Friday, May 25, 2018

The greatest enemy of democracy, ignorance

We have become a nation of slogans, but not of knowledge. Most Americans believe there is a "deep state" calling the shots in Washington, per recent poll. However, even one cabinet member  Donald Trump  appointed in the position to know, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State and former CIA director, said there is not such thing. He believes the rank and file of government workers do try to conform to the policies of the elected.  Why do so many believe such slogans so easily? Much is because of the ignorance of many. Most Americans cannot name the three branches of government or the contents of the Bill of Rights protecting their freedoms from a tyrant.  Checks and balances have no meaning. How can they be alarmed democracy is under attack by Trump, a wannabe autocrat? They may not realize that most of government's "deep state' are civil servants who were hired on merit and cannot be fired for lack of party loyalty. They are not term limited, unlike the President. Most Americans do not even know the Mueller probe has gotten indictments, pleas, and convictions related to Russian interference in the 2016 elections and believe it is indeed a politically motivated witch hunt.

Cries from historians and political scientists that Donald Trump is trampling the framework of the Constitution, freedom of the press, and civil rights fall on deaf ears because most Americans have had a very poor education about these matters.  If they do not know the basics of our form of government and why it was established to protect them from what, no wonder those warnings have no meaning to them.  The Annenberg Foundation survey in 2017 found that
  • More than a third of those surveyed (37 percent) can’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment;
  • Only a quarter of Americans (26 percent) can name all three branches of government.
“Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don’t is worrisome,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania. “These results emphasize the need for high-quality civics education in the schools and for press reporting that underscores the existence of constitutional protections.”

Our founders knew way before the advent of TV, radio and the internet that the public was prone to be uninformed and that public opinion was a very fickle thing. They believed that ignorance was a threat to a democracy.  They made this a republic, not a direct democracy, with elected representatives who did have the charge to be informed and educated. We do not have a government run by polls of popular opinions but by those we elect, some every two years (House of Representatives which is sensitive to more recent voter opinions), one third of the senate up for re-election every two years with 6 year terms, and a president elected every 4 years based upon an electoral college voted geared to favor smaller states.  The two term limit for president came after World War II..
Trump knows a great slogan when he makes up one. His media echo chamber magnifies it. He is the master demagogue at work. , Mike Pompeo, must not have gotten his daily talking tweet and said  there was no such thing at the CIA or State Department The sad thing is that so many Americans have fallen for this line. We have met the enemy of democracy and it is ignorance. That ignorance is. fertile ground ready to absorb the slogans. 

Once upon a time in our history government employees were appointed; it was the spoils system and was a corrupt as could be and they were not appointed because of credentials or ability. We have had reform and the overwhelming members of the employees belong to the civil service and are not political appointees. Those who are appointees and confirmed by the Senate direct and set policy and priorities for the body of civil servants they supervise, but they still swear to uphold and defend the Constitution not the rule of the person in the White House. This applies to the FBI, the intelligence agencies that Trump claims are "criminal". That they are sworn to defend the Constitution and not the president is a critical element that keeps us from being an autocracy or ruled by a tyrant. This paranoid fantasy Trump wants the public to swallow is a way for any negative findings of the Mueller investigation will not be believed..

75% of Republicans believe his slogan that the Mueller probe is a witch hunt, and 53% of all voters think the probe is politically motivated. 5. Nonetheless, two thirds of Americans want the probe to continue. .Witches found to date by Mueller: indicted or guilty pleas, 19 people, 3 companies .59% do not know this, per a recent poll.

Media is partly to blame. 
This is what happens when either Americans do not pay attention to the news or they get all of their news from one TV station that only reports good news about Donald Trump or spins his spins about bad news. There is a whole world out there over half the country is missing...thanks to our partisan media divide. That other half dwells heavily on being the critical opposition, and only back handedly praise Trump  when he does succeed. In making constitutional  based arguments, middle and independent media is assuming a level of voter sophistication that does not exist.

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