Fears for Democracy

January 15, 2021

Daniel Finkelstein today 14 Jan 2021 on BBC 2 TV show Politics Live gave a commentary on Donald Trump, his presidency, its aftermath, and the current state of affairs concerning the close of Trump’s presidency.

I am going to paraphrase Mr Finkelstein’s comments:

In the first place Trump was espoused by The Republican Party because he represented a harnessing of the popular vote for them. This attempt and new departure has been seen now by The Republican Party to have failed.

Trump was labelled, [or else seen, or both,] as being, [by the electorate or else by The Republican Party or by both], a businessman who wanted, to get things done, change.

Trump has brought his term of Presidency and The Republican Party into a marked level of disrepute.

It is a good thing that Joe Biden is the new President incoming.

More Republicans ought to turn away from Trump than have done so to date

Populism has been the mainstay of Trump’s initial victory and of his term in office

Trump has endangered the strength of the fabric of democracy

The scenes of crowds occupying The Capitol last week were some of his very worst and culpable moments

There’s more but my memory has failed me in recalling this more. But here there is enough. I believe I have got right in my own words above here many of the sentiments Mr Finkelstein expressed.

His approach was one behind which I sensed a certain amount of fear, and perhaps repugnance – also a certain amount of High Toryism and so elitism; and also a certain amount of conflicting belief.

Fear because Trump and his following, and in general people like him, and who have followings like his, perhaps represent to Mr Finkelstein the threat of the mob, to be blunt?

There was in Mr Finkelstein’s words expressed a level of unease about what he called ‘populism’. This ‘populism’ clearly was considered in his mind to be a separate topic and animal to The Democratic Process, as he envisages that.

Trump’s ‘Populism’ then? Is it ‘letting the people have their will’? Is it ‘an exclusion of the people of understanding and knowledge from holding the reins of power”? Is it ‘an Electoral Vote in which the person without privilege and without great standing and wealth and education or high cultural access, has found sufficient voice that their candidate won’?

If it is not one of these options, I invite Mr Finkelstein to say what it is in this case? His answer, if any, might have to involve statements which pin on items like -, my term “the mob”, and on certain qualities which are pejorative, are expressed generally ……….and what else?

Perhaps anti-democratic? Perhaps betraying a clearer position at and from which Mr Finkelstein makes his comments? This clearer place might include distrust of the power of judgement in ordinary people, and so of their capacities to vote, to agree with, and to support, good policy, and a marked concern at their pliability to be swayed and manipulated?

I have to say that this is my mind also to a certain extent; but I do not make righteous claims about what these Western nations label as democracy. Those persons with education wealth power and influence who get to be their rulers ‘by democratic means’, are almost exclusively, I tend to believe, but perhaps barring Trump, just as unsuitable in the role as our leaders, and have far more scope for and actually do far more bad acting than Trump has done, and that’s a lot.

Their difference is that only they know how to cover their tracks better, and are able, like Mr Finkelstein, to use words - they also use other wiles - in order to ‘encode meaning’ so as for it to be only for the consumption of those who are able, by education, to read between the lines’ about their underlying views and intentions. The ‘populist’ rabble is unable to see into these – and this is the way it has always been, at least since post-industrial times, and perhaps well beforehand?

Trump, his presidency and his followers have all been singularly lacking in this coded way of speaking to people, especially when speaking to other persons of power. Neither Trump no this followers have used this crafted way of asking powerful listening individuals to ‘read between the lines’ to see what is more emphatically, being said. Trump and his followers are generally more blunt, and sometimes crude; they crow openly and insult, and even mouthe abuse, they call a spade a spade, and when they get it wrong, as everyone does here and there, it is patently obvious and up sometimes for perfect ridicule.

The press and media, in their smart ‘butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths’ smoothie talk and attitudes have revelled in Trump and his bandwagon since years before his election. Trump and his crew have been a sumptuous feast for them to savour and to throw parties on the pretext. A show on UK TV ‘The First 100 Days’ ran for the whole of his presidency daily so that it became as I call it ‘The Donald Trump Show’.

(Now that Coronavirus is in place, Trump’s exit has been recovered from by media who are now revelling in pouring out lots of unnecessary data about viruses and technical stuff. Today I caught a conversation which was delving into the structure of the virus and the approaches of various vaccines at a level utterly irrelevant to the common person, and beside of no practical use to the common person. This sort of irrelevance is done just to keep up the pressure of public concern, and like those laypersons who read medical books, to foster and spread worries about what one might catch or has caught, and didn’t before know so).

Mr Finkelstein writes in The London Times.

I take exception also with Mr Finkelstein’s ‘ought’ which is an imperative ethical proposition that more Republicans should have deserted Trump by now. This is pure opinion and is not able to be made valid fact by use of fact or evidence. It is said self-righteously, almost with a feeling of having been offended by Trump. Ostensibly because of Trump’s – my words - abuse of power and messing with democracy – but one gets a whiff of a certain class distaste for Trump the uncultured maverick outspoken wayward and jerrymandering man.

How many presidents have there been who have been all these things but behind the scenes, and their only strength being that they knew how to hide it from their electorates?

Mr Finkelstein is in a position of privilege from which he takes upon himself to offer ethical opinions to his audiences; and maybe recommendations to Republicans?

I suspect that the actual concern here about Trump is mostly culturally and class-based. Simply – he is not really one of us – it’s ‘bad form’ – and he is ‘showing ‘us’ up’. But don’t so many of ‘us’ also very much enjoy and revel in the misdemeanours of Donald Trump – has he not been ‘a great entertainment’ to us all?

