By DON VOWELL
I got a word of the day desk calendar for Christmas and today’s word is kakistocracy. It is a combination of the Greek kakistos, superlative of kakos, which means “bad,” and the English suffix “-cracy” meaning form of government. Kakistocracy literally means government by the worst people. Many of the calendar’s words are so obscure I forgot them. I won’t forget kakistocracy. It explains the emergence of Donald Trump.
The government we have now is dysfunctional enough to make some think that Donald Trump is a viable option. Congress is so paralyzed by ideology, endless fund-raising, and servitude to large donors that it is no longer able to create legislation. Many of us are glad they can’t. We crave change so much that “outside” candidates gain support simply by promising change—no need to bother with messy details.
Electing a wild man outsider candidate will not fix things. It is Congress that makes law and Congress that needs fixing. The slate of candidates currently running for president is an example of the same problem crippling Congress. Congress goes about their business seeming to have no regard for the average American citizen. Now we are asked to choose among presidential candidates that average citizens had no voice in selecting.
Donald Trump is the most honest example. He boasts that his qualifications for being president are being rich, consistently leading the polls, and saying offensive stuff with impunity. Period. Hillary Clinton is a candidate because of name familiarity and inevitability. Ted Cruz is a candidate because his ego would accept no less. There is no explanation for Ben Carson’s candidacy, and thus it is languishing. Marco Rubio believes that America’s greatest danger is a doddering, drooling Fidel Castro—also he gains points for being young and attractive to the young. Jeb Bush wants your vote because he is not as crazy as the rest of them. Bernie Sanders would like government to work for the people again. That sounds crazy.
We grew up believing that America is the best place in the world because we all get to take part in government. We all get to vote. It is hard to know how we got to this place—trying to determine which candidate might completely change course without running the ship of state up on the rocks.
My pet theory has not changed in the face of all this. These candidates are chosen and propped up by people with money. We are fed information about them from media sources owned by people with money. Any legislation in the last decade beneficial to average Americans was tacked on to bills benefitting the very wealthy.
The relentless march of America’s wealth into the camp of the richest few is a result of legislation rather than billionaires working harder and smarter. Think of a Wall Street sharper that buys a pharmaceutical company then, in the space of a day, raises the price of a 62-year-old medication from $13.50 to $750. Are we to admire his cleverness, his hard work? Do we aspire to be like him? Are we worried that the Citizens United decision smoothes the way for people of a similar business ethic to buy and sell legislators and candidates with no financial restriction?
You get what you pay for. What has been paid for is kakistocracy. It doesn’t work and we should return it.
(Don Vowell gets on his soapbox regularly in the Keizertimes.)