the electorate who HIRED them to do so.
          this is where an “electoral tool” must be available for the electorate which can help them “nudge” their EMPLOYEE in the desired direction.

    • Silly Me
      May 27, 2016 at 6:37 am

      The funny part is that it has always been the same in history. This time the problem is that the old ideological paradigm, the American Dream, has fallen victim to Wall Street profiteering. People have always needed to believe in something that they feel justifies their exploitation. It can be predestination, divine jurisdiction postmortem, or the goof ol’ Protestant belief that you know how much God loves you by the amount of money you have. A culture without such, inevitably goes under. It happened to the Eastern Block (although most of those countries were simply stolen, aka. “privitized” with some help from the CIA and related parties). Ita demonstrandum est.

  3. Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
    May 25, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    You said that Plato “argued that the ripening of democracy births manifold horrors like gender equality, the treatment of foreigners as equals, an abatement of cruelty to animals, and the rich mingling freely with the poor.” But actually Plato said that (albeit some) women who were as wise as men could hold office and that women should have any job they chose. That ISN’T what you are implying. Also, his system of communism obviously advocated for an end to poverty – this is not snobbery. As well, I can’t remember Plato advocating animal cruelty or directly not treating foreigners as equals when I read “Great Works of Plato” (although he did have stereotypes of Egyptians as deceitful in “The Republic”, so I guess that would be taken as racism – but he was a product of his time – and while I would think foreigners could not become citizens of Athens, as non-Athenian Greeks couldn’t, like in all city-states that was because they were not originally native to Athens, unlike obviously the Athenians, again like in all city-states). But it is true that he opposed democracy.

    Also, the system Sullivan advocates wouldn’t necessarily produce Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush as leaders, since I don’t believe in Britain superdelegates exist. Bernie Sanders would be elected leader of the Democrats and while the Republicans wouldn’t elect Trump or Cruz, they wouldn’t elect an establishment favourite like Jeb Bush. The conclusion is that they would elect someone not part of the establishment but not someone like Trump or Cruz or Ron Paul – the conclusion is that they would elect a member of the Christian right, which would be Mike Huckabee.

    Also, I don’t think that Trump taking money from donors now is showing his true colours – now that he has defeated his opponents of the Republican nomination he needs them to defeat the Democrats.

    • Silly Me
      May 26, 2016 at 4:59 am

      Plato’s Greece was exceptionalist like modern America. Read Aristotle too.

      We’ll see if Trump or his donors actually care for the people or are simply going to add a new gang to the plutocracy.

      One thing is sure: he does need the money.

      Let me thank the author for an entertaining rendition of his philosophy (that is too sophisticated and unfocused to ever become an ideology that can be used for convincing people that they deserve to be exploited; an inevitable ruse used by those in power throughout history and the reason why America is collapsing). The rich should reconsider but they are too busy in their own disconnected rat race.

  4. silent adviser
    May 25, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    I would strongly disagree that the Electoral College is an infour system to the systems that exsist in the country’s you listed. I live in Newfoundland Canada and we have 7 seats in parliament. Compared to Ontario’s 121 seats or Quebec’s 78 seats, so essentially we have no voice. We don’t matter to the people in Ottowa and so they pay us no mind. So we are really stuck in a loose loose situation where not allot of investment is thrown our way and when they screw us over (like say over fish and destroy our fishery which was our largest industry), it dosent matter because our votes are only a drop in the bucket anyway. It may work better in country’s with more equal population distribution but up here it’s blaintly unfair for half of the provinces in Canada.

    • Silly Me
      May 26, 2016 at 5:08 am

      This is exactly the reason why three-tier legislation is a must. Still, in the US, I would need some explanation why I have to pay taxes to finance foreign wars, spy agencies spying on me for an amount that would provide free higher education, and food stamps, subsidized housing, and energy subsidies for WalMart workers, that is, subsidize corporations, while having no pension, no paid vacations, and no health insurance. There is always money for a new military installation, but none for daycare so that welfare mums can go to work.

  5. Zachary Smith
    May 25, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    As soon as I reached the name “Andrew Sullivan” I basically tuned out of the article. There are some people on the planet with whom I want to remain as disconnected as possible. This attitude formed when I learned this fellow was an advocate of “barebacking”.

    http://www.villagevoice.com/news/the-real-andrew-sullivan-scandal-6415415

    There are other issues, hence the link.

    The Times lecture was an excellent occasion to sample Sullivan’s contradictions. He has always depended on the amnesia of his audience to cover his tracks. You might never know from his libertarian stance that he opposes abortion rights, or from his embrace of civil rights that he published excerpts from Charles Murray’s racist tract, The Bell Curve, on his watch at The New Republic.

