Monday, November 21, 2016
Trump's triumph is all the fault of the thick, ill-informed, irrational mob
Or is it? Who is REALLY being thick, ill-informed and irrational?
After Brexit in June and now the victory of Donald Trump, everyone’s freaking out about the howling little people and their ripping up of the political script.
This is the year of rage, commentators claim. Brexit was a “howl of rage”, says The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland. And now it has been joined by the “anti-establishment anger” of those US voters who elected Trump. It was “rage, not reason” that made people go for Trump, says a US neuroscientist. All this hand-wringing over the rage of Them gives an impression of a swarm of folk brutishly disturbing politics and business as usual. Brexit and now Trump have “shaken the postwar liberal order”, says the Financial Times.
Apparently these pesky plebs, driven by “temporary populist passions” rather than “reasoned deliberation”, in the words of British-American conservative Andrew Sullivan, have done great harm to liberal, rational public life.
This is nonsense. It’s a dangerous and distracting myth. For it isn’t ordinary people, whether Brexiteers or Trumpites, who threaten to dismantle important liberal ideals; it’s their critics, the members of the political class raging against what they view as the raging masses, who risk doing this.
Yes, huge numbers of ordinary people are expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo. As British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a speech this week, Brexit and Trump show that people are peeved at the “emergence of a new global elite” and they want change. But this people’s protest, this polite registering of dissent, isn’t blind rage and it isn’t throttling decent politics. That is being done by the response to Brexit and Trump, by the new elites’ demophobia.
It’s this response that is likely to seriously damage political life. The truly disturbing thing about 2016 is not the rage of the masses against the establishment but the rage of the elites against democracy.
In the 20 years I’ve been writing about politics, I cannot remember a time when disgust for democracy has been as explicit as it is now. It’s everywhere.
“Trump won because voters are ignorant”, says a headline in Foreign Policy magazine. The piece, written by Jason Brennan, US professor and author of Against Democracy, says Trump owes his victory to “the uninformed”.
But this goes beyond Trump, says Brennan. The public’s stupidity calls into question the whole idea of making decisions democratically. Perhaps what we need is an “epistocracy”, where “votes are in some way weighted according to basic political knowledge”, he says. In short, let’s have IQ tests and give greater power to the clever over the dumb.
This isn’t an extreme view anymore. Being anti-democratic has become positively fashionable among the chattering classes.
We are no longer successfully “keeping the mob from the gates”, says Matthew Parris in The Spectator. It has been a while since observers openly talked about “the mob”. Trump’s victory calls into question the wisdom of having “government by the people”, Parris says. So who should govern? Kings? Priests? Parris?
We have become “too democratic”, says Sullivan. The “passions of the mob” have become too great a player in political life. We need a better “elitist sorting mechanism” to prevent people’s “untrammelled emotions” from dominating political discourse.
There is much talk of “low-information voters” or “low-information white people”, as Brennan calls them: a politically correct way of saying “the underclass”. Everyday people are ill-suited to big politics, apparently, because they know little and are driven by rage over reason.
In the words of leading US liberal magazine The Atlantic, the masses are “ignorant of basic facts”, meaning they cannot “act reasonably and rationally in the political process”.
The elitist fury that has greeted the low-information mob that voted for Trump echoes what was said after Brexit. The temerity of 17.4 million Brits to vote to leave the EU, when so many of our betters instructed us to vote remain, sent the establishment and commentariat into a rage that overshadows any rage from below.
It was ridiculous to ask “ignoramuses” to decide on the future of the EU, said famed atheist Richard Dawkins. The public, being ignorant of “the highly complex economic and social issues facing our country”, should “have no say on our EU membership”, he said.
Philosopher AC Grayling denounces the politics of the “crowd”. “Rule by crowd acclamation is a very poor method of government,” he says, since most members of the crowd, dimwitted specks, are susceptible to “misinformation, distortion, false promises (and) tabloid urgings”.
That is, our minds are easily fried by demagogues and lying newspapers; we’re controlled more by sentiment than reason.
Post-Brexit, elitists started to express their disdain for democracy casually and frequently. “What if democracy doesn’t work?” The Guardian’s George Monbiot asked. Maybe the idea that ordinary people behaved as “rational beings” was a myth, he said.
“Never before has the fate of a country … been changed by the swing of such a blunt axe, wielded by … poorly informed citizens,” Belgian writer David Van Reybrouck wrote in an essay hilariously titled “Why elections are bad for democracy”.
The horror of Brexit shows that we must not allow “popular sentiment (to hold) sway over informed decision-making”, former UN official Shashi Tharoor said. So let the smart rule the stupid? A pro-remain conservative said the EU referendum took a “noble idea, that everyone’s political views should count equally, too far”. So sometimes certain people’s views should be more equal than others’.
There are now legal efforts to overthrow Brexit, to thwart the will of the low-information people. And a good thing, too, says a writer for The Washington Post, since it was “widespread political ignorance” that fuelled Brexit.
The chattering-class narrative is that Brexit and Trump are products of idiocy and rashness, and we should now rethink how often we ask the plebs to have their say.
It’s naked elitism. And it should worry anyone who thinks of themselves as progressive far more than the rise of Trump or Britain leaving the EU. It echoes dark anti-democratic moments in history. The idea that crowds are manipulated by demagogues and thus can’t be trusted is the same sneer that was made against the Chartists, the 1840s British movement to expand the franchise to working-class men. The “lower orders of the people” did not have a “ripened wisdom”, said one opponent of Chartism. And this meant they were “more exposed than any other class” to be “converted to the vicious ends of faction”.
