04 February 2012

Why Democracy Fails

From Ferd:

The modern American, regardless of ideology, is a raging narcissist; when he looks into another man’s eyes and doesn’t see himself reflected in them, he becomes angry. Both LIEbrals and CONservatives select their politicians on the basis of how much they remind them of themselves. LIEbrals, being smug, patronizing pedants who think they’re smarter than they actually are, voted for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton because he was a smug, patronizing pedant who seemed like he was smarter than he actually was. Obama being a sainted minority was also part of it. CONservatives swarmed around George W. Bush because his public image was of an uneducated, cowardly yokel. If given the choice between a well-groomed, articulate success and a fat, slovenly failure, CONservatives will pick the failure every time.

The reason why democracy always turns into a complete failure is simple:  most people get to vote, and most people are idiots.  People want a leader that represents what they believe about themselves, which is why the president is now nothing more than a blank figurehead for people to project themselves onto.  They aren’t interested in policies, except as a way to signal their beliefs, and they don’t care if the leaders that represent them are actually concerned about obeying the highest law of the land or acting in the long-term best interest of the country.

People think that representation means electing a figurehead that symbolizes their interests.*  A string of broken campaign promises does nothing to dissuade people from their belief that their representatives actually accomplish things on their behalf.  And even these failures are ignored because what’s really important is that one’s preferred politician is nothing more than a status symbol.  Thus, democracy devolves to simple status-mongering.

Funnily, though, people always complain about how politicians never do anything useful once they’re elected.  What they seem to forget is that a politician’s main purpose is to act as a symbol during an election, and give people a way to sort themselves into their own classes.  Once that’s accomplished, a politician is no longer needed, save as a figurehead for a movement or class.  And so, democracy does not exist to enable people to solve problems through citizen-based referendums, it exists to allow people to show solidarity with their self-selected class.  And this is why it fails, time and again: it focuses on symbolism over substance.

* This explains Newt’s popularity after his smackdown of a CNN reporter.  Newt’s actual track record—personal and political—is simply terrible, but many conservatives liked him after this incident because they were able to project their frustration with the mainstream media onto Newt’s verbal tongue-lashing.  Newt was simply an empty vessel to symbolize the right’s frustration.  And, in that sense, he can be said to represent them.


  1. "which is why the president is now nothing more than a blank figurehead for people to project themselves onto"

    Perceptive comment. This I think is why Mr. Obama was so successful on his way to the presidency. He was the true tabula rasa...no written record that the public can find (even his wife's thesis was suppressed), a thin legislative record, and a tendency to utter bland shibboleths in public. Thus the polity could project whatever image it wanted onto him. And at the time, The One was the messiah.

  2. @EW- I'm beginning to theorize that there will come a point when the president is nothing more than an empty figurehead, with no ideas of his own, so that the people will have a leader they can project onto in order to maintain political peace. Also, I think this trend has been seen already.