Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
“The more powerful the passions and the more uncontained the ambitions, the more likely the democratic system will collapse into despotism. Demagogues are the Achilles heel of democracy. There is even a standard demagogic playbook. Demagogues, whether of left or right, present themselves as representatives of the common people against elites and unworthy outsiders; make a visceral connection with followers as charismatic leaders; manipulate that connection for their own advancement, frequently by lying egregiously; and threaten established rules of conduct and constraining institutions as enemies of the popular will that they embody. Mr Trump is almost a textbook demagogue. Nigel Farage, former leader of the UK Independence party, has not advanced so far because it has proved harder to capture the UK’s party-based institutions than it is the US presidency.”
he goes on to say:
“The demagogue’s campaign leads naturally to despotism — the tyranny of the majority that is a mask on the tyranny of one. As institutions are brought under dictatorial control, the opposition is driven into rebellion or acquiescence. Despots use the former as an excuse for repression and the latter to demand absolute obedience. A host of examples of the demagogic route to power exists, in both past and present. Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler are case studies of demagogues turned into despots. It is not hard to think of recent examples, from Hugo Chávez to Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin.”
Source: Democrats, demagogues and despots, Financial Times. To get behind the pay wall, just google the article’s title.
Superb article by Martin Wolf. He touches on two extremely interesting points: The importance of institutions/systems and the dangers of demagoguery (no matter who’s using it.) He doesn’t get into the technical progression/evolution of demagoguery, which I think is really a point of fundamental importance in this debate.
Although some believe they’re in a battle of identity and are currently satisfied their side has won- there is evidently no real victory in authority by groupthink. It doesn’t matter how many millions of Christians believe in prayer- prayer still does not work. Building a border wall with Mexico will not improve the lives of people who are struggling financially in the rust belt. And the first effect of tariffs on Chinese products would be prices going up. Likewise, all the evidence shows that being outside of the single EU market will have a profoundly negative impact on the UK economy.
…and that’s how and where people in power are forced into corners and have no choice but to take ever more extreme and authoritarian positions. When one can’t rely on facts or evidence to defend their ideas, what’s left is wordplay and manipulation.
Take the current line of Mrs. May’s government on Brexit: We can’t discuss our strategy because that would *give away* our bargaining position. This is said as if there will be some sort of puff of smoke moment in the negotiations and suddenly David Davis is going to have magic beans to offer the EU that will make Brexiteer proposals irresistible. And those magic beans will make the EU accept everything that goes against the EU project, and is in fact to the project’s detriment- and this to benefit the one country that’s not a part of the union (versus the 27 that are.)
And let’s not forget it was just yesterday when she actually said that the factory and rail workers who were planning to strike had contempt for the common man. Ah yes, those liberal elitist factory workers and rail workers!!!
So once it becomes clear that the populist promises either don’t materialise or don’t engender the promised effects- then those who got their hands on power using this methodology don’t have many options. Evo Morales (now approaching what may become his fourth term as president of Bolivia) has proposed the creation of a para-governmental agency to “defend democracy”. A democracy which is under constant attack. Especially from foreign forces (allegedly.) He gets to appoint officials to this agency, and they get to decide what constitutes democracy, what threatens it, and also how to define the word foreign. Fascinating.