Don’t get me wrong – I like democracy. I like the opportunity to throw out whatever rascals are in power every four years – voting is much easier on the nerves than armed insurrection and revolutions. But that doesn’t mean democracy doesn’t have its drawbacks. The first drawback is the idea that, if one group of people wins a ‘majority’ government, they should be able to run a country as though everybody voted for them. The only thing that impedes a majority government from passing whatever loony idea they like is the thought that the electorate might get so angry that they wouldn’t get re-elected.
The second impediment is the fact that democracy needs an informed electorate in order to function properly. Hoo-hah! Is this getting ever more difficult to find! My mother could never articulate what the parties stood for in a given election. I think she used to vote for the person that had the nicest smile on television. In one instance she told me she voted for the candidate whose wife wore a colorful headband while exercising… I don’t think she’s the only one using similar methods.
People who choose candidates like this can become mighty attached to their politician. They can dismiss as ‘fake news’ any political story in any major newspaper that’s critical of their candidate. They can also have tremendous faith in internet stories that support their candidate, no matter how outlandish. I read one recently where two voters believed in a ‘deep state’ conspiracy against their candidate that involved tunnels crisscrossing under ‘Murica that are used for smuggling abducted babies for blood sacrifices – yup, it’s hard not to vote for the baby savior. How did things get like this?
In politics, the only goal of a party is to get elected. The payoffs to a successful national election are so great, the trough so vast and deep, that either party will go to extreme measures to win. Spin-doctors infest every political party these days, dispensing advice based on their access to the vast amount of everyone’s personal information – it’s not hard to find and freely available. These masters of manipulative marketing don’t really care about ethics, morals or truth – the objective is to get their candidate elected. Demonizing opponents with attack ads has long been part of the fun and excitement but there are new subtleties arising in the age of the internet.
With the help of mega data, computer programs can help the spin-doctors subtly influence voters’ preferences: likes, dislikes and attitudes, without most people knowing they’ve been targeted. They can track voters better than a Kalahari bushman stalking a wounded buffalo and they can be very persuasive in shaping a voter’s choice. They can use robo-calls to contact you every morning at three a.m., pretending to be from the candidate you support, just to get you pissed off and think of voting elsewhere. They can figure out who is most likely to vote in a certain way/place and sprinkle little obstacles in your path. It’s called ‘voter suppression’ and gosh does it make for laughs.
And if that wasn’t enough mirth, there are also unscrupulous denizens of the ether world that can blanket the internet in seconds with blatant fabrications aimed at smearing opposing candidates. The traditional enemies of democratic countries actually pay people to meddle in elections just to cast doubt on the validity of the voting system or the democratic system itself. Vlad (the Impaler) Pootine from Ruskie loves doing this. He finds it almost as much fun as inviting his enemies over for tea.
When all the political parties in a democracy use similar methods, the result is bewildering to everyone. The electorate sees messaging from one set of spin-doctors that is in constant conflict with that pumped out by the other team, complemented by the endless stream of outright and outrageous lies constantly circulating the internet by internal and external agencies. Fact and fantasy are interwoven so seamlessly that it takes real work for a voter to assess the messaging. Many don’t. It doesn’t help that some of the larger news outlets are highly selective and partisan in the news they carry. The net result is a highly polarized environment and a complete distrust of regular news outlets. In this age, the internet, host to many of the most outrageous lies of our times, has somehow become more ‘trustworthy’ than any other source of information.
It’s one of the signs that the electorate is now just a casualty of purposeful and sustained campaigns of misinformation. This isn’t healthy for democracy. History teaches us that it is all too easy for republics to descend into autocracies. The social instability and chaos in German politics of the 1930’s led to catastrophe, but even in current times countries like Turkey have recently voted themselves into greater autocracy. ‘Murica isn’t immune to these forces.
Here in Blunder Country we’ve been enjoying three years of good government because we had the sense not to give any party a majority. Alas, this week’s election squelched that happy circumstance and our advantage will now quickly evaporate as the ruling party begins to exercise unfettered power for the next four years. Call it another missed opportunity by the electorate or a victory for democracy.
Noting that the political system up here in the frozen north of Kanadoodle is just as dysfunctional as the one to the south, I once again venture forth to offer advice to voters. You may recall that I offered wonderful advice to the GHIT a while back that was completely ignored (see blog ‘A Modest Proposal’). However, I place a high premium on public service.
1) Try proportional representation with more than two parties. In ‘Murica this might mean having a Publican Party, a Demo-rugrat Party and a Block Party.
2) Constitutions were written hundreds of years ago. Things have changed a little since then – really.
3) Twinkies, in their cellophane wrappers, seem to stay fresh for decades. Politicians are not like Twinkies. They have a shelf life and should be voted out of office before they go stale, as they quickly get rancid thereafter.
4) Don’t confuse honesty with ‘shooting from the lip.’ The best liars are the ones that believe their own lies.
5) Never give control of all levels of government to one party. Working for consensus takes longer but works better for everyone.
6) Most people voting for the other party likely believe in about 80% of the same things you do – and many of them really aren’t spawn of Satan.
In Blunder Country the votes are in and no one is sitting on the edge of their ice blocks anymore. They’re shaking their heads, tossing back a brewski and expecting the inevitable now they’ve got a majority government. It might not be any good, but at least we have another chance to vote in four years.
Down south in ‘Murica there are only days to go before the election. Ronald Rump, the Grand High Imperial Twitterbug (GHIT) and current Prez, is still locking antlers with his archenemy, Joeb Bidinghistime with the polls still showing the GHIT as the underdog. He’s been there before.
I assert that any system that produces only a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’ isn’t going to give good government. And what’s going to happen in ‘Murica if the vote splits down the middle – another uncivil war?