Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I present The Demagogue

Leye Adenle - every other Wednesday

Photo: Bundesarchiv

I love words. Words are beautiful. They are meaningful. They resonate. They are necessary. Even when superfluously used, the excess over requirement still delivers a message: this writer likes highfalutin words. They are verbose, the writer. Superfluous. Now that's a word I love. The way it plays in your mouth, dangles above the tip of your tongue till it’s ready to be spoken and till it’s done. 

Demagogue. Another word that satisfies in that way that words alone can satisfy. And what a word. One of my little loves, but not one I get to use often. I love its sound. I love its bold, demanding consonants, the easy surrender of its vowels. The lingering taste it leaves. The gentle tickle on the roof of my mouth. Demagogue. Like something strong. Something important. Something to be aware of.

Effusive. I heard this one again recently. I read it, more like, in a text message, and I read it in the voice of my conversation partner. And like words sometimes play with you, this one's exact meaning slipped from my grasp and I had to ask Google. Effusive. How could I have forgotten the meaning? I even use it in my writing. 

Now, back to demagogue. Through a conversation, a friend's realisation, I did as she did and I double-checked the meaning of the word. She was right; about the meaning and of the demagogue of our time.

Demagogue or demagog [dem-uh-gog, -gawg] 
Noun. A person, especially an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people.

Wikipedia lists Methods of demagogues as:
Fear mongering
Emotional oratory and personal charisma
Accusing opponents of weakness and disloyalty
Promising the impossible
Violence and physical intimidation
Personal insults and ridicule
Vulgarity and outrageous behaviour
Folksy posturing
Attacking the news media

A demagogue.

A person who knows you are no better than your prejudices.
"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States..."
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

A person who will say anything and everything to appeal to your hate.
"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States..."

A person who, seeking your votes, says these things because he knows they are the things you want to hear.
“I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country.”
“…torture works."
“I would bring back waterboarding. And I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
“Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail..."  “Such a nasty woman.”

A person who incites violence, openly, because he knows he’s only speaking out what you want to do anyway.
“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell, I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.”

A person who mocks the people you yourself detest.
“Look at my African-American here!”

A person who knows he’s got you. He just knows he’s got you.
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

The dictionary says nothing about the consequence of a demagogue and I will not opine. I'm searching now for a word I used to know, or one I imagine I did; a word the describes the millions of people who fall under the spell of the demagogue. 

Mr Trump is only one person; It is the millions of people who voted with him that I’m afraid of.

Photo: Michael Vadon 


  1. It will be interesting to see what his supporters do and say if he doesn't meet their needs, aspirations, and prejudices. Will they blame him becoming part of the establishment, or will they try to attain what they want on their own?

  2. Thank you, Leye, for the beauty of your language. For the clarity of your thinking. And especially for putting this all in one place. It's perfect.

    But too heartbreakingly true. I don't think there is a specific word for the followers of a demagogue. I doubt they are ever all of a piece. In the US recently they have been various. Some are the despicable haters--racists, misogynists, xenophobes, white supremacists--who want to dominate whoever they hate. Some are those left behind, eg the coal miners--depressed because they are undereducated, unprepared, obsolete, marginalized by a world that no longer seems navigable to them. Some are one-factor voters--anti-abortion is the key group in USA--who will follow anyone who promises to stop the trend they abhor. What will Trump's supporters do if they are disappointed. The haters are not disappointed. They are already beginning to do their thing--commit the hate crimes they now feel empowered to unleash. The left-behind won't rise up against the demagogue who fails to deliver. They will see themselves for the dupes they have been and sink back into their depression.

    The people I fear are not the millions of voters who were duped. I fear the puppeteers--who saw in Trump the perfect distraction, the side-show for everyone to watch while they go about their business of controlling things to reach their own selfish ends. Everyone is looking at Trump, talking about Trump, outraged at Trump, while those pigs behind the curtain fill their pockets, gloat over their spoils, and rape our sacred planet.

    My only hope is the United States Constitution. If it survives this onslaught, the pendulum will swing. The suffering the meanwhile, I fear, will be excruciating.

