Friday, April 28, 2017

Will The "American Democracy Die In Dumbness" ?

Poll after poll has shown that the American public does not think Donald Trump is doing a good job as president, and is dishonest and untrustworthy. That is not the case among those who voted for Trump in last November's election though.

The questions above are from a new University of Virginia Center for Politics Poll -- done between April 17th and 19th of a random national sample of 1,000 Trump voters, with a 3.1 point margin of error.

It shows that almost all of his voters are still supporting him, with a job approval rating of 93% approval to 7% disapproval. That's pretty remarkable considering all the lies he has told and issues he has flip-flopped on.

The poll shows they really don't care about his position of the issues -- with 83% saying they are not concerned about his issue flip-flops. A large percentage of them also believe the lies he has told. This seems to verify that his support was not because of his positions on the issues or the solutions he offered for the country's problem. It was much more a cult of personality -- with supporters jumping on his bandwagon because he hated all the same people they hate.

Tom Nichols, in an excellent article for USA Today, says this is the kind of dumbness that could destroy our democracy. Here are some excerpts from that article:

Trump is at this point the most unpopular new president in the history of modern polling. What is bewildering is that at the same time, 96% of Trump voters say they have no regrets about their choice. How can this be? Is it just partisanship, with Americans so divided that they will simply cheer on their own team and stay loyal beyond all rational thought? . . .

The wide disagreement among Americans on the president’s performance, however, is more than partisanship. It is a matter of political literacy. The fact of the matter is that too many Trump supporters do not hold the president responsible for his mistakes or erratic behavior because they are incapable of recognizing them as mistakes. They lack the foundational knowledge and basic political engagement required to know the difference between facts and errors, or even between truth and lies.

As the social psychologist David Dunning wrote during the campaign, “Some voters, especially those facing significant distress in their life, might like some of what they hear from Trump, but they do not know enough to hold him accountable for the serious gaffes he makes.” In other words, it’s not that they forgave Trump for being wrong, but rather that they failed “to recognize those gaffes as missteps” in the first place. . . .

To be sure, some of Trump’s voters, like any others, are just cynical and expect the worst from every elected official. Others among them grasp Trump’s failings but fall back on the sour but understandable consolation that at least he is not Clinton. But many simply don’t see a problem. . . .

There is a more disturbing possibility here than pure ignorance: that voters not only do not understand these issues, but also that they simply do not care about them. As his supporters like to point out, Trump makes the right enemies, and that’s enough for them. Journalists, scientists, policy wonks — as long as “the elites” are upset, Trump’s voters assume that the administration is doing something right. “He makes them uncomfortable, which makes me happy,” Ohio Trump voter James Cassidy told the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale. Syria? Korea? Health care reform? Foreign aid? Just so much mumbo-jumbo, the kind of Sunday morning talk-show stuff only coastal elitists care about.

There is a serious danger to American democracy in all this. When voters choose ill-informed grudges and diffuse resentment over the public good, a republic becomes unsustainable. The temperance and prudent reasoning required of representative government gets pushed aside in favor of whatever ignorant idea has seized the public at that moment. The Washington Post recently changed its motto to “democracy dies in darkness,” a phrase that is not only pretentious but inaccurate. More likely, American democracy will die in dumbness.

Those of us who criticized Trump voters for their angry populism were often told during and after the election not to condescend to our fellow citizens, and to respect their choices. This is fair. In a democracy, every vote counts equally and the president won an impressive and legitimate electoral victory.

Even so, the unwillingness of so many of his supporters to hold him to even a minimal standard of accountability means that a certain amount of condescension from the rest of us is unavoidable.

In every election, we must respect the value of each vote. We are never required, however, to assume that each vote was cast with equal probity or intelligence.

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