Bernkastel wrote: ↑
I'd say that Trump effectively had significant help via the incompetency/flaws of people who opposed him. It's why I brought up the Republican Party. They certainly did not intend for their party to end up with Trump as their Presidential candidate. However, their decisions as a party were such that they created conditions favourable to a person like Trump if he were to try and take the position of Presidential candidate. It was their flaws that allowed a person like Trump to rise. Their flaws, in my opinion, made such an outcome likely to happen eventually. That sort of problem is what concerns me far more than Trump the manipulator, that of groups, people and systems that have sunk to such a level that someone like Trump has a far higher probability of success than he should. I also feel that the notion of Trump the manipulator draws attention away from how low things have gotten and how much groups and systems in US politics need to be improved.
I think that to some extent this shouldn't be modeled as a zero-sum tradeoff between "watch out for Trump manipulations" and "we have GOT to fix our institutional flaws."
The key insight here is that while Trump is exceptional and unusual
, he is not unique
. Many people could emulate him in politically relevant ways if they saw fit to do so, especially now that they have seen him succeed.
After all, perhaps the most unique thing about Trump is that his narcissism and egotism are such that he had the gall to try
an audacious strategy that most people simply would not have considered, because they would have expected it to fail- as is often the case when dealing with psychopaths.
But once the psychopath has done it as a consequence of his madness and egotism, others may start doing it in an attempt to emulate the psychopath's success. And may well succeed where he failed, due to being less flawed on the psychological level, even if they are no more ethical. So Trump highlights an institutional flaw that can and will be exploited again if it is not fixed, while at the same time being unusual in ways that make him a potential problem or threat. Mostly because he will hit our flaws as hard as he can, full force, unrestrained by the usual bonds of normalcy and custom, until either we break or he does. And that is unusual
As things stand, groups like the US press are at such a low level of reliability that the odds of them being screwed over by someone like a huckster with a track record of failure is high. They are just that incompetent/flawed. That is obviously very concerning in regards to the future. I don't think they've improved and that they still overestimate how competent they are.
I think there's been some incremental
improvement in some specific places, if only because the press has realized that if they fail their job hard enough they may find a rabidly anti-press and pro-censorship government taking office. But no, there has not been any drastic "sea change" in the nature and composition of the press.
You know, I had a strange thought.
In terms of his political role, if not in terms of personal nature and qualities, Trump reminds me a bit of Alcibiades from Athens. They're VERY DIFFERENT MEN
, I just want to make that clear, but in terms of the 'weirdly successful charismatic demagogue who obviously has no real loyalty to the state or its customs and aggrandizes himself shamelessly' dynamic... it's there.
Anyway, I want to skip past that because it's not really the strong part of my position. My REAL point is more like...
Maybe the political dynamics of a modern, social-media-happy democracy resemble those of ancient democratic city-states more strongly than the typical 19th or 20th century constitutional republic resembles EITHER
of them. Consider some of the similarities:
1) Information routinely travels quickly through interpersonal channels, and can get from one side of the polity to the other quickly. In ancient times, because the voting population was at most several thousand people in a town, in modern times, because of social media.
2) The populace can change opinion rapidly or capriciously, and is susceptible to being easily swayed by 'spin.' This is a direct consequence of (1). In ancient times there were no mass media, in modern times the mass media have been in large part bypassed.
3) Creating new factions, including both enlightened and deeply troubling ones, is easy
, because it's physically easy to coordinate groups of like-minded people throughout the polity.
The ancients often criticized democracy as easily collapsing into demagoguery, then into tyranny. But the constitutional republics of the 1800s and 1900s rarely had this problem, which has generally resulted in the criticism being ignored. Maybe we've cycled back
into an era where that is a more realistic danger, if we don't find methods of insuring against it that were unknown to the ancients.