Or Maybe “Demopathy”

“Demopathy” is a term used previously, as far as I can tell from a Google search, by a few anti-democratic (and highly illiberal) polemicists of seemingly no great note. I find it expressive for a larger tendency that interferes with the Republican Party’s ability to handle the Trump challenge, and to govern its own affairs and argue its own case consistently and coherently, yet at the same time may justify the existence of the Party as a vehicle for a conservative understanding of the American system.

Assembled from Tweets:

[Dan Scotto’s The Republican Nomination and the Language of Popular Democracy”] comes closest among recent posts I’ve seen to [a clear] argument on “demopathic” distortion of our political discussion re primaries/

seems we need to review theories of democracy at their most basic – saying “republic not a democracy” apparently not enough/

very few observers take cognizance of mass electoralism as only one, highly compromised and mixed form of democracy/

the misapprehension underlies numerous policy errors: e.g., attempt to install “democracy” in Iraq and Afghanistan/

in current discussion problem [Dan] get[s] at in his post is weird hybrid conception of party nomination process/

Trump et al discuss as though party is arm of democratic state – and as democratists we reflexively revert to majoritarianism…/

…regardless of how artificially or tenuously grounded

The relevant readings might seem, as Dan pointed out in a reply-tweet, a bit “Grad schooly,” or maybe they would once have counted as “High School Civics-y.” They would begin with the ancient Greeks, especially Aristotle, and the American Framers, possibly with summons to a group of expert witnesses to testify further on range of forms of self-government other than mass electoralism that fall or have fallen under the heading of “democracy.”

Yet the civics lessons have in fact been generally absorbed and are widely accepted, though somehow we fail to put them against the equally widely accepted contradictory democratist or demopathic notions. We all understand that “majority rules” is insufficient for running the government, to say nothing of other realms of life.

The disconnect seems to be a by-product of overcompensation on the part of leading proponents in their attempt to convince the masses that that the system (the whole state including the political administrative state and constitutional order) is being operated by and for them, that it belongs to them and they to it – or even that they or we are it and it is what they or we are. By now members of the former group, who may believe little else either individually or collectively, who may not even believe in belief at all, has come to believe their own propaganda, but are no longer aware that it is or ever was propaganda, or, to put things less prejudicially, that their explanation that is also their self-description is at best a gross simplification: just good enough for government work until the moment it prevents the government from working – or from working “good enough” according to views shaped by the same distorted process, as their unbelievable belief is insisted upon by those originally believed in need of being inculcated with that same belief.

The testimony of the experts has actually already been given. They identified this problem as a matter of theory, and correctly suggested that it could be solved in practice, if never securely. That remainder or gap is the same one that appears in the “discursive” problem that Dan describes, and that we are currently observing as a conflict bordering on crisis within and of the presidential nomination process primarily in the Republican Party, but increasingly enveloping the Democratic Party and perceptions of its legitimacy and therefore of the entire two-party political system as we know it.


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And this programmer suggested a way to avoid user input all together:

Eventually, programmers on Reddit started making fully-functioning, interactive versions of the awful forms, like this and this and this. Someone even created one out of the classic game Snake. The meme hasn’t stopped for weeks now, and iterations of it seem to be growing more detailed and elaborate.

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Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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State of the Discussion

+ Wade, your last paragraph is crucial to your argument. Certainly it expresses economically the source of the weight of a country's foreign policy, and [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
+ Not sure where you got the idea that I ever wrote “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!" - bob's idea for a possible rallying [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
Wade McKenzie
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ The conversation that you and Bob were having at the time that I wrote my comment had everything to do with the recent missile strike [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic

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