Demophobia; or, fear of the rabble


I recently had an interesting conversation with a young friend of mine — ‘young’, in this case, meaning less than half my age. My friend and I started off by agreeing that the recent referendum in Ireland, endorsing same-sex marriage by a rather amazing 60% majority, was excellent and gratifying news. But then my young friend gobsmacked me by saying that he wished this result had been achieved by some other means than a popular vote. Unless I misunderstood him, which is possible, he seemed to believe that a court decision, based ostensibly on some text like the US constitution, would have been preferable, as offering a more secure foundation for the right so obtained than the fickle whimsies of… 60% of the people. In Ireland!

I don’t think my friend is a particularly political guy — at least, the topic has never come up before — but I would be amazed if he were a right-winger. In fact, I would bet he isn’t.

I think what he may have been exhibiting is something very American, namely a dislike and distrust of the rabble, cherished even by many of the rabble themselves (a category to which I certainly belong; perhaps my friend has a trust fund I don’t know about, but I suspect he’s rabble too).

This is a pretty extraordinary phenomenon, when you think about it. Of course it’s not surprising that the ‘founding fathers’ hated and distrusted the people; they were a thoroughly elite body. But it’s pretty remarkable that this mentality has been able to reproduce itself so well for so long, among people who are anything but elite, and have had plenty of opportunities to figure out what the elites are really up to. My friend, for example, has certainly lived long enough to see the Supreme Court in action for a while now, and might have drawn some conclusions about what that sorry row of scarecrows is all about. But unless I misunderstood him, he would be happier with his rights in their custody than in the custody of his fellow-citizens.

Is this just the tyranny of received opinion? Or does it reflect a certain factitious sense of elite status among relatively educated liberal folks?

Or am I just over-interpreting? A very insightful former girlfriend of mine once said that I was the sort of guy who would show up for a friendly backyard game of touch football, all kitted out in cleats, shoulder pads, and a regulation helmet.

14 thoughts on “Demophobia; or, fear of the rabble

  1. over-interpreting? not in the least. Under, perhaps. personal experience, bebbe.

    I voted Reagan at 19. my bad. I am profoundly sad. Again, from personal experience, one cannot underestimate humans. I also voted beyond the Gip. And that’s just my voting record. Extrapolate the horror.

    • to be clear, beyond the gip means both that I voted for Clinton, and even ever voted again. Hence the name of your site, I spose.

      Your writing is infinitely better than politics deserves. On the other hand, we’d be much worse off without you. (We’re on the brink of mass extinction, and grateful for your voice, nonetheless.)

  2. “pretty remarkable that this mentality has been able to reproduce itself so well for so long, among people who are anything but elite, and have had plenty of opportunities to figure out what the elites are really up to.”

    Amurrican politics in a nutshell — or a good deal of it anyway.

    • “have had plenty of opportunities to figure out what the elites are really up to”

      That is a debatable point. It’s certainly the most heavily and deniably indoctrinated society in human history, is it not? A few percent have things pretty much dead-to-rights, but this is a very rare phenomenon within the structure of daily life and the prevailing flow of messages. It takes luck and uncommon stubbornness to piece together enough realism to get close to the adequate truth. There are hundreds of sponsored wrong turns, each of which is capable of wrecking a human mind. We who might have gotten through the maze shouldn’t be so quick to scold those still wandering, IMHO.

  3. a female acquaintance of mine said to me & another lady friend in her nice home in southwest Wash. D.C., “a cop told me never to walk around with headphones on.” the lady friend nodded in agreement with this sage advice in avoiding being mugged or worse. I understand these are 2 women, but NEVER? not on the National Mall during the day? not on a walk to/from work at that hotbed of petty criminality, L’Enfant Plaza?

    Per the TV, ISIS was scheduled to attack somebody’s Memorial Day services somewhere in the world, the monsters. My neighbors are all child molesters & serial killers who eat people & take their faces. Every police dept runs exactly like an episode of CSI/Law & Order so if you get mowed down by the police, you must have been up to something. The Gazans must be up to something, too, because they keep electing a terrorist organization, Hamas. If the democratic Lebanese gov’t isn’t anti-semitic, whither Hizbollah? Giving troglodytes (or liberal traitors) the vote brought us Bush II (or Obama). of course that thing in Waco happened because bikers are like those guys in season 1 of “True Detective”. speaking of that series, poor Bayou trash are scary as fuck, methheads, Satanists, or one degree above snake-handlers. “we gave Iraq democracy, but muslims can’t have nice things,” quoting HR Clinton almost verbatim, etc., etc. authoritarian sentiment supersaturates our society.

  4. Ahem, as I was saying before the text editor so rudely cut me off, the view is that rights are fundamental. you can’t vote for or against them because they are beyond that and no one can say whether or not some group has rights.

    Nevermind that taking the call away from the electorate still puts it in the hands of people who will than make the decisions no person can allegedly make, nevermind that the notion of “fundamental” is pure nonsense, nevermind any of this stuff. We’ve got a principle to uphold here, damnit.

