The Washington Post’s newish motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” received a mixed response. Naturally most of the response was snark. The name of a “Batman” sequel? A heavy-metal album? Har.
My own preferred motto would be The Post’s unofficial one, “Follow the Money.” Now if The Post put that under its masthead and reported the news with the goal being to understand the extent and influence of money in the political process, we’d really be getting somewhere. But at least “Democracy Dies in Darkness” tells people that there are important consequences to being able to report the news.
But what if democracy dies anyway? What if it can happen in full view of everybody? This is no longer a fanciful question.
What if the voters of the United States don’t really care about democracy anymore? What if, instead of sunlight on the process, they are perfectly happy to accept the neon and strobing of a windowless, clockless casino floor?
Let us look at the signs.
• We used to have a class of low-information voters. But they have now been cultivated and transformed into wrong-information voters. This was done on purpose. They consist, to a degree, of what psychological studies have identified as people who are actually inclined toward authoritarianism rather than open societies. Note the fact that whether or not President Trump benefited by Russia doing everything it could think of to undermine our election, neither he nor anyone in his administration seems the least bit bothered by the interference, or apparently inclined to do anything about it. And ask his voters if they care either.
• We had baked into our cake a Senate with skewed representation, but since then we’ve added, via gerrymandering, a House of Representatives that is skewed in the same direction. And throw in an electoral college that has given the presidency to someone who lost the popular vote two out of the last three presidents. And then note that the party which has benefited from all this non-representativeness has gamed the system further in a way that will also give it control of the Supreme Court.
• The very ethos of a shared democratic destiny of equal citizens has been continuously eroded and replaced with a me-first standard of “whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Yes, that old semi-humorous bumper-sticker slogan actually seems to be our current governing principle and main measure of the successful American.
This all happened while we were all wide awake and presumably paying attention. Until we now find ourselves with a government that does not, in fact, represent the voting preferences or policy preferences of, you know, the majority of voters. And this unrepresentative government is not taking the healing course of tacking to the center, to balance the inequitable results by reaching out to the other side. No, far from it, and as far as you can get. They are not only trying to enact the severest forms of their policy preferences that they can get away with, but also trying to cement the permanence of their control by relentless shifting of wealth to the rich, all the while riding on the growing vehemence of their wrongly informed, authoritarian-inclined base voters.
And in the face of this very deliberately constructed and powerful non-democratic apparatus, we have … what? We have the majority of voters, who have a yet-to-be determined commitment to fight for their beliefs, to fight for their sense of justice and to fight for their democracy.