The increasing probability of demagogues

…human kind cannot bear very much reality.

T.S. Eliot – Burnt Norton

People like things the way they want them. If one group of politicians raise taxes too much, people will vote for the other group who claims they will not raise taxes.

There’s nothing wrong with this in moderation – it is how democratic societies find their way by becoming manifestations of their people’s will.

But, there are limits beyond which what is reasonable is left behind. People don’t like hard truths. And politicians, ever bent on pleasing people so they can get elected, will deny hard truths and promise the impossible – if it means the difference between office or obscurity.

Thus, as we come into the hard times ahead, the rise of demagogues becomes possible and then probable.

People don’t want to give up the perks of living in the world’s richest nation (I am speaking here of the U.S.). They do not want to cut back on their material possessions, or on reasonably priced food or on their ability to live in a remote suburb and to drive everywhere they want in their car because they can – since gasoline prices are low.

If one politician tells them the truth – that things are going to unavoidably change and life must get tougher, then they will flock en-masse to elect the other fellow who tells them that he knows how to keep everything running just as it is – so they do not have to be inconvenienced.

There are a small minority of people who know that this isn’t right and will vote accordingly. But the vast majority of people don’t know this and really don’t care. They just want what they want and think that if they express their will at the ballot box, that reality will have to conform.

I follow a financial blog written by Sterling Newberry. He’s has a piece up just now discussing the impressive rise in the popularity of Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul – and what might be behind it.

As demagogues go, Paul and Huckabee are only minor examples but they represent, to me, a trend that we will see more and more of as the looming realities ahead begin to interfere with the American lifestyle and the American people’s comfort.

You will find the beginning of Newberry’s piece, below.

Definition of a demagogue:

emotive dictator: a political leader who gains power by appealing to people’s emotions, instincts, and prejudices in a way that is considered manipulative and dangerous.

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Americans want Progress. Since the Democratic Party’s elected leadership, and its major political candidates have decided to run as slightly left leaning Reaganites, Americans are turning to racism, nativism, anti-banking hysteria and conspiracy theories promulgated by demagogues. Huckabee and Paul are both populist reactionaries. They think that the cure to every headache is to amputate at the neck.

Within the Republican Party their populist and elitist division is bubbling to the surface because three policies of the elitist wing are appearing in the populist world as major pains. Populist candidates don’t believe in solving root problems, particularly not in the conservative side, because they believe that the symptom is the problem. Both pander directly to racism, and to a fuming conspiracy view of the world.


One Response to “The increasing probability of demagogues”

  1. Ron Paul cannot qualify as a demagogue under the requirements set forward. His entire message is, “Things are going to be hard and there’s nothing the government can do. It’s time we as a society faced it and stopped depending on the government.” He is, by the criterion and arguments you have presented, the epitome of the anti-demagogue. His support should therefore be the class of people who know that some truths cannot forever be put off.

    Since you claim to be such a person yet speak of Ron Paul with extraordinarily hateful language, either your argument must be flawed, or you are one of those people who would rather vote for those who claim that the status quo can be sustained indefinitely.