    More than distrust of the rabble, I think it stems from /trust/ of the system. These people believe in the government in more than the acknowledging it exists sense.

  5. fear-mongering: why does my phone, the TV, the radio, and the electronic signs on overpasses on the highway announce an Amber Alert? just exactly wth am i supposed to do about a missing kid, who has almost certainly been taken off by a disgruntled ex-partner/spouse?

    and they put missing children in my face as a child on a goddam milk carton. “here’s breakfast, kids!” & “duck & cover”, etc., etc.

  6. Here’s a voice of dissent : Fuck the plebs and the elites both! May I remind you of countless California elections where the plebs voted for reactionary measures or laws counter to their interests? How about the 2008 election when we voted for Obie but declared same sex marriage illegal only after the “elites” in San Francisco had legalized it. How about the marijuana legalization proposition that failed thanks to the voting rabble. Think about it, of all places, California voted down legalizing marijuana!

    Here in Québec, the plebs came so close to making it illegal to wear a scarf or a turban to work because it’s a “religious” sign. And that is in a province where up until recently, the Catholic Church was in absolute control of their lives. If it wasn’t for the immigrants who feared a separatist government, they would have gotten away with it. Mind you, we don’t have a monopoly on idiocy and the European rabble have definitely had their share of voting for reactionary measures. Of course, that is not to say that the elites are any better than the plebs. It’s just that once in a while either of them could show some humanity.

    • europe is about to start bombing migrants from Libya. they know they’ve got a PR problem here so “human trafficking” becomes the humanitarian guise. some portion, large or small, of the rabble will go along with this.

      almost nobody among the rabble was for bombing Libya in the 1st place. certainly none of the rabble are for recruiting jihadists & sending them around the world to do empire’s dirty work, not even joe 6 pack who might punch his wife in the face, not even the grunts in the military.

  7. The plebes and rabble thankfully have much less of an appetite to go to war with Iran or the Islamic State(tm) than do the elites. So there’s that. And they seem a lot more willing than their “betters” to “pull up the stakes and come home.” Not showing a whole lot of love for the Zionist project either. I’m sticking with the rabble till further notice….

  8. Unfortunately, I think for many desire for control trumps desire for democracy. 60% may vote for something we want; but what if 60% of the VEP turn out to be Tea Party? Better to not risk a popular vote.

  9. (If this is hijack, please remove it. Thanks!)

    Vote Like Your Life Depends On It. It Did (Once)

    We have the old single-selection two-party. So no choice at all for you.

    The “republic” is simply ruled by judges who may, for example, throw gays a bone for show now and then, but really only watch out for the rights of the people who matter — the rich, of course.

    Democracy means knowingness and good will of the PEOPLE. Not the republicist rapaciousness of the judges.

    Teach the people! Trust The People! We are not the”mob”! The rich Great Gamers are the real mob. You have to know the truth and seek the truth and the truth will set you free.

    There are two entirely different kinds of elections, and kinds of “contestants”. An election of the president of a science fiction novel forum is not at all the same thing as an election of a United States President. The former is really a contest between two (or more) individual candidates (and their agendas), but the latter is actually a contest between the weak and the mighty — the well-supported candidates of a very few elites versus the grass-roots candidates of the vast multitude of non-elite people.

    Simple score voting can be completely described in one short simple sentence: Give no vote at all, or from one to ten votes to any number of candidates you wish (up to some reasonable limit, say 20 candidates), and then simply add all the votes up.

    It can be completely machine-free! If machines make tallying X time easier, they make coordinated rigging X times easier. Which can we truly afford???

    One could say that simple score eliminates 90% of the spoiler effect. To illustrate: if a voter gives 10 votes to Nader and 9 votes to Gore, it is simply obvious that, if Nader does not win, the voter has only sacrificed exactly 10% of their voting power. Not 100% as they would have had they been forced to use the usual single-selection (“faux plurality”) voting method.

    No fancy math is necessary to compare and contrast it to every other option for effectiveness and simplicity, including single-selection (aka “plurality,” our present “system”) Condorcet, Borda, IRV, Range (with its tricky “averages”), Approval (which is not adequately discriminative), etc.

    The simple score method I advocate is the very simplest, since it only allows from 1 to 10 votes to be given, not from 0 to 9, or 0 to 10. That is simply another complication. It also has no vote-averaging that seriously complicates the “range” score method. I also seem t be the only one to point out that voters should always vote artfully (aka strategically), not artlessly or heroically (aka “honestly” or “sincerely”).

    (Simple score is not like approval voting at all — it is vastly more discriminative.)

    PLEASE NOTE: score voting has never been used when there were truly high stakes for the voters. The single-selection method has always been utilized to spoiler effect enforced two-party or two-candidate choices. And would three money-empowered choices be better? Did Greece and Spain with their parliamentary schemes fare well with their “systems”?

    And the people MUST vote strategically — NOT artlessly (“honestly”, “sincerely”)! Do the Senators and judges act with honesty and sincerity? Do they vote heroicaly? Take a wild guess!

    And why do you suppose they don’t have just ONE money-empowered candidate or party? Something to think about?

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