How much crass irrationality can self-government stand? Can community wisdom offset howls for mob mayhem?

If Trumpism offers no other positive, it exposes on a platter today’s alternatives. No one can say we haven’t been warned.

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Trump-proof elections – with energized agendas, expanded voting, critical thinking and compassion

Like delivery companies, food production, and all sorts of machinery, democratic self-government must work to be viable. That means spreading enough wealth, services (especially medical), housing, clothing and education to motivate enough key workers to sustain interwoven supply chains. Viability thus depends on reliable correlations to the real world since Black Swans – storms, fires, drought, food shortages, pandemics, natural disasters and pugnacious neighbors – swamp even the most rational human decisions.

Civilization comes down to applying real-world technology to maximize gains and minimize damage, more or less with shared benefits (clean air and water, emergency services, toll-free highways & the internet). Thus, mob derangement that stresses critical thresholds imperils any self-governing democracy. Against monomaniacal madness, gross stupidity, or belligerent denials of what is, fragile self-government needs tending. Entropy in politics quickens when one party fuels a cacophony of chaos, augmenting disruption from climate change and pandemics.

Reason hitched to reality

Reality confirmations reflect ingrained modes (reason, logic) by which independent methodology (science, computation, replication) scrutinize raw data, producing reliable, functional depictions (descriptions, applications, new theories). That sustains high-level consensual knowledge – which in turn drives political judgments and decisions that honor reason and reality. Anything that severs confirmation, whether ignorance, partisan manias, religion, or superstition, shreds what exists and how we know it. Thus does irrationality threaten democratic states.

Thanks to the first, thuggish president to dare an autocratic, election-killing coup, epic questions and schisms erupt – whether reams of irrationality can nuke democracy, endanger majority rule, even incite violent showdowns to resolve what the Civil War apparently did not – who and what rules a federal Union. While we’re not close to civil war, the question about which entity rules what simmers and tests national equilibrium.

Can a still minuscule, delusional number of spitting militants boast the means and brainpower to take on the world’s great military power? Is pulling off a coup not far more challenging than a presidential fail, let alone being an incumbent who blows his own re-election chances? Tying insurrection fantasies to a bloated Mar-a-lago float, already leaking at the seams, exposes dual militant miscalculations. Successful revolutionaries must outsmart the formidable, installed ruling powers, backed by an army, and that demands multiples skills not in evidence.

That doesn’t make current battle lines less troubling. A tad oversimplified, in this corner, weighing in as lightweight minority, the Party of Unreason, Autocracy, Rigidity, Cruelty & Lies up against the more populous Party of Reason, Science, Voting rights, Compromise, Collectivism & relative Truth-telling. The bottom line: does the MAGA minority, as full of itself as it’s devoid of strategic thinking, steal elections from the majority? It not as if wannabe strongmen, already willing to displace peaceful voting with brutal violence, have hidden calculations or goals, that MAGA ends justify all nefarious, illegal means.

Reason vs. unreason

Though economists once talked up the rational consumer, few political scientists defend today’s overall electorate as especially rational, well-informed or free of bias. Media, advertising, propaganda, and reflexive family/tribal/party identification prompt the aggrieved right to indulge in fixated hated of Democrats – and lunatic, demonic projections about “the other.” Are not true believers defined by low-grade critical thinking, especially when going out on a limb? As with expertise, the unreasonable view analysis and testing, even the chance they’re wrong, as sacrilege; thus do faith-alone fundamentalists embrace the grifter who can alone fix everything. The rational know better, not only that new evidence demands changed positions, but that the worst human delusion is thinking yourself god-like, incapable of error – irrationally trusting your self-serving “gut” instinct when higher powers of intellect say otherwise. Try flying too close to the sun with wax-held wings.

I admit that reality has shaken my viewpoints: I once had confidence that more MAGA fans, like smarter consumers, would learn from demonstrable failure, packed with lies, and eventually reject a transparent, no-delivery fraud. Did Trump reverse offshoring of jobs, push infrastructure construction, or even try cheaper, better health care reform for all, as tediously promised? Did he improve any chaotic foreign region? Not a one, failures compound failures. Except on racist and anti-immigration divisiveness, plus demonizing liberals, Trump did not deliver. Instead, he hypocritically (knowing better early on) let a pandemic become a lethal death trap for countless innocents and his own suckered, vaccine-resistant base. I missed how rage and attitude swamp the real world.

I have come to see how fully the Trump cult scorns America, not just conservative values but the Constitution, law, order, or the integrity of the Capitol. Hardly alone, I was shocked by the degree of craven cynicism behind an insurrection notorious today for criminal singularity and monumental folly. Equally so, how long and how self-destructively Trump would turn his empty Stop the Steal lie into a crusade. Really, the absurdity of losers getting declared winners if they only whine enough. Elections are no more than trivialized gestures if the losing side turns defeat into just another campaign season. Finally, I expected engines of justice to already indict Trump and creepy enablers for countless crimes, violations and outrages. I would celebrate being wrong here but time and timing matter: I get six months of investigations but justice delayed is manifestly justice denied. Item: the GA video tape!

The reality of derangement

We all now know, with horrifying impact, how Trumpism has corrupted the right, bristling with MAGA irrationalities: 1) that which once reigned supreme, a candidate’s character – tracking principles and qualifications – is obsolete, displaced by the very opposite; 2) that inciting blind rage, not positive reforms, defines Trumpism, its enduring rant that Democrats only exist to destroy “true America”; 3) that any Big Trump Lie is just as good as any provable Truth; 4) that extremist, minority mob violence rightly displaces eons of peaceful, democratic voting and majority rule; and 5) that a losing demagogue can belligerently scorn voters and outcomes, then commit election fraud, then instigate an insurrection – and so far escape punishment and remain a national leader.

Thus do years of confirmed evidence mandate new terms of engagement. For decades, we invoked various, functional descriptors – right vs. left, rich vs. poor, liberal vs. conservative, urban vs. rural, religious vs. secular, or educated vs. less educated. Such dichotomies fall by the wayside next to this overarching illumination: the Party of Reason, even consensual truth vs. the Party of Unreason and reality-numbing delusions. On full display, for all to see, captures our nightmare: the Party of Reality, trusting reason, confronts the Party of Unreality, loyal to fabrication and manipulation.

After all, what’s more illogical than choosing to be a candidate, knowing elections strictly define winners from losers, then throw tantrums and yell, “everything is rigged.” What’s more irrational than bellyaching that only elections that Trumpers win are legitimate, as if rightwingers never rig anything? Behind this faux outrage is the most dangerous stance of all, that Only My Side Counts, that one shrill party (run by a sleazy, convicted real estate grifter) owns all the truth and righteousness. Thus does Trumpism, buoyed with faith-alone absolutism, corrupt democracy, batter reason, crap on the Constitution and turn politics into a might-makes-right cult theocracy.

The final question, absent accountability yet for blatant violations of American values, id what changes the dynamic? If system-busters and law breakers aren’t penalized for attempting to corrupt whatever they touch – and they hoodwink enough voters to hand off Congressional control this year, times will be get harder for what remains of representative self-government. If Trumpism offers no other positive, it exposes on a platter today’s alternatives. No one can say we haven’t been warned. Some roads once taken come without a clear return map, leaving in the lurch the messy but defensible national equilibrium secured perhaps by our finger tips. Then again, voting needs finger tips, too.

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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.

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