Is Democracy at a Breaking Point?

I’ve never been one to entertain doom and gloom scenarios, but over the past year it seems a lot of eerie ingredients are being poured into a great, big recipe for disaster. Structural power shifts are taking place. Overall, I think what we’re beginning to see is whether democracy can keep pace with technology.

A world in which massive amounts of (mis)information is increasingly produced and consumed at unprecedented quantities, it seems (e.g. Brexit and Trump), will continue to strain our democratic institutions. Actual democracies, and republics by extension, hinge on information. To echo many in the media, I wonder if we’re rapidly approaching a post-factual society, at least as far as campaigns go.

Technology and the media have made it very easy not only to consume (mis)information unwittingly, but enables one to immerse oneself in a sort of quasi-solipsism, to say nothing of the influence of the wealthy elite who control all of these grand media empires. We’ve created a fairly consolidated information apparatus that, I fear, is about to endure some abuses that may leave us scrambling to find even a small bastion of truth or consistency in a world of factual nihilism.

As if misinformation is the only problem, technological innovation outpaces the economy, too. No politician can bring back the manufacturing jobs of the old days. Things have changed. Technological innovation constantly redefines the economy and reshapes the labor force. It paves our destiny. The economy is a lot different now than even 5 or 10 years ago due to technological change, and there’s little we can do to stop that.

We could, of course, remedy the negative economic impacts of technological innovation, but that would require heavily investing in education, tech programs and infrastructure that better equips people for the future. We also need to ensure a social safety net remains in place for those always displaced in a rapidly changing economy.

Even more worrying is Trump’s seemingly protectionist trade philosophy and threats to start trade wars with Mexico and China, which would increase prices, the cost of living and market volatility. Also, it’s a high possibility that Republicans are going to gut healthcare for 22 million people, unless they truly come up with something with which to replace Obamacare.

Right now, most people are protesting under the auspices that something here can go very wrong (for many, it already has). But what happens if, indeed, the economy gets worse and social safety nets like healthcare are taken apart? What happens if the rights of minorities start coming under fire? In other words, the protests we see now are child’s play if we come to endure the worst from President-elect Trump and Republicans. Let’s make no mistake: these people rode into power on a wave of anger and frustration. That’s dangerous.

All of that sounds survivable, though, if we can make it until mid-term elections or the 2020 election, but the prospects look dim with a Republican-majority government that is now heavily entrenched for years to come — the presidency, majority in both houses of Congress, the soon-to-be conservative majority Supreme Court, and Republicans hold the majority of governorships as well — and who knows what damage they’ll cause to the political process as it stands today. As of right now, Democrats are left leaderless and without a war strategy, and if we don’t get it together, we’re going to lose even more seats in Congress.

And what does it mean when Trump appoints as his chief strategist Steve Bannon? For those of you who don’t know, Steve Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a conspiratorial news organization that has been a haven for the “alt-right”, a myriad of white supremacists, homophobes and basically the worst humanity has to offer.

Trump deemed himself the “law and order” candidate during the campaign; my biggest concern is whether Trump and those he surrounds himself with start thinking the protests of minorities are an impediment to “law and order”. How long before minorities, or any US citizen, start too easily falling under the legal definition of “terrorism” when protesting? Even the most powerful, levelheaded Republicans failed to stand up to a candidate Trump. I don’t have much faith that they’ll check a President Trump if the time comes.

President-elect Trump is a man who condoned torture during his campaign, whether or not said torture yields intelligence crucial to national security. He also said he wouldn’t hesitate to ship Americans accused of terrorism off to Guantanamo Bay. He also doesn’t know, having said during a national security debriefing, why we don’t use nuclear weapons more often and said he’d consider using them in certain situations. As I said, this situation continues toward the surreal. It seems to me, in my humble opinion, there’s a lot of dangerous ingredients brewing in this pressure cooker. I’m hoping I’m just paranoid.

6 Replies to “Is Democracy at a Breaking Point?”

  1. I feel your sentiments mirror that of many in these troubled times . We must continue to be strong . Keep faith and fight for our RIGHTS !

  2. Agreed… but what do we do about this? Protesting the president elect doesn’t seem to be the answer…and now that Republicans hold the Senate, and a majority of Representatives… dismantling systems of opression like gerrymandering seem unrealistic now…. I’m at the imtersection of two identities that are coming under Fire with the results of this election . I’m Black and Gay… and I know I need to fight…. the confusing part is knowing which channel to funnel this energy into. My question to you sir, is would you happen to have any Ideas on what should come next? Or any organizations you think will be on the front lines of ushering in a wave of progressivism against this new wall of conservatism…. that we can rally behind?

  3. Unfortunately, I dont think youre being paranoid. These are dangerous times for minorities, for women, for the environment, for free expression of ideas. The few appointments he’s announced already are dangerous people, who will coordinate the further spying on innocent people and encourage the harrassment/dentention of ‘others.’ Trump will make deals that benefit himself, his family and his friends without regard to the public good. We have already seen the erosion of civil liberties under the guise of terrorism, and now we’re all on board for its horrifying conclusion.

  4. There is some remaining hope that the apparatus of government prevent the president elect from releasing his inner toddler on sovereign nations or from realizing any of his other, more colorful campaign threats. Some, following the “he’s going to unzip his whole body and Andy Kaufman will come out” school of philosophy, hope that he was just playing a character during the campaign, to prove something to himself or to all the humans. His announced appointments are uniformly hideous but he *has* already backpedaled on some of his ridiculous wrestling heel braggadocio.

    But these hopes are like saying, “Mmm, I hope the shit on that sandwich is in well-formed turds.” The whole of government—and the electorate—has been lumbering slowly toward fascism as long as I can remember. What, for fuck’s sake, is the end goal of militarizing police forces across the country if NOT a police state? We already, in many or most cities and communities, treat all protest, peaceful and otherwise, as lawlessness. Or outright sedition. We already retrained all the apparatus of government to value and honor and protect Capital, not citizens, above all .

    Forgive me. I’m all about the doom-and-gloom.

  5. Frankly I think everyone needs to relax. The extremism on both sides reminds me of the late 60s and 70s. Change needed to happen. The forgotten people voted. Globalism in its present form only promotes the ideals of the elites. Look at the distribution of the vote. You can’t have people on the coasts dictate. Kits is government for the people by the people. The founding fathers were wise in putting together the electoral college . Anyone remember JFK won the electoral college but not the popular vote .
    The protests going on are violent and do more to harm causes than help

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