Why is President Trump not acting like an adult? Why are there no adults in the room with him? Because there are precious few adults left. We can’t speak with the other side anymore, because it takes two adults to have a real conversation, and it’s hard enough to find even one.

We are a market economy. But what exactly have we been buying? What becomes increasingly clear is that the reasoning space in politics has been nearly obliterated, not only by deliberate nonsense but also by a widespread tolerance for it. Facts, accurate descriptions, logic and good faith are daily annihilated by spin, lies and carefully chosen evocative words. Also known as advertising.

The world of ideas has given way to the world of perpetual advertising, where no idea has a value unless somebody can make a dollar from it. And we live in this nutrient-free broth, floating in a soup of drivel, assured over and over that all we need to do is decide which items we desire to load into our shopping carts, and the rest takes care of itself. Who needs adults?

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At some point, the message went from being that the market is best for moving resources around for economic efficiencies to the idea that the market is best for deciding societal outcomes. We missed that rather fundamental transition point, because we were already distracted. Distraction, obfuscation and seduction are the non-nutrients in the warm broth we bob in.

And when our politics drifted into a truly dangerous place, with a preposterous, toddler-like dictator wannabe running for president, we didn’t really know how to respond. Not only were our civic muscles flaccid and spines softened, but also our capacity to apprehend a real threat had disappeared into the space outside our 3-D goggles, or googles. “Maybe he will shake things up,” passed for reasoned analysis. Oh, and let’s not forget, “He’s entertaining!”

And here we are. Enough of us hoisted ourselves out of the tub in November to start the process of rescuing ourselves. It has felt like the beginning of an exercise program: remembering what flexing a muscle feels like, but also discovering just how out of shape we’d become. Our New Year’s resolution had better be to not only stay with the program but also to start training for the marathon ahead.

It’s a democracy, if we can keep it.

See more blog posts and cartoons by Tom Toles:

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