The Rude Pundit swore last night he wasn’t going to read former uber-blogger Andrew Sullivan’s “Didja miss me?” of an overlong piece on the death of democracy in New York magazine. He read the first line, “As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Plato’s Republic,” and told himself that this was going to be the ne plus ultra of douchey faux intellectualism. Then he skimmed the thing and came across “as I chitchatted over cocktails at a Washington office Christmas party in December,” which made him close his computer and say, aloud, “Nope.”
This morning, he opened the laptop again and it was waiting for him, like some hulking beast in the jungle of a Hemingway story, begging to slaughter or be slaughtered. So the Rude Pundit read the Sulli-piece. In it, our man in DC gets all verklempt that this country, so well-conceived by slaveowners and their enablers, might finally fall due to the rise of the dark lord, Donald Trump, and the heaving hordes of the unwashed that will no doubt follow him. Trump is, to Sullivan’s mind, the near-ideal synthesis of subject – candidate – and form – the internet of idiots, as demonstrated on Twitter and various comment threads of the damned. Trump’s racist rhetoric is “giving legitimacy to the most hysterical and ugly of human impulses.”
Sullivan throws some historical knowledge at us: “Just as the English Civil War ended with a dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell, and the French Revolution gave us Napoleon Bonaparte, and the unstable chaos of Russian democracy yielded to Vladimir Putin, and the most recent burst of Egyptian democracy set the conditions for General el-Sisi’s coup, so our paralyzed, emotional hyperdemocracy leads the stumbling, frustrated, angry voter toward the chimerical panacea of Trump.” That term, “hyperdemocracy,” is one that Sullivan uses for, really, a democracy that allows the poors to vote and the naifs to get elected. He pins the blame for the rise of Trump on the very anti-intellectualism that propelled him ahead of the GOP’s chosen candidates and on the over-democratization of the nation. The rabble are getting the best of the elites, and Sullivan says that we need elites “precisely to protect this precious democracy from its own destabilizing excesses.”
And to that one can only say, “Motherfucker, who got us into this situation? It was the fucking insiders and the fucking ‘elites’ of each of the parties. It was the cocksucking elites in the media who wanted to lick some of the balls of real power. It was the bastard moneyed elites who manipulated elections and districts and courts and the entire goddamned system. We aren’t here because gay people wanted to be allowed to get married and that pissed off the yahoos. We’re here because decades of bullshit told the yahoos that their ignorance was right. The elites let them believe that they knew best. The elites can save us? Fuck. Only if they can save us from themselves. There aren’t enough buildings for them to jump off in order to save the rest of us.”
On top of that, Sullivan truly believes that widespread violence is on its way: “Every time Trump legitimizes potential violence by his supporters by saying it comes from a love of country, he sows the seeds for serious civil unrest.” But the historical examples he uses dealt with populations who were legitimately oppressed, who legitimately had nothing. Many of Trump’s supporters are people with jobs and health insurance and houses and families, people who like to go to ball games and drink beer with friends, people who might listen to Sean Hannity while driving around, but, at the end of the day, could give a fuck less when they get home and jack off to some online porn. Do you honestly think that those people are going to risk all of that shit that makes up their lives because Donald Trump tells them to riot? Fuck no. A couple of them are gonna throw some punches, a bunch of others will film it with their phones, and most everyone will go home because they don’t want to lose their fuckin’ jobs.
Writing about reality TV, Sullivan says, “In such a shame-free media environment, the assholes often win. In the end, you support them because they’re assholes.” He’s right. But he leaves out that most Americans are assholes, too. We are selfish and we mostly just want to be left the fuck alone. It’s one of our greatest faults and one of our greatest strengths. It’s why the post-Obama America didn’t support the hopey-changey stuff when it needed support. We are selfish and we are fucking lazy assholes. Get up and go vote in the midterms? Nah, fuck that. So do you really think Americans are ready to put on the brownshirts? Do you know how much effort that takes? We’ve got cat videos to watch, goddamnit.
Sullivan tosses Sanders’s candidacy into the fire of potential uprisings. But if Bernie Sanders’s election run has taught us anything, it’s that crowd-size doesn’t equal votes. So calm the fuck down, Sully. Go back to obsessing over Sarah Palin.
Because, really, democracy started its death spiral sometime around Bush v. Gore in 2000, back when you supported W and then the Iraq war. Frankly, everything else is just a coda.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on May 2, 2016, on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.