Are we not just like those whom we would disdain for being ‘populist’ supporters of his; do we not show the same bad taste, and bad decision-making, as does this ‘mob’ of his? Again, only we know how to couch it, to whitewash it in the name of news and comment, ‘bringing you everything you need to know, covering all the angles’ - BBC News mantra.

There has indeed besides Mr Finkelstein, whose tenor was not so outrageous as many, most other tenors, which I have witnessed on TV news and comment, wherein much, train-loads, of hypocrisy and self-righteousness have been poured over Trump and on the portion of the electorate who voted him in. TV media has in my sight and hearing stood like The Priest on the other side of the road and passed by The Wounded Man of public life standards, him having been set upon by Trump-like thieves, and has gone onwards on his busy way on his own business of supplying pap and disinformation to the millions. I say misinformation because of this tenor of TV news readers and comment presenters, which loves to take the high ground, revel in the ‘neutral’ position, and steal the show with deft chairing of and worming around others and their opinions. The bottom line of so many is simply: ‘Look at me!!’

Then there are the fardels of expectation being loaded on the back of Joe Biden and his presidency and his governmental team; and these expectations are also ludicrous. I believe some dashing and public figure has actually nominated Joe Biden for a Nobel Peace Prize! – which fact tells a true tale about Nobel Prizes.

Inside America, the USA, news and views are very different to our own in the UK – especially political news and views. I think perhaps because for our media and people here these events are happening ‘in another country’ so that they are considered as being moreso ‘fly on the wall’ stories for and by the people in the UK, renowned for their ever-growing insularity of sentiment. Or worse them may be even being seen as ‘peeping Tom’ stories, and that BBC is as it were eavesdropping so as to have and give to UK viewers some slightly salacious and surreptitious curious materials.

Any retort to this suggestion that returns answer by harping upon the claim that Biden is going to be The Leader of the Free World or that the USA is in a Special Relationship with the UK, especially since post-Brexit – harping on these things so as to add a somewhat spurious gravitas to their reporting on the US, is just the sort of stuff audiences love to hear and to swallow whole, because of that other white elephant which UK media peddle – that Britain has been, and is, and shall again be, great. Our absurd superiority complex. Truly our presence and our politics and our interest and our repute in The USA, as held by all walks of people there, are negligible, to that amount which we credit to ourselves. We have been well-trained by our media to claim silly standing for ourselves, in those regards. Most of this dislocation of media news materials, and how things tend more accurately to be in various places and on various topics, arises I’m sure from that same media’s need to justify its presence, its missions, its necessity of being. All news and views media, even the ‘high-calibre type’ journals like The New Statesman and The Spectator etc are upon reading not greatly learned or enlightening; like the rest, the newspapers and the TV and Radio, they are always blowing their own trumpets and doing alms in public; are always high and mighty about their purposes and principles; taking themselves so seriously and thinking themselves so important and needed. Yet they often, usually are spreading at least as much muck, most often ego-based and/or party based or class based as they are spreading any hope of sweetness and light.

Just as one rotten apple can spoil the barrel, and just as one act breaking Mosaic Law amounts to having broken all that Law; so one overreaching item of speech or comment or remark within a whole news presentation is able to colour, especially when it has passed unremarked by an observer, a whole outlook of a listener, passing on one’s own bugbears and personal foibles or worse.

Think as a reader of this my article, how you yourself many times have had your own judgements have been unduly coloured – I know I have suffered such from having ‘bought’ such misconceptions, and for decades in some cases – simply for the sake of one having heard or read a disparaging remark offered by a person whom one has taken to be authoritative – [on the topic?].

I would say many most of us admit to ourselves we have done this kind of thing. Yet how much wild talk, and wily talk, made in a spirit above and beyond Trump’s throwaway cursory messages of little tact; has one heard and/or read in/on British media? And who can deny that this is the way things are going in Britain – in society, in media, in parliament etc. Those who would lead or rule and who* ought* – I use the word deliberately – literally to *know better – *ought tohave been better brought up and educated – for it is mostly a matter of simple manners – to have curbed their tongues or pens and been far more reasonable and so acceptable as a commentator by reasonable persons, and who have instead more or less ‘poisoned waterholes’ existing in people’s minds by their intemperance and recklessness? It’s everywhere nowadays on public broadcasting and in printed publications. We have been trained to love it and to lap it up but it will be also our undoing as a society unless checked. But don’t think I want censorship. Trump should still be on Twitter and WhatsApp – the nerve of these highly place private citizens at those platforms is astonishing – power lusters.

And the also recall whose are the populist slogans of Trump then? Make America Great Again! Make Britain Great Again!

The very tactics of the low creatures from the privileged classes,those same who seduced the common person into choosing Brexit by way of such mush slogans. How bad is that? These privileged people will know how to govern us, you wait and see if you’re not seeing it now – by bringing back our sovereignty, making us a proud people again – and how to feather their own nests, and to treat us ‘mob’ as chattels, and to look upon all but their precious kindred and kind, even upon those others who were their kindly Brexit electorate, as being of nill account and to be kept quieted like fools with lowest common denominator bread and circuses.

Is it any different in USA? In any nation? On earth? In politics?

Those of you who know my views will see where I am heading:

Here is no continuing city” (Letter to the Hebrews**)