Muftic: Ignorance is the greatest danger to democracy
We have become a nation of slogans, but not of knowledge. Most Americans believe there is a “deep state” calling the shots in Washington, per recent polls. It is a slogan, but it is not reality.
Even one cabinet member Donald Trump appointed is in a special position to know. Mike Pompeo, secretary of state and former CIA director, said there is no such thing. Even Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader, agrees. Constantly we hear slogans repeating that news that puts Trump in a bad light is “made up” or “fake” is not to be believed. Sadly, opinion polls show such slogans are working. How is that happening? Ignorance is the reason and it is becoming the greatest danger to democracy in the Trump era.
Much of voters’ vulnerability to believing current slogans are the gospel truth is because of ignorance of the fundamentals of how our government functions or the Constitutional protections from demagogues ruling by slogans, a technique used masterfully by Donald Trump. The term “rule of law,” instead of a rule by one person who sees himself above the law, is a difficult concept to grasp. Nonetheless, “strong” leader appeals to many who want any change they want to be effective, no matter whose rights are trampled or what Constitutional provisions are undermined or laws are ignored or meanings twisted. That yearning for a powerful leader to enact one group’s agenda is the opposite of the essence of democracy that protects us from one man rule and dictatorships.
For Trump opponents to make the argument that Trump is the antithesis of democracy and a danger to it is not very effective when most Americans cannot name the three branches of government or the responsibility and ability of each branch to restrict abuses of delegated powers by the other two. Most cannot name their rights protecting them from unfair governmental abuse of power contained in the First Amendment, including freedom of the press. How can they be alarmed that such a fundamental right is under attack by Trump, who charges all negative press is “fake,” a slogan that has caught fire in his base of support?
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There is plenty of evidence that most Americans are ignorant about democratic fundamentals. If they do not now know about them, how can they care about any urgency to protect them? The Annenberg Foundation survey in 2017 found that:
– More than a third of those surveyed (37 percent) can’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment;
– Only a quarter of Americans (26 percent) can name all three branches of government.
We are seeing the power of slogans being played out in the investigation of the Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. That any findings of the probe that put Trump in a bad light revealed to the public in the future are not to believed is because a few FBI agents had expressed a personal animosity toward Trump. I wonder how many know that the independent investigation by the Inspector General found that the personal bias of a few did not shape the actions or findings of the FBI investigation into the Russian matter or into Clinton’s emails? They may not realize that most of government’s “deep state” are civil servants who were hired on merit and cannot be fired for lack of party loyalty and many have held jobs throughout Democratic and GOP administrations. Most Americans do not even know the Mueller probe has already gotten indictments, pleas, and convictions related to Russian interference in the 2016 elections and believe it is indeed a politically motivated” witch hunt,” a slogan term in itself.
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