That Is The Way Democracy Dies

Past Supreme Court Judge David Souter warned 4 years ago of a Trump-like person rising up to say that only he can fix the problems of America.

He said,

“I don’t worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion. I don’t worry about it because I think there is going to be a coup by the military, as has happened in some of other places. What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible. And when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, ‘Give me total power and I will solve this problem.’

“That is how the Roman republic fell. Augustus became emperor, not because he arrested the Roman Senate. He became emperor because he promised that he would solve problems that were not being solved.

“If we know who is responsible, I have enough faith in the American people to demand performance from those responsible. If we don’t know, we will stay away from the polls. We will not demand it. And the day will come when somebody will come forward and we and the government will in effect say, ‘Take the ball and run with it. Do what you have to do.’

That is the way democracy dies. And if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about at night.”

To understand this better, you need to understand that there are two kinds of thinkers in the world, dogmatic and pragmatic.

Pragmatic thinkers approach problems from a practical and logical point of view. They consider evidence, test hypothesis, and evaluate results, rather than depending on established thinking alone. They weigh heavily that which can be observed, measured, and experienced.

Pragmatic thinkers are always asking questions and seeking answers, only to discover new questions. Who knows where life will take you: and in the end, the journey is the destination. There are treasures to be found not just at the end of the journey, but all along the way. This discovery endues a euphoric sense of personal freedom from the bondage of long established opinions (dogma).

Pragmatic thinkers try to convey their ideas by reason and knowledge and evidence. Every encounter is both a learning and a teaching moment. The exchange of ideas “lifts all boats,” as the saying goes.

Steve Jobs said, “Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

Dogma is a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted; it is a code of beliefs for which there is no empirical evidence; it is fixed, never changing, all knowing and powerful; it demands obedience and is uncompromising; it is authoritative.

Dogmatic thinkers are people who guide their lives by dogma, and who put forward those ideas (inappropriately) as if they were hard facts that should be accepted as absolute truths without evidence. When they encounter people with differing beliefs, they display an attitude of condescension. Carl Sagan liked to say, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” but for dogma, there is no evidence to consider.

Every dogma has a language of its own, and its followers recognize that language. They understand very well that, “Make America Great Again” is really a a set of code words for “Make White Western European Descended American Males Dominant Again.” They understand that, “We just want a homeland of our own” means “We want the United States to be for white western European descended people only, and all others should be rounded up and expelled by a Deportation Force.” Two people who follow the same dogma will use the same language, and this coded language becomes a secret sign of membership in a fraternity.

Dogmatic thinkers are authoritarian, which means they expect the members of their fraternity to obey the rules of the dogma, and eschew personal freedom. This always requires a blind submission to authority. (Think “Taliban” or “ISIS” here.)

Authority is the concentration of power in a leader who is not directly responsible to his followers. Until recently, the Far Right Fringe (a.k.a. Tea Party) has felt themselves without such a leader.

This explains Donald Trump’s extraordinary rise as the leader of the the xenophobic, racist, misogynist, birther, science denier, conspiracy theorist, seditionist, separatist, secessionist, religious extremist, anti-abortionist, anti-immigrant, white supremacist, Nazi, KKK, anti-evolutionists, pro-prayer in schools, anti-Obamacare, anti-unionist, and gun cultist (to name a few), or, in short, the Far Right Fringe movements: he talks their language.

At the present time, to contradict Donald Trump is to commit a crime against the fraternity. Those who speak against Donald Trump or the dogma are branded liars and conspirators. Outsiders are barred from the meetings of their secret society (Trump rallies), or corralled in cages in one corner (like the media at a Trump rally).

Democracy, on the other hand, is marked by a system of governance by all the eligible members of a state, and based on the practice or principles of social equality. A democracy is a living body, ever changing and adapting to the needs of its citizens. It is personal freedom bestowed upon its members in exchange for compromise and tolerance. Its principles are upheld by a common bond between its members, regardless of their differences. Pragmatic thinkers seek democracy, social equality, and freedom. It is an open society where all are welcomed.

Unfortunately, demagogues and their dogmatic followers prefer authoritarianism over democracy. Their deluded thinking and the social pressure within their fraternity will keep them in line, taking from them the very freedom they falsely believe they have. Persuading one of those people to change ideas is almost a fool’s errand.

Ayn Rand, in her book Anthem, said, “The secrets of this world are not for all men to know, but only for those who will seek them.”

Were Trump to win the election, democracy would be swept away and replaced with authoritarianism (think “life in Iran under Sharia Law”). You and all of us would be forced to live under the Far Right Fringe’s version of “Sharia” law.

I believe, however, that Trump’s victory is about to be snatched away from him and his followers, but only if all of us who are pragmatic thinkers and love democracy join together to vote for it!

The wheel of Fortune turns;
I go down, demeaned;
another is raised up;
far too high up
sits the king at the summit -
let him fear ruin!
for under the axis is written
Queen Hecuba.
-- Fortune Plango Vulnera from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana

Right now, Trump sits at the summit, but the wheel of Fortune is about to turn. And Trump’s response is to label the system as “rigged” and “crooked,” and to call for an armed revolution if the election is “stolen” from him.

A recent poll of Republican voters showed that 41% of Republicans would be OK with some sort of violent overthrow of the government if Hillary Clinton were to win in 2016. That’s approximately 28 million registered voters. It’s hard to believe that this would be possible in America, but it coincides with the rise of dogmatic thinkers that make up the Far Right Fringe.

You can fight back. Be a pragmatist. Weigh the evidence. Hillary Clinton is none of the things Donald Trump and the Republicans accuse her of being. It’s all Trump dogma, and the extremists, and even many less extreme Republican voters, are relying on it as if it were the Word of God. Well, it’s not.

So get out and vote! You can be sure they will!

Vote for Hillary Clinton, the most extraordinarily well prepared presidential candidate this country has seen in more than my lifetime.

Vote for Democrats in the down ballot as well. Even the few moderate Republicans that are left are now slaves to the Far Right Fringe (previously known as the Tea Party). A vote for any Republican is a vote for authoritarianism.

And please forward this letter to as many people as you think will listen to the voice of reason.

Love to all my family and friends,

Michael J. Welch, Ph.D.

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