Saturday, June 10, 2017

Demagoguery vs. democracy: How “us vs. them” can lead to state-led violence


An adapted excerpt from "Demagoguery and Democracy" by Patricia Roberts-Miller. Reprinted with permission of The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. Demagoguery is about identity. It says that complicated policy issues can be reduced to a binary of us (good) versus them (bad). It says that good people recognize there is a bad situation, and bad people don’t; therefore, to determine what policy agenda is the best, it says we should think entirely in terms of who is like us and who isn’t. In American politics, it becomes Republican versus Democrat or “conservative” versus “liberal.” That polarized and factionalized way of approaching public discourse virtually guarantees demagogues, on all sorts of issues, and in all sorts of directions. Demagoguery is a serious problem, as it undermines the ability of a community to come to reasonable policy decisions and tends to promote or justify violence, but it’s rarely the consequence of an individual who magically transports a culture into a different world. Demagoguery isn’t about what politicians do; it’s about how we, as citizens, argue, reason, and vote. Therefore, reducing how much our culture relies on demagoguery is our problem, and up to us to solve.

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