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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Noted & Quoted

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To take power, May had to pretend that she, too, dreams these impossible dreams. And that led her to embrace a phony populism in which the narrow and ambiguous majority who voted for Brexit under false pretences are be reimagined as “the people.”

This is not conservatism—it is pure Rousseau. The popular will had been established on that sacred referendum day. And it must not be defied or questioned. Hence, Theresa May’s allies in The Daily Mail using the language of the French revolutionary terror, characterizing recalcitrant judges and parliamentarians as “enemies of the people” and “saboteurs.”

This is why May called an election. Her decision to do so—when she had a working majority in parliament—has been seen by some as pure vanity. But it was the inevitable result of the volkish rhetoric she had adopted. A working majority was not enough—the unified people must have a unified parliament and a single, uncontested leader: one people, one parliament, one Queen Theresa to stand on the cliffs of Dover and shake her spear of sovereignty at the damn continentals.

...Brexit is thus far from being a done deal: it can’t be done without a reliable partner for the EU to negotiate with. There isn’t one now and there may not be one for quite some time—at least until after another election, but quite probably not even then. The reliance on a spurious notion of the “popular will” has left Britain with no clear notion of who “the people” are and what they really want.

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The most extraordinary paragraph in this op-ed, however, is this one:

The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.

...First — and this is so obvious I can’t believe I have to type out these words — the United States can’t simultaneously proclaim “America first” and then claim any kind of moral strength. Saying loudly and repeatedly that American values are not going to be a cornerstone of American foreign policy strips you of any moral power whatsoever.

The second and bigger problem is that the “embrace” of a Hobbesian vision of the world by the most powerful country in the world pretty much guarantees Hobbesian reciprocity by everyone else. Most international relations scholars would agree that there are parts of the world that fit this brutal description. But even realists don’t think it’s a good thing. Cooperation between the United States and its key partners and allies is not based entirely on realpolitik principles. It has helped foster a zone of stability across Europe, North America and the Pacific Rim that has lasted quite some time. In many issue areas, such as trade or counterterrorism or climate change, countries gain far more from cooperation than competition.

Furthermore, such an embrace of the Hobbesian worldview is, in many ways, anti-American.

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The rise of the military, if coupled with the undermining of civilian aspects of national power, demonstrates a spiritual exhaustion and a descent into Caesarism. Named after Julius Caesar — who replaced the Roman Republic with a dictatorship — Caesarism is roughly characterized by a charismatic strongman, popular with the masses, whose rule culminates in an exaggerated role for the military. America is moving in this direction. It isn’t that some civilian agencies don’t deserve paring down or even elimination, nor is it that the military and other security forces don’t deserve a boost to their financial resources. Rather, it is in the very logic, ideology, and lack of proportionality of Trump’s budget that American decline, decadence, and Caesarism are so apparent.

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State of the Discussion

+ (Well, I didn't, four years ago, call Daniel Larison a vulgar ideologue. I suggested that his polemic on that occasion stooped to that level, in [. . .]
note on anti-Americanist conservatism in re Obama in Israel
CK MacLeod
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+ Thanks, Mr. McK. I don't see the Rs in any better a position, nor the independents for that matter. All the People's Political Scientists and [. . .]
Jennifer Rubin: Pro-Trump Republicans will get nothing, not even retention of a House majority – The Washington Post
Wade McKenzie
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ It's a common tactic in scholasticism (vide Edward Feser) to take a term of religio-philosophical significance (such as "creation" or "eternity") that has a commonly [. . .]
note on anti-Americanist conservatism in re Obama in Israel

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