The Inevitable Downfall of a Democracy: a Kakistrophic America
Every morning, the sun rises above the clouds. But on November 4th 2016, America did not stop to look at the beautiful sunrise. America ran through an unfamiliar house, furiously searching for the other pair to her sock. She slapped tacky lipstick on her face, and slung her purse over her shoulder. Her head was pounding, and she woke up more tired than when she had fallen asleep. As she made way to her car, she couldn’t help but notice the cold air rushing to her cheeks. This wasn’t usually how she dressed, she thought as she straightened her hair in her car mirror. She checked her phone as she waited for her car to heat up, “America’s Walk of Shame,” was the first headline she saw. “Shit,” she thought, “They know.”
Prior to 2016, I believed in America’s judgement. Although I leaned farther left than the average citizen, I thought we had all agreed that he wasn’t our best choice. So as I woke up that morning, I was not prepared for the four-year walk of shame that is the presidency of Donald Trump.
Now, four years later, and a head full of vocabulary; I found a word that perfectly represented the behavior of the Trump era.
Kakistocracy, or a government comprised of the least suitable or competent citizen, had worked it’s way into the most honorable office that our country has to offer. And I couldn’t help but wonder how our constitution could allow this.
I am openly critical of our elections. Like most things in America, our elections are a ‘pay-to-play,’ system. We don’t vote for a candidate with the best ideas or the most qualifications, but rather for the best marketing strategies. Traditionally politicians would put their marketing strategies to work, in order to win the presidency, which allows for particularly unsavory characters inches from our highest esteemed office of the land. This hadn’t been an issue until the Reagan administration.
After Reagan was elected, trickle down taxes caused long-term issues for lower class Americans, the AIDS epidemic was neglected, our national debt was nearly tripled, and the Iran-Contra affair influenced the birth of the Taliban, a terrorist group responsible for 9/11.
Although Reagan’s actions caused many issues over-time, the administration did a decent job of maintaining an unpolarized America. While the left opposed many bills, at the end of the day we were still Americans; united and stronger together.
After 9/11, America began to polarize. War and conflict plagued our country. But what happened for our conflicts to shift from the Persian Golf and into the walls of our domestic country?
Donald Trump happened.
On January 6th, 2021 the unthinkable happened; A group of violent insurrectionists breached the walls of Capitol Hill, something that no modern day American has ever seen before.
But this insurrection was not a result of a perverse tyrannical congressional power. This insurrection was the result of a kakistrophic incumbent president.
America is famous for democracy. We pride ourselves in the ability to speak freely, and to elect any candidate we desire. But when a candidate uses their platform for hateful rhetoric and business venture, I begin to question the checks and balances to securing the presidency.
If Donald Trump can manipulate modern day Americans to die for his cause in four measly years, how are we to believe that we will never experience a fascist regime? How are we to believe that we haven’t already experienced a fascist regime?
That is the danger of a democracy. Polarization has caused for a ‘lesser of two-evils argument.’ We are no longer concerned with the quality of the candidate, we are concerned for the successes of our appropriate political party instead. Because of this, politicians are resorting to their marketing skills.
In order to get a voters attention, politicians shout political extremes; QAnon conspiracies, blatant racial attacks, and politicized finger pointing are just the start.
Because of this, the average voter must rationalize these extremist views. Pretty soon, the Proud Boys are standing hand-in-hand with your politically incorrect Aunt Susan.
So how do we stop this polarization? The answers are not always clear. These extremist groups, influenced by an extremist president, are given more credibility than they deserve. Due to their newfound credibility, they have used their platform to criminalize some of the most unbiased news sources offered. Emotionally manipulated and indoctrinated American voters are forced to rely on these extremist platforms to deliver what they believe to be fact.
Many Americans dismiss this slippery behavior, as our media sites are protected by the constitution. However, prior to 1933, Germany was protected from medial censorship as well. This was bypassed when Hitler rose to power and established the ‘Ministry of Propaganda.’ At this point in time, Germany was already polarized. German citizens viewed this work as necessary, and hoped to be protected from the ‘dangerous outcome of undesirable media.’
I would argue that QAnon views media in the same way. CNN, along with many other left and moderate news sites, are viewed as ‘fake news,’ originally coined by Donald Trump himself. And we’ve already seen republican voters travel farther and farther towards the seduction of fascism, considering a conservative estimate of 10,000 people attended the violent insurrection at the drop of a hat.
Republican voters were willing to degrade the integrity of the United States’ most important tradition; the transfer of power between presidents. But why? Because a major conspiracy theorist group convinced America of Jewish space lasers? Because of the unfinished chain link fence that separated us from the Mexican border?
Or was it because of our inability to recognize kakistocracy?
As a freshman in college, I am unable to represent any American in the court of law. I have not passed the bar, therefore prohibiting me to serve in the courts as a lawyer. However, after I’ve received my specific qualifications, I will be allowed the opportunity to represent Americans in the judicial system.
We’ve already established that our current election systems are not strong enough to ensure an experienced candidate. As stated before, if you have the money to win, you will win. The argument that anyone should be allowed to run for president, as it is a free country, just doesn’t hold. We have term limits, age requirements, and an obvious money barrier to separate the average Joe from potential presidential candidates.
So, why don’t we have a barrier to separate kakistrophic candidates from legitimate candidates? Something that will ensure no one with a hidden agenda is allowed to pursue the presidential office of the United States. Without it, America is vulnerable to dangerous political outcomes, both foreign and domestic.
As Americans adjust to a new president, I can’t help but notice the uncertainty for the future. Will we stray from our polarization in the next four-years? Will we elect a new president with character and integrity? Or will we fall prey to the dangers of kakistocracy?
These questions, while they remain unanswered, will follow me for the next four-years. While I am hopeful for the future, I can’t help but notice the continued growth of political polarization post-Trump.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” — Ronald Reagan.