I’m watching the Donald Trump phenomena happen with fear. I’ve given Donald my own rapper name, D. Tea Rump, because from a tiny rump of the very angry and very right wing Tea Party faction within the Republican Party, he’s leveraged bully tactics, angry right wing rhetoric, impossible policy and his high profile persona to close in on victory.
Tea Rump now threatens to become the nominee for all Republicans, and Tea Rump might actually become President of the most powerful country in the world. World leaders and average citizen are shaking their heads. What started as a joke website, started by a DJ on local radio, inviting refugees from Trump to move to Cape Breton Island has over 800,000 hits and has hit CNN. Crazy stuff is a happening just over the border because the majority is too silent.
Democracy today addresses the needs of only passionately committed and unafraid citizens. Modern political structures, major media outlets and even social media groups isolate all sides of any issues into opposing groups of like minded people. The middle of the road citizens, often called the silent majority, just want peace and good government until the next election and because of their silence aren’t important to politics any more.
What small percentage of people will allow lawn signs to show their colours during an election? Getting visibly involved or speaking publicly on any issue carries the risk of judgement, especially by circles of friends you travel in. I saw brilliant advice on a sign in the parking lot at a golf course in Alberta: “Please leave your cell phones and politics in the trunk of your car”.
Governments today spend all of their time and energy battling and answering to those who oppose; the other side is always wrong and all the noise generated is negative. There’s little time left for socializing with and understanding the needs of the silent majority and the opposition. In that environment, silence feels peaceful and safe, until the agenda gets pulled too far to one side.
Social media, including Blogs and FaceBook pages are not the answer as they divide and attract comments and dialogue from only the like minded, committed, self-interested, strongly opinionated and those who lack any fear of judgement. Social media sites are hard work to control, clearly they’re public places and subject to all available legal recourse should they slander, defame or promote hatred.
I don’t remember the author, but I once read a fearsome analysis and prediction that US democracy could only last 200 years. The US was formed in 1776, so the best before date expired in 1976. Political power is in the hands of the money, the money is more and more concentrated and the average voice just can’t be heard. Doesn’t that sound like a Bernie Sanders speech? Bernie’s got great ideas, but he’s always been an oppositional politician and I don’t think the US would elect him if he actually gets nominated.
Since the McCarthy era, the vast majority of Americans don’t really even understand the differences between social democracy, socialism and communism. The money is happy having everyone pay their own way, because they themselves can. Democracy should involve a collective willingness to charity towards the disadvantaged and good democracy helps without judging the cause of that disadvantage. Money runs both sides of every democratic political structure, and money often sets policy that barely tolerates the average citizen.
I’ve spent years casually pondering the challenges of modern democracy, and for a time I thought the internet and social media might give a better voice to the silent majority. Instead I think the deafening noise of mass media and social media have driven the silent majority further from view and being heard. I’m convinced the revolution we need is involvement replacing silence.
How can an average citizen actually contribute to the public discussion without being visible? Start small and do something is my best advice. I’m not exactly known as silent, but once was, so I know the process to begin to be heard.
Not every day for me is political, it’s more like a hobby where I try to make some time each week. Lunch at my desk is often a productive time for my personal interests; yesterday I spent probably 30-45 minutes on the following:
I quietly sent two emails to our Member of Parliament on issues that I’m passionate about and that I don’t care to discuss on social media or this blog. I sent a couple of calm constructive emails to our Mayor and Town Council with suggestions that I won’t discuss publicly, so that they may have a chance to quietly consider my points and act if they see benefit. If they don’t act, I won’t take it personally because I can’t understand the totality of the community needs and resources as they can.
I also interacted, out of public sight, with number of people that I know to be committed to our town and who are on several sides of several issues I’m interested in. Mutual respect is a key element to those relationships and often hard to build.
For mental sport, I participate in a very small and very passionate political discussion group, not with like minded people, but a group with mutual respect and a full spectrum of political stripes. We get angry with each other’s points out of public sight and slowly we come towards a common vision closer to the center on many points.
I hope more people choose to get involved at every level of democracy; the silent majority must start speaking in a calm constructive voice. Just do something, please.