  6. Joe Tedesky
    May 25, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    I read that Andrew Sullivan article, and came away thinking, well there goes Andrew for what’s that’s worth. I grew up in that smoky dirty mill town of Pittsburgh, and I now miss it. At least back in those days, workers were unionized, and there was a sense of upward mobility. Now a days, not so much. I know, and I am one of those average joe’s who find our political system frustrating. Andrew Sullivan noted that our frustration is centered around having gay rights shoved down our throats. This maybe true for some of my average joe colleagues, but what really frustrates us joe’s the most is having double standards shoved down our blue collared throats, at every turn. A recent example, would be our watching how Hillary is being so lightly treated in regard to her security breach of national security. Us joe’s know all to well that if that had been one of us breaking such rules, well game over, jail time for you mr joe. Trump is gaining his momentum by portraying himself, as being one of us joe’s. This isn’t rocket science, and anyway who gives a flying you know what about what Plato thought. We’re here now, and what are you going to do about it, mr/ms politician. And oh by the way, none of my gang ever liked Ronald Reagan, let a lone loved that guy. Although, some of his movies were okay, but hey ray gun dismantled those ugly dirty mills that paid our bills, and left our Pittsburgh hills baron and dry.

  7. Brad Owen
    May 26, 2016 at 5:28 am

    Thank you, Mr. Lofgren, for your valuable insights. You are now one of the few people I go too, to find out what’s really going on in the World. You are right; it is a sick joke that we suffer from too much democracy. The truth is we citizens have virtually NO influence upon the policies of our Federal Government. Trump’s usual millieu is the NYC world of mob bosses and crooked politicians…minor league predators. He’s looking to join the club of Major League predators…what you so aptly branded as The Deep State, and you recognize him for the “Frankenstein Monster” predator that he is…Adelson, Manafort, Mnuchin, Stone…THERE is the proof that he is a Wall Street Insider wannabe, just one more predator looking to make a meal of the Body Politic. Thanks again for the essays.

  8. Daniel
    May 26, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Excellent article. The truth of the masses’ insignificance in the eyes of the elite has been a part of the republic since its founding. Still, we have been on a long journey to this moment of discontent, wherein this truth can no longer be denied. There is too much evidence now, and too many people proclaiming this truth, for it to be ignored, no matter how hard the Andrew Sullivans of this world (and there are many) try.

    And our elites are finally being challenged to answer to which side of this truth they are on – whether they care about their fellow humans or not. The disdain in many of their answers – including Mr. Sullivan’s – reveals all.

  9. Oz
    May 26, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Although I sympathize with some of the opinions expressed, the grotesque misrepresentation of Plato and the general philosophical illiteracy on display here have no place in a respected website like Consortium News.

    • Evangelista
      May 26, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      Oz,

      Note the quote: “As chief witness for the prosecution, he calls to the stand no less than Plato, who argued that the ripening of democracy births manifold horrors like gender equality, the treatment of foreigners as equals, an abatement of cruelty to animals, and the rich mingling freely with the poor.

      “One wonders if Sullivan could have cited a more relevant critic of the contemporary political system of a continent-sized nation with 320 million people than a metaphysician dwelling in a tiny city-state more than 2,400 years ago.”

      “[H]e” in the first paragraph quoted references Sullivan, the right-wing-elitist pseudo-intellectual who wrote the Trump-bashing article the left-wing-elitist pseudo-intellectual Lofgren writes his Trump-bashing article as if in response to.

      The “philosophical illiteracy” of Sullivan that is referenced is reasonably and correctly referenced, since Sullivan did write as Lofgren ascribed.

      I am not sure what anyone, except Robert Parry and his staff, can legitimately assert to “have no place” in Consortium News.

      I find presentation of purely politically motivated partisanship based opponent-party bashing below the threshold of admirable, and jargon-filled elitist arogance on the lower side of that. But humor does not have status, wherefore standards for dignity do not apply to writing that is funny. For this I find neither Sullivan’s nor Lofgren’s Trump-Bashings below the bar for presentation, on this site, or any.

      I do appreciate the equality of the offendced-elitist bashings, demonstrated between the Sullivan and Lofgren political opinion-piece articles. The one thumping Trump from the Right, the other thumping Trump from the left provides us a roundly thumped Trump.

      Plus, for the primary plus of print, Trump, roundly thumped in print, is none the worse for wear in his person and personality. He is still walking, still talking, and, I hope, still giving serious consideration to what a lively white-house he could host if he were to draft Elizabeth Warren for his Vice-President nominee. Wouldn’t that be fun?

      President and Vice-President from differing parties was the norm in the beginning of party politics in the United States System. The practice fell away after, if I recall correctly, Jackson. Jackson is assigned responsibility for exiling the ‘Indians’ (though it was Congress who made the actual decisions, and so is factually responsible). Selecting Warren VP, Trump could bring back party-sharing and ‘the Indian’ at one fell whoop…

  10. May 26, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Sullivan is logically inconsistent and can be disregarded. Trump is a manifestation of democracy at work as is Sanders. So also for that matter is Clinton and she and the Bush clan are the reason the establishment has been exposed. The neocons are on the way out at the point of a sword.

  11. Zahid Kramet
    May 28, 2016 at 5:34 am

    What Sullivan should fear most as a gay, is a return to theocracy – and that is a sure-shot next step after democracy is discarded

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