Tanks in the Street

America’s most American moment — the time we are at our best — happens once every four years on January 20 at high noon.

A President and sometimes his party (there has been no “hers” yet) is either replaced or re-upped without the presence of tanks in the street.

There are plenty of countries that would like to be able to make that claim.

If “no tanks in the street” still has merit, this election now seems more than a little troubling.

Barney Frank makes some blood boil but he was right when he said, “the politicians leave a lot to be desired, and the media with its excessive negativism and penchant for divisiveness contributes to the problem, but the voters are no prize either.”

Leaving aside the contentious questions of whether voters are smart or dumb and whether they vote sufficiently or don’t, it does appear that they are pretty easily manipulated, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Winston Churchill was willing to live with a bit of voter manipulation, when he said, in the House of Commons (11/11/47), “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Would Churchill have said the same thing almost 70 years later given recent improvement in the art of manipulating voters?

Or have politics crossed the line?

Meet Mike Godwin. Smile, funky round glasses, beard what’s not to like?

Mike_Godwin_at_Wikimedia_2010

He has his own law: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” As a corollary, “there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.”

Today, the time between the beginning of a conversation about Donald Trump and a reference to Hitler is shorter than the time between the light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn.

And the corollary is totally dead with some opponents vying to be first to wave the swastika.

Note: comparing Trump to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi is probably more accurate, but Hitler seems to poll test better. In voter manipulation you’d probably have to explain Berlusconi to more people than Hitler plus it is 4 extra characters in your tweet.

To be fair Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, is often described as a communist with Marx, Lenin and Stalin as the preferred comparisons. England’s Jeremy Corbyn is more accurate but he might not last until our election and his sex life is probably not nearly as fun as Berlusconi’s.

Voter manipulators who analogize to Jeremy Corbyn need not apply.

Fun as all of this might be (mostly for those who admire European soccer hooligans), maybe it is time for the candidates, parties and those who run campaigns to dial it back. The continuation of orderly, peaceful transitions must surely be more important than ramping up the rhetoric beyond tolerable limits.

How about a clear statement from each candidate that “I would prefer to lose the election to an opponent who could take the oath of office peacefully than to win it myself and have to take the oath surrounded by tanks in the street.”

If your preferred candidate would not be willing to say that and mean it, you might want to give it some thought.

Same for some of the more partisan news outlets. If they are unwilling to dial it back, you can make the choice for them by turning the dial yourself.

 

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