    1. True, true. The puppeteers. Why was Russia so keen to have him in the Whitehouse? It has to be part of a bigger play.

  3. I agree with your bottom line of it being his followers from which we should fear the most. Hitler had no where near the support of Trump and was only chosen as Chancellor after three non-determinative parliamentary elections. But should Trump disappoint his followers--as he ultimately will--I fear that out of his mass of supporters will come a more determined voice vowing to fulfill the unmet promises. The state of our nation at that moment will determine whether our next leader is that yet-to-emerge successor demagogue. Chilling, but look at the facts. The left wrings its hands as the far right rings doorbells and wins popular local support in local elections...leading to national dominance.

    The times surely are a'changin, it's only a matter of which direction will prevail.

    1. Now I'm even more afriad. The thought of Donald being merely a precursor to something even darker. Something truly evil. Something that means and does what it says.

    2. That Edmund Burke adage stares us all squarely in the face: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for the good to do nothing.

  4. This is how a demagogue is made. We are aware of it. And yet it continues. What is necessary, beyond awareness, to stop Evil? Action. Action of brain, mouth and body.
    Thank you for your words.

  5. I agree with a lot of this, especially Anna Maria's comments.
    Yes, much of the left may be wringing their hands, but many are planning activism and resistance. As Mother Jones said, "Don't mourn! Organize!"
    That's what a lot of people are saying -- that is, after we grieved, ate comfort food for two weeks and binge-watched TV shows and movies.
    Now people are thinking about what to do.
    There will be protests in D.C. in January, and more to come. A lot of people and movements are sharpening their magic markers and making signs, using social media and email and doing outreach.
    So, the good are doing things, not sitting back in despair (although there was plenty of despair after Nov. 8), but planning activism -- action of brain, mouth and body as said above.
    And if people can't be activist, then donate to organizations which advocate for those who will be hurt by Trump and his cabinet's policies.
    Yes, millions will be hurt, but millions have to take action.

    1. But, does he have to be president? I mean, 2.5 million more people voted for Hillary. Must he be the winner of the electoral collge vote? Is it automatic? I know I'm grabbing at straws, but...

    2. We are looking at an unprecedented (perhaps first time discovered) tampering with a US election. The electors meet next Monday. The framers of our Constitution meant for the Electoral College to act as a stopgap to prevent just this sort of situation. But it seems impossible that it will function that way. A few electors have come out as concerned. One resigned as an act of "conscience" on religious grounds. People are grasping at straws here. But there is no precident for overturning a result. Nor even delaying the turnover of government to allow for a proper investigation. Being here is like living in a taut political thriller without a protagonist. Or being on a sabotaged train that is hurtling toward an inevitable crash.

  6. From over here - we have no idea what is going on over there - as Leye points out, you had an election and some body was voted in, in what is supposed to be a democractic process. People believe or want to believe what he is saying, and that is far more worrying. At least with Brexit, there are some sound financial arguments made by sensible people that the EU has had its day and it's time to wave goodbye- nothing to do with immigration, just ecomonic reasoning. Not my view but it was a democratic vote.
    Did some cynic say that democracy was wasted on the masses?

  7. Well, electors can vote their conscience. They can. Some will do that. A Texas elector wrote in a New York Times op-ed that he will not vote for Trump.

    The Electoral College propped up slavery. As today's NY Times pointed out, or David Pozen did, the Southern states counted the votes of 2/3 of their enslaved people, and so they did, no matter what the people themselves wanted.
    It is antiquated and ridiculous. That Hillary Clinton, who won nearly 3 million more popular votes, can't take office, is outrageous. And then add in all of the voter suppression that went on, the discrimination, etc.

    Electors should reject Trump. Yes. And everybody who wants the First Amendment protected and civil liberties and democratic rights should do all they can to protest this travesty.

    And I'm not all that fond of Hillary Clinton, but it's outrageous that someone who used racism, sexism, xenophobia, threatened his opponent with physical violence, and is hostile to all who disagree with him, including the press, should not be allowed to be president.

    This is going to hurt millions of people on everything from medical care to the environment to civil rights, etc.

    People have to stand up to this in the Electoral College, Congress, in the press, on the streets, everywhere. Or else what do we have left?