Driven by Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s abandonment of the historic norms of political behavior, the rules of politics in America have been irrevocably altered. If the Democrat Party continues to play by the old rules of politics, they will remain the minority party and democracy in America will devolve from a liberal democracy into an authoritarian state.
During the last Presidential Republican primary, only candidate Trump recognized that the rules of politics had changed.
As a result, the traditional Republican candidates were serially dispatched by Mr. Trump. President Trump and the Republican Party have since abandoned all pretense of abiding by the old rules of politics anytime those rules do not advance their interests.
Under the new rules of politics, the Republican Party has repeatedly been able to convince a significant segment of the American electorate that reality is fiction and fiction is reality. And contrary to common sense and morality, Republican politicians are not embarrassed by their intellectual dishonesty, they simply see it as a prerequisite to achieving their political goals.
Social scientists agree that for a democracy to work, all politicians must abide by the historic and unspoken rules of politics. In his book The People vs. Democracy, Yasha Mounk wrote: “Political parties … have to agree on the importance of basic democratic rules and norms.”
Politics is a contest of ideas in which the winner gets to design the rules of society. If one contestant brings a gun to the contest while the other brings a knife, then the contest outcome is foreordained. If one political party abides by the old rules of politics while the other willfully ignore the old rules of politics and does whatever they believe is necessary to win, then the party which abides by the old rules of politics will likely become the minority party.
America is now in the midst of a historic contest to decide whether it will remain a liberal democracy or become an illiberal democracy in which some Americans are politically, socially, judicially, and fiscally handicapped so as to restrict their access to the “American dream.”
I believe it is Trump and the Republican’s intent, as demonstrated by their short term and long term political behavior, to end America’s historic experiment in liberal democracy by adopting the tactics of recently empowered authoritarian leaders who have overthrown established democracies.“As anybody who has studied Turkey, Russia, or Venezuela knows all too well, the rise of illiberal strongmen can often be a prelude to autocratic rule: once the media has been muzzled and independent institutions have been abolished, it is easy for illiberal rulers to make the transition from populism to dictatorship.” (The People vs. Democracy). Sounds like Trump/Republicans?
Yet despite an abundance of evidence that the rules of politics have changed, America’s Democrat Party continues to play by the old rules of politics.
The Democrats must recognize that they have confused the way the political world works with the way they believe it “should” work. They must acknowledge that the “way the brain works…is that emotion and reason work together. You cannot separate them.” Political Animals, Rick Shenkman. Politics is not simply an academic exercise in which the rational debate of facts and ideas will increase the probability that society will select the “right” course of action. The successful politician must appeal to the voter at a visceral level and this may require a willingness to employ tactics that are manifestly “not academic.”
If the Democrat Party hopes to ensure that America retains some semblance of our historic 2.5-decade experiment in democracy, they too must employ the new rules of politics, no matter how unpalatable. To do otherwise will ensure that the last chapter of America’s experiment in democracy can now be written into the history books. When politically expedient, the Democrat party must be willing to employ the Republican playbook and ignore historic norms of political behavior, propagandize with fact-challengeable statements, instill anger in their supporters by demonizing their political opponents, opportunistically corrupt the mass media, aggressively use internet messaging to convince their supporters that their proclamations are “true” while their political opponents espouse vicious lies, and build a propaganda machine based on emotionally resonant 10-second sound-bites which say “I am like you, they are not and I can solve all your problems.”
If the Democrats manage to remove Trump from office, they will need to continue to play by the new, unsavory rules of politics until such time as the old rules are irrevocably codified so all politicians are forced to play by the same set of rules. To do otherwise fails to acknowledge recent history showing that whether in-power or not, the Republicans and Trump will do whatever is necessary to win.
If America’s Democrats want to succeed at a national level, they need to accept the reality of today’s political game and use the same unsavory political campaign techniques employed so successfully by Republican politicians, no matter how distasteful. The political game must be played on a level playing field.
I do not like the state of affairs of the American political system and I fervently wish American political campaigns were a fact-based political debate. But I am a realist and will not allow my biases of how “I wish things were” to dissuade me from recognizing “how things are.” I would rather have a Democrat candidate do what is necessary to control our country’s political agenda than cede power to the Trump political machine which will certainly do whatever is necessary to remain in power and end America’s experiment of creating the best liberal democracy in history.