Presidential race creates spectator democracy

Disengagement in politics robs citizens of democracy.

Justin Yun, Writer

The rise of the political messiah threatens to relegate the citizen to a mere spectator of the grand extravaganza of the current presidential race. In this crucial period of American politics, citizens must actively engage in local politics and reject the formation of a spectator democracy and its meaningless slogans.

mpressive grassroots movement

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word messiah means “a person expected to save people from a very bad situation.” I use political messiah exclusively in this article to explain the phenomena of a voter’s belief that one candidate will come to save the country from the soon-to-be-chaos incited by the opposing party. We the citizens must reject a cult of personality once attributed to classical totalitarianism now found in campaigns like that of Donald Trump.

Many millennials and college students alike see Senator Bernie Sanders as their preferred presidential candidate. Sander’s popularity can be attributed to his experience as the longest serving Independent senator from Vermont and his disassociation with the Democratic establishment. Although Sanders describes himself as a Democratic Socialist, his policies makes him more of a New Deal Democrat instead of advocating for the public ownership of the means of production. The Senator from Vermont has created an impressive grassroots movement and his call for a political revolution has won the hearts of many of his voters. However, it is important for voters to become involved in local politics and their communities regardless if Sanders wins the nomination.

spectator democracy

Widespread use of slogans is evidence of a spectator democracy. Similar to its use in the culture of consumerism is its function in a presidential race. Political slogans were created to divert the public’s attention from asking too many questions and requires the voters to interpret the slogan and add meaning to it themselves.

Edward Bernays, commonly known as the “father of public relations” described the need for American society to be led by a specialized class of intellectuals who must use the media to “manufacture consent” and marginalize the public. This is not the type of democracy we deserve because all people, regardless of education or class should have the same opportunity to build their communities. Former Speaker of the House, Tip O’ Neill, emphasizing the need for a political leader to understand his constituents, declared “All politics is local.”

nurturing democracy

Citizens must nurture democracy by becoming involved in their communities. Democracy is based on the premise that we are all on the same boat and we are all in this together. A spectator democracy robs the citizen of his or her ability to actively engage in politics and perpetuate the great experiment that is democracy. Democracy is an experiment because its citizens work together to find out what policies work and what does not work. We negotiate, compensate and make trade-offs so all of us can be in a better position economically and socially.

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