Electoral politics has become alarmingly medieval. The end of the primary season is like nothing so much as a joust for insipid politicians vying to see who can yield to the newly crowned king of the party most obsequiously and win a paltry prize of tenuous continuing relevancy. The common people in the party, meanwhile, are expected to yield their independence and support the nominee lest they endanger success in the general election.
Political parties have a right to demand a certain amount of loyalty. They provide resources to politicians and to their registered members in the electorate, ,give structure to a complex national system and fight for a particular set of beliefs.
This loyalty, however, ought to be to the ideas which make up the party’s planks, as these are the heart and reason for the party’s existence. The party only needs officials and politicians to see that these principles are advanced in legislation. This means party members must be allowed to debate whether various courses of action are truly in line with the party ideology; they cannot be branded traitors for speaking against the party.
Yet, there is always a rush to party unity following a primary, the accepted wisdom being that any dissent is seen as weakness within the party, which could undermine success in the general election. Often, the call to coalesce support behind the candidate for whom “the people have spoken” begins even before the primaries, which exist to give dissenting and minority voices a chance to compete for their spot in the party, have ended. Various party members are brought before an inquisitorial board of media and political elites and ordered to express their unwavering support for the victorious candidate.One overriding message is clear: sacrifice yourself- to an individual, not an idea- for the good of the party.
This is a form of collectivist slavery. Value in a system that prizes the endorsement of prominent party members lies in the consensus of a majority that is, at best, vaguely defined. Rather than independently examine facts, such as whether a candidate’s views align with personal ideology and that of the party platform, primacy is placed on the social capital of popularity which is then used to extort support. “You cannot stand against the front runner because the majority have spoken, and what the majority decides in democracy must be considered good.” so the intelligentsia bluster.
Not only is examination of the merits of a candidate’s actions and ideas discouraged, it is in many cases pitted against the idea of the public good. For politicians, this spells an end to their career. For the electorate, this leads to being labelled as fringe subgroups whose interests and arguments are ignored. The choice is clear: persist in resisting and become irrelevant or submit in the hope that someday change will occur.
This system of soft tyranny is, in some respects, worse than hard tyranny. Slavishness of the mind is volitional. Choosing not to think is as much an active act as choosing to engage in rationality. Hard tyranny- the act of conquering through force- presupposes opposition. The conquered at least has the satisfaction of having resisted. The victims of soft tyranny don’t even have this vestige of honor for they sell themselves.
Voting should be the ultimate public expression of ego. Federalistic representation relies on the principle of each voter carefully weighing their needs and opinions against the actions and words of a candidate. In this way, an individual brands themselves upon national politics and proclaims the supremacy of their interests. Here, the individual is part of the national constituency, but they maintain their sovereignty.
A culture where political endorsements and political unity are valued strips the individual of sovereignty and perverts the principles of representative governance. Endorsers rely on the social capital of their position to garner support. They make emotional not logical appeals. They use buzz words and emotionally gratifying bromides instead of analyzing the foundation of policy. This is not political discourse; this is venial gloss.
And it is degrading. It promotes a view of the electorate not as a faction which must be won over through meritorious action and solid rhetoric, but through the hyperbole of ultimately foundationless cultural appeals.
Worse still, in this atmosphere the dissenter is demonized, necessarily so. A platitude can only stand so long as its core is not examined. Dissent of any sort threatens to expose the hollow core of this perfunctory, grandiose oratory. The right to survival demands dissenters be discredited. So endorsers become more malevolent, painting their opponents as a threat to the very foundation of the good of the plurality or majority. And the more people object to this tactic, the worse the smears must become. This is the centrifugal force that destroys free society. And it is the true face of democracy.
Also published on Medium.