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

This is a Waterloo moment for Trump, the tea party and their alliance.  They have been stopped in their tracks not only by Democratic opposition but because of a mutiny within their own ranks. Although never particularly liked or respected, it is now clear that they are no longer feared. The bankruptcy of their ideas and their incompetence have been exposed. Their momentum has been dissipated. Their rejection of political norms has itself been scorned. Our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end.

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One seasoned Democrat told me that among the reasons Trump won in 2016 was that a long year of Crooked Hillary talk, about emails and Goldman Sachs and the like, had steadily demoralised and demobilised the liberal base. If sustaining fury at Trump helps keep those same voters energised, so they eventually turn out to defeat him, it’ll be worth it, he says.

But it can’t just be in the form of world-weary, if witty, tweets. What’s needed is a coherent argument, one that explains why Trump’s repulsive behaviour matters. For Americans, that will surely centre on the state of their society. The civic realm is being degraded by Trump’s lies, vanities and insults. The national conversation is being coarsened. The basic democratic assumption, that disagreements can be resolved through discussion rather than coercion and violence, is being eroded from the very top. Note the language of Scaramucci’s outburst: “I want to fucking kill all the leakers.”

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[C]limate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must.

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