The Elephant in the Room

I’m not in the habit of discussing current affairs, but I really must get this out of my system, if only so I can stop muttering ‘oh for fuck’s sake’ at various screens.

The spectacle of the recent US election has invited a lot of frustration, with people looking for someone to blame. Look, there’s even an article with a useful list of scapegoats in the Guardian. Everywhere I turn, I’m confronted by complaints about democracy, the masses,  and the usual woolly-minded platonic finger-wagging. Condemning American voters sits well with the snobbish, authoritarian attitude that Serious People are supposed to have these days, but it happens to be premised on utter bullshit.

Two points:

(1) Voter turnout was incredibly low. Barely half of eligible voters would or could do the deed. The Trump victory is a victory for apathy, or cynicism, or disenfranchisement, rather than the victory of a candidate.

(2) Trump appears to be ever so slightly behind in the popular vote. Meaning that this is a victory for institutional fidgy-widgyness over actual democracy.

For those of us in The Rest of the World, these results are more than mere spectacle. The peculiar dysfunctions of the US system are merely exaggerations of other democracies’. Representative systems are not supposed to allow ordinary people to take control; that’s the point. Some regions have more power than others. Party elites tend to get their own way. Money talks. The problem with our democratic politics is that it isn’t. Laughing and/or crying because this buffoon made it into power only helps to obscure how rotten things are.

And you can be sure that, from now on, every time the presidential orang-utan commits a foux pas, some smug talking head will be along to remind us all that this is the problem with the tyranny of the majority or some other unread classical shibboleth. The truth is that the political elites, experts, and other great and good persons who are now undergoing uncontrolled fission at the prospect of Trump in the Whitehouse are part of the system that put him there.

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