In the year since Donald Trump’s election, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have gone on a tour decrying the end of democracy. The culprit: Fake News, and Russia if they’re feeling particularly spicy. Both Fake News and Russia exist, but I would argue that the greater culprit of democratic decline is overall hatred of the other, the flames of which are fanned by mainstream and fringe media alike.
Democracy can work even when both sides dislike one another. Democracy dies when people focused on running up the score in and pageantry.
Conservatives and liberals are learning to hate one another in the wake of national tragedies involving death of citizens. After a mass shooting, people hold their breath in anticipation of the race of the killer. If they are in any way racialized, points for the Travel Ban. If they are white, points for gun control. Those who are against either gun control or the Travel Ban are then held responsible for the deaths of the innocent. This is toxic tribalism under the guise of partisan politics.
Pundits state that this is just normal politics, and that in times of national tragedy the people must react and enact policy to ensure that these tragedies never occur again. In what world does holding the political opposition responsible for the deaths of citizens constitute “normal politics?” Telling someone that because they they voted for a left wing candidate, they are responsible for the #UnstoppableTideOfIslamicRadicalJihadAndShariaLaw is unlikely to bring them over to your tent. In fact, it is more likely to cement their views and make them more militant in defending their position.
To be clear, I know where I stand on the hot button issues outline above. Those advocating for a “strong immigration policy/Travel Ban” want to establish a white ethnostate because they are scared shitless by the state of the world right now. I advocate for less guns in all countries by both citizens and the police because guns are stupid, and for the most part make it too easy for isolated men to kill themselves or others.
To push gun control in times after tragedies doesn’t result in tangible legislation but instead in the fomenting of resentment between political camps. People, and in particular young people across the world are losing their faith in democracy. According to Harvard research, 24% of American millennials believe that having a democratic political system is either “bad” or “very bad” way to run a country. It should be noted that these stats were gathered in 2011, far before Donald Trump grabbed 2016 by its genitals.
There are many reasons why someone would reasonably come to the conclusion that democracy might be a “very bad” way to do things. One of them could be that the pharmaceutical/gun lobby can pump millions into political system, circumventing democracy in order to get the results that they want.
Another could be that both sides literally don’t trust the other in office, and would much rather surrender democracy in exchange for a benevolent dictator that wasn’t beholden to election cycles. This is not ideal answer to any nation’s problems.
Sensible gun control is important, but the institution of democracy is being corroded by post-tragedy pageantry. Reactionary politics is tedious, and tailored to Twitter. As Naomi Klein said, “Don’t talk about guns after a massacre… talk when no one listens.”
This way the other side knows that you aren’t using dead bodies as a cudgel to push through a partisan agenda.