Sunday, January 17, 2016

Demagogue: Sausage Maker

In my life, I've never heard the English word "demagogue" used more in public life than in this presidential election cycle.  Demagogue comes from two Greek words, the first, demos, "the people," as in "democracy," rule by the people, and agō, "to lead."

No one surpassed Pericles (495-429BC) of Athens in the history of the Greek city-state as an orator and statesman, proclaimed by ancient Greek historian Thucydides, "the first citizen of Athens."  His death left a political vacuum in the democracy for rich merchants to exploit the people.  Five years later, Aristophanes, an Athenian comedic playwright wrote a satire on the social and political life of classical Athens, The Knights, describing the conditions where a sausage maker possesses the necessary qualities to rule the Demos, the name of an actual character, the owner of the house, because the people (the demos) were supposed to be in charge in Athens.  In the play, upon meeting the sausage maker, Demosthenes, an escaped slave of Demos, attempts to recruit the sausage seller for the job:

Sausage-Seller:  But I have not had the least education. I can only read, and that very badly. 
Demosthenes:  That is what may stand in your way, almost knowing how to read. A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue.

Later, again:

Sausage-Seller:  The oracles of the gods flatter me! Faith! I do not at all understand how I can be capable of governing the people. 
Demosthenes:  Nothing simpler. Continue your trade. Mix and knead together all the state business as you do for your sausages. To win the people, always cook them some savoury that pleases them. Besides, you possess all the attributes of a demagogue; a screeching, horrible voice, a perverse, crossgrained nature and the language of the market-place. In you all is united which is needful for governing.

You get a perfect earliest and fascinating portrayal there of the usage of the term "demagogue." You might be thinking:  "Rich merchant?  Horrible voice?  Sausage maker?  Donald Trump!"  I understand, but stay with me here.

As I thought about the word "demagogue," especially as it applied to this presidential race, I googled the term and on December 10, 2015, Megan Garber at The Atlantic provided a one-stop-shop of recent usage, especially related at that point to Donald Trump.  Trump is portrayed as the veritable definition, his picture next to demagogue in the dictionary.  Is Trump really the sausage-seller? What's his sausage?  Or, who really offers sausage to the people?

I hear the Democrats and the media (almost one and the same) call Trump a demagogue.  Democrats now most use the term, but it is they who have perfected actual demagoguery in democracy.  They thrive by cooking something savoury for every special interest.  Democrats fit the modus operandi (m.o.) of the demagogues of democracy as described by Aristophanes.  They're the sausage-sellers.

What sausage does Trump offer to the masses, what does he mix and knead together?  The Democrats and the media say it's fear and mainly two examples:  Muslims and illegal immigrants.  They say Trump plays on people's fear of either or both to win an election.  If there is one other, it's jobs stolen away by China from American white working men, another dog whistle to summon the support of a racial majority.   If Trump is a demagogue, it really does take some to know one.  Trump is the rich merchant with the qualifications to compete with the longstanding champions of demagoguery. Donald Trump is a unique Republican candidate, rare in his ability to make and sell sausage.  Democrats are envious, it seems.

No one makes sausage like Democrats.  Nothing stands in the way of the voters Democrats need the most like an education.  They are who Rush Limbaugh calls the "low information voter."  Democrats pump out sausage of every shape and size, embarrassing Jimmy Dean with their production.

No one is better than Democrats at the perverse, crossgrained nature and language of the market-place. Raise the minimum wage.  Tax the rich.  Free healthcare.  Women's rights.  Affirmative action. Same-sex marriage.  Open borders.  Easy voter registration.  College tuition.  Sanctuary cities. No one represents Aristophanes' demagoguery better than Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is doing everything she can do to catch up. They are both now to promising sausage that doesn't even exist.

The expiration date on most of the sausage has already arrived.  People are still waiting for the promises of eight years and four years ago.  Until very recently, I had never heard the terminology, "labor force participation."  Part of demagoguery is saying people have jobs when they don't.  They kind of know when they don't have one or even one that is full time.  You can't really have lower unemployment and the very lowest labor force participation in decades.  Those two concepts contradict each other.  When people will lie about the unemployment rate, you have to start using labor force participation as an instrument to measure employment.

In December of 2015,  the percentage of participation in the labor force was 62.6%.  The last time it was that low was in October of 1977, which was during the Jimmy Carter presidency.  Let's be honest.  Let's not demagogue the issue.  Less people are working today.  Labor force participation in January of 2009, when President Obama began his first term, was 65.7%.  By the way, I didn't gather these statistics from demagogues who encouraged fear in the unemployed.  I looked them up on the Department of Labor website.  They will tell you the labor force participation in every month since 1948.  January of 2016 hasn't ended yet.

Aristophanes said sausage makers make good demagogues in a democracy.  It's simple.  People like sausage, even if they don't know what's in it.  The bloated nature of the United States government and its overrunning debt is a testimony to American love of sausage, ripe for the sausage sellers.

Democrats appeal more to the base nature of the people, their voting constituents, the coalition they wish to cobble together to remain in power, more than any other American entity.  They are the sausage makers.


Fred Moritz said...

Nicely done. I am going to copy and save the article. I disagree with the conclusion in part. We have all lived long enough to know that there are sausage makers and demagogues in all political parties. This is a non-partisan enterprise.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Dr. Moritz,

Thanks for dropping by. I agree that demagoguery is a two party activity. The Democrats are built for it. Even the name Democrat gives a tip or clue to what you might expect.

Thanks though.

david said...

You got me on the statement "opinion based on the bible" The only Bible of which you speak is Rush Limbaugh. I listen to him sell sausage constantly. He mixes lies and his 'biased' opinion with partial truths to come up with very tasty sausage for his republican listeners. Seems like we have two parties selling sausage.