Democracy Ain’t What It Used to Be


Wikipedia: The shell game (also known as thimblerig, three shells and a pea, the old army game) is portrayed as a gambling game, but in reality, when a wager for money is made, it is almost always a confidence trick used to perpetrate fraud.

A Burning Bush on the Way to the Dentist’s Office

One day I’m walking to the dentist’s office  and I notice the bold bronze letters glowing over the door of a Granada University building: “Facultad de Sociología y Ciencias Políticas.” That was when it finally hit me. The traditional base elements of democratic politics–idealism, honesty, goodwill, life, liberty and the pursuit of the happiness of the citizenry–have been substituted for sociologized “political science.” The essence of western democracy has been downgraded to pandering to the lowest common voter, by means of numbers, statistics and opinion polls. The modern political model, which the United States has exported all over the world, calling it “democracy,” is no longer about noble ideas and the struggle for human rights, equality and citizen well-being.  It’s about opportunism, not idealism, as the leaders of the Free World would have you believe.

Abraham Lincoln would not recognize his country’s governors today.

Beware the American Political-Science Shell Game

The unique objective of this political-science shell game is winning elections, and at that the Americans are masters. Winning political power is the end that justifies all means. Elected officials adhere to largely-irrelevant agendas designed for them by election-manipulation specialists turned out by political science/sociology departments, well armed with polling techniques and statistical sleight of hand. Though these agendas are generally financed nowadays by corporate sponsors and sold to voters as programs to benefit the society, the truth is that they are designed uniquely to win and exercise power.

Let’s Not Forget the Ethical Aspect

Where do ethics or idealism enter into the equation? They don’t. What enters into the equation is expediency and adherence to a pre-determined ideological agenda. That’s the desired end. Whether or not the program benefits the voters in any way is irrelevant. The bottom line is that the United States government has become not a democracy but a scam. The irony of this chilling state of affairs is that it was achieved through entirely legal means. What is meant by “legal,” anyway? It means “in accordance with the law.” Who makes the federal laws in the United States of America? The United States Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. There, you see, it’s not that complicated, after all. They bake it and they eat it.

There Must Have Been Nobler Times, No?

I was so naive that I used to believe that there was a time when politics was about brilliant and noble men (There weren’t many women in politics in those days.) who had ideas and ideals and wanted to promote them for the good of society. To find that time you had to go quite a ways back, maybe to Lincoln or Washington. Or maybe even farther back. Washington, let’s not forget, was the richest man in the colonies, thanks to his wife, Martha’s extensive land–and slave–holdings in Virginia.

I would still like to believe that there was a time when there was an element of decency in American politics, some remnant of consideration for the commonweal. Maybe Franklin D. Roosevelt embodied some of that. But I’m still not sure. What I do know for certain is that contemporary American politics–and by extension most of the rest of the world’s “democracies”–is bereft of any hint of idealism. Anybody who believes otherwise is a dupe. Today’s aspirant to public office doesn’t need ideals. All he needs are some powerful corporate sponsors, the ability to read a script and a team of political scientists/sociologists. (As for “the ability to read…” President Trump has shown us that not even that is absolutely essential. And it explains why the incumbent president so frequently wanders off script.) A connection to an established political organization can also be useful, as demonstrated by President Truman, a middle-American mediocrity who was placed in the vice-presidency and then the presidency in 1948 by the Missouri Democratic Party boss, Tom Pendergast.)

What do the candidate’s sociologists do? They design and run polls to determine scientifically what it is that voters want, no matter how banal or counterproductive those desires may be. The candidate has no need to introduce to the voters any higher ideas or projects for their intellectual or moral uplift. His mission is just to promise–if not always to deliver–them the pre-digested kibble of advanced consumer society, flavored with the standard seasonings of facile patriotism, self-interest, fear and good old-time religion.

America’s Uniqueness Lies in the Misuse of Powerful Innovations

Now there is a new twist on this already convoluted system. It’s called “big data.” Thanks to sophisticated systems of collecting and analyzing citizens’ tastes, likes, friends, purchases, credit ratings, manias, affiliations and associations, political fixers don’t
even need to run polls. They just gather up all the available data on virtually everybody and sift it, categorize it, quantify it and create campaign propaganda based on the results. These political ads, adversarial videos and campaign strategies, applied in exact
doses on all available media, including, of course, Internet, permit astute political teams to win elections handily, with no concern for values, good or evil, ideas, programs, citizen wellbeing nor any other nonsense of that nature. Citizens are not considered human beings. They’re just chips on the table. The bottom line is that today’s American democracy is pure marketing. It’s all about salesmanship and packaging.

The big-data tsunami has thrown up an interesting by-product which may prove to be as influential as data-mining itself: extreme right-wing big-data billionaires who have joined the ranks of the sinister oil billionaires in their efforts to skew the American democratic process. The prime example of this trend is Robert Mercer, who made billions developing big-data applications and implementations for business, and now spends part of his great wealth on retrograde political mind-bending both in the US and abroad. He sent big-data and media teams to the UK in 2016 to influence the June 23rd Brexit referendum vote in that year. Their efforts were a factor in the pro-Brexit
victory and the resulting splitting of Europe and fortification of US-British tilted-playing-field bi-lateral relations. (The British seem never to learn.)

How Low Can You Go?

This scheme of things has another advantage for the American ruling classes. It guarantees the gradual stagnation of citizens’ thoughts and aspirations for a better society or for any suggestion of collective solutions. (The dreaded socialism! The only Americans who benefit from true socialism are all the members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, who blessed themselves with free, socialized health and dental care as well as generous pension plans paid for by American taxpayers from sea to shining sea.)

The end result of this process of stagnation is–in case you hadn’t noticed–the dumbing down of the majority of that benighted country’s unfortunate citizens. This is how the United States got recent presidents of the lamentable intellectual and moral stature of Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush (and Dick Cheney, his expert and essential puppeteer) and, of course, President Donald Trump and his ghoulish cohort.

The way out of grave situations like today’s in the United States used to be the ballot box. But that was before political science and big data virtually assured the election of hollow men to high places. What can Americans do today? Only their tent preachers have the answer: “Get on your knees and pray.”

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for liking, commenting and sharing.


Author: Michael Booth

Michael Booth, the creator of, is a US-born publicist, author and online publisher who has lived in a Spanish village in the foothills of Sierra Nevada for the past five decades. Though better known abroad for his fine-art printmaking sites and online magazine, Booth's day job for the past decade and a half, until recently, was his communications agency, dedicated principally to designing and implementing Internet strategies for Spanish companies and institutions. It took him a long time to get out of publicity and into writing but it was worth the wait.

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