One day has passed since the result of the presidential election. Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (59,938,290 at the time of this blog entry on Nov. 10’16) against Trump (59,704,866) due to an often controversial Electoral College that elects the President of the US she lost.
It was all agreeable and comforting to see President Obama and the President-elect sitting together nicely in the oval office in the White House, but I can understand why so many people (particularly young people) were upset by this election result (there were big protest movements organized in 27 cities the day after the election). Some people (interviewed on TV, for instance) scoff at these people by saying they don’t understand why these people were upset, adding they didn’t go out to protest the election of President Obama even when they didn’t like it. Well, the difference between President Obama and the 2016 President-elect is huge. For one thing Barack Obama never incited hatred against certain minority groups of this society. From the start, he was clear that he wanted to be the president for everybody in this society.
Though many people seem to believe democracy is an almost sacred institution, it has its own problems. For instance, it is difficult to stop the appearance of demagogues who seem to be able to incite passions among the populace. And I believe the 2016 US President-elect was its textbook case. (It’s possible his campaigners consciously used the demagoguery technique to excite some people.) Here I want to quote the definition of demagogue from Wikipedia.
“A demagogue /ˈdɛməɡɒɡ/ (from Greek δημαγωγός, a popular leader, a leader of a mob, from δῆμος, people, populace, the commons + ἀγωγός leading, leader) or rabble-rouser is a leader in a democracy who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation. Demagogues have usually advocated immediate, violent action to address a national crisis while accusing moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness or disloyalty. Demagogues overturn established customs of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so; most who were elected to high office changed their democracy into some form of dictatorship.
Demagogues have appeared in democracies since ancient Athens. They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, nothing stops the people from giving that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population.
The word demagogue, originally meaning a leader of the common people, was first coined in ancient Greece with no negative connotation, but eventually came to mean a troublesome kind of leader who occasionally arose in Athenian democracy. Even though democracy gave power to the common people, elections still tended to favor the aristocratic class, which favored deliberation and decorum. Demagogues were a new kind of leader who emerged from the lower classes. Demagogues relentlessly advocated action, usually violent—immediately and without deliberation. Demagogues appealed directly to the emotions of the poor and uninformed, pursuing power, telling lies to stir up hysteria, exploiting crises to intensify popular support for their calls to immediate action and increased authority, and accusing moderate opponents of weakness or disloyalty to the nation. While many politicians in a democracy make occasional small sacrifices of truth, subtlety, or long-term concerns to maintain popular support, demagogues do these things relentlessly and without self-restraint.
Throughout its history, people have often used the word demagogue carelessly, to disparage any leader whom the speaker thinks manipulative, pernicious, or bigoted. While there can be no precise delineation between demagogues and non-demagogues, since democratic leaders exist on a continuum from less to more demagogic, what distinguishes a demagogue can be defined independently of whether the speaker favors or opposes a certain political leader. What distinguishes a demagogue is how he or she gains or holds democratic power: by exciting the passions of the lower classes and less-educated people in a democracy toward rash or violent action, breaking established democratic institutions such as the rule of law. James Fenimore Cooper in 1838 identified four fundamental characteristics of demagogues:
1.They fashion themselves as a man or woman of the common people, as opposed to the elites.
2.Their politics depends on a visceral connection with the people which greatly exceeds ordinary political popularity.
3.They manipulate this connection, and the raging popularity it affords, for their own benefit and ambition.
4.They threaten or outright break established rules of conduct, institutions, and even the law.
The central feature of the practice of demagoguery is persuasion by means of passion, shutting down reasoned deliberation and consideration of alternatives. Demagogues ‘pander to passion, prejudice, bigotry, and ignorance, rather than reason.’”