Such ugly snobbery is rehashed in the foul idea today that Brexiteers and Trumpites, being “low-information”, were easily hoodwinked by “misinformation”.
The idea that ordinary people lack expertise and are too ruled by emotion was also said of the suffragettes. As one historian says, women back then were seen to “lack the expertise” necessary for “informed political activity”. They were low-information.
They were also said to have difficulty “forming abstract ideas”. They are too emotional, and “government by emotion quickly degenerates into injustice”, the British journal the Anti-Suffrage Review said in 1910. Now that is said about women and men: too many of them are driven by “feeling, emotion”, in the words of Sullivan. And we can’t have government by emotion, can we?
From the Victorian period to the dark days of eugenicist thinking in the early 20th century, there was a profound discomfort among the elites with the idea of democracy. Now it’s making a comeback.
Crowd politics gives rise to “blubbering sentimentality”, Bismarck said in the 1800s; government by “crowd acclamation” gives us a useless “snapshot of sentiment”, Grayling says today. The language has become politer but the agitation with the throng remains the same.
This is the scary thing about 2016: not Brexit, not even Trump, but the openness with which democracy is now written off as a terrible mistake. We need to stand up for the crowd. It isn’t an unthinking swarm; it’s a collection of thoughtful individuals, each capable of rationalism and goodness.
In fact, these ordinary people, because they live and work in the belly of society in a way that cut-off experts and observers usually don’t, often have a better understanding of what’s wrong with society and how it might be fixed.
Less jaundiced by power, more aware of where everyday society isn’t working properly, the people can have a keener, more sensitive appreciation of political and social problems and what might be done about them.
I would sooner entrust political decisions to the first 50 people I encounter on my walk through town than to 50 people with PhDs. Too much democracy? There isn’t nearly enough.
Hillary’s crybabies need to grow up
It’s astonishing that we’re in the second week of anti-Trump protests, with the sore losers showing they have learned nothing from their humbling.
Their placards read Love Trumps Hate but it’s the other way around for them. Refusing to accept the verdict of the people unless it goes their way, they beat up suspected Trump voters, torch cars, break windows and injure police officers.
The impression is of a profound sense of entitlement.
They demand “dump Trump” because they are so certain of their moral superiority. They think if they splash around lazy insults, “racist, sexist, Islamophobe, homophobe”, they’ve won the argument.
They describe a vote for Trump as a “hate crime”. Yet they ignore actual hate crimes, like the bashing of a 15-year-old boy wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat in Maryland, or a 24-year-old on the subway in New York wearing the red Trump cap, or a 50-year-old man in Chicago suspected of being a Trump supporter because he was white.
Imagine if it were a Clinton voter who had copped beatings; it would be reported as the end of civilisation and evidence of the utter depravity of Trump voters.
If you needed proof for why Trump won the election, look no further than the hypocrisy of the left’s crybabies and sore losers, even now imagining they can bully their way into refusing Trump the job he won fair and square.
And where is President Obama, as his cities erupt? In Germany, with Angela Merkel, refusing to call for peace: “I would not advise people who feel strongly (about) the campaign. I wouldn’t advise them to be silent.”
Why hasn’t Clinton called off her goons? Why isn’t she urging that “peaceful transition of power” she was so big on when she thought she had the election in the bag?
She’s been at home, feeling sorry for herself. When she finally emerged for her first public function since the election on Friday, she was hailed as a feminist hero for not wearing makeup or brushing her hair. It was a deliberate statement, but what did it mean, other than to enhance the self-pity in which she is wallowing?
“There have been a few times this past week when all I wanted to do is just curl up with a good book or our dogs and never leave the house again”, she said, crying out for sympathy, but not respect.
Thus the anti-Trump protesters are being encouraged by their establishment elders, who ought to be setting a good example but instead have resolved their loss by turbocharging their contempt for the “deplorables”.
“Trump won because voters are ignorant, literally,” wrote Jason Brennan in Foreign Policy magazine.
But when anyone bothered to ask real Trump voters why they did it, as the Washington Post did last week, the answers defy the stereotypes.
“I am a gay millennial woman and I voted for Trump because I oppose the political correctness movement which has become a fascist ideology of silence and ignorance,” Samantha Styler, 21, of Arizona, wrote.
Deniz Dolun, 22, of Florida: “My entire family — five Muslim immigrants from Turkey — voted for Trump because of the Democratic Party’s pandering to Islamism. As people who have actually experienced Islamism in its purest form... we supported the candidate who promised to help us fight that issue.”
Christopher Todd, 53, of Florida: “I voted for Trump on the calculated bet that he would nominate conservative Supreme Court justices. If people want to permit gay marriage or abortion for any reason, then make both legal through the legislature, not via an unelected oligarchy rewriting the Constitution.”
Lori Myers, 51, of Texas, wrote: “I voted for Trump because the media was so incredibly biased. They were unhinged in their obvious role as the Clinton campaign propaganda machine.”
CHRIS BRAND is gravely ill. He is however in good hands in Edinburgh so we hope he will pull through. He is lucid enough to express his regrets that he cannot do his blog updates this week.
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.
Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)
Posted by JR at 1:24 AM