The Trumpian Heresy.
We all know, deep down, that our “Republic” is not a really functioning democracy. This is probably why our leaders, far more so than leaders of genuinely democratic countries such as Switzerland or Norway, feel the need to constantly emphasize the importance, as Nancy Pelosi put it pompously in a January 10 press release, of “protecting our Constitution and Democracy.” They do this to overcompensate for insecurities and doubts. It is part of our national Myth—our Civil Religion—that we are the ultimate democratic nation. This is the real reason why Donald Trump was impeached. He has committed heresy against the American Myth.
Myths, according to anthropologists, are fundamental in holding peoples together, in covering-up contradictions, creating a united group and legitimizing those in power. Thus, questioning them—even if they are empirically false—is generally Not Done. Doing so is, perhaps only unconsciously, regarded as a heretical attempt to destroy the society and all those invested in the status quo.
This was best articulated—though you have to read between the lines—by NBC political correspondent Kelly O’Donnell when she was interviewed on NBC News on the morning of February 11th. O’Donnell explained that Trump’s political career has been marked by:
…saying things that others would fear to say and recoil at saying; talking about rigged elections…The idea of saying that something is rigged for most politicians would be a step too far. For Donald Trump, as a candidate and president, he was certainly willing to blow past those lines of normalcy and sort of discretion and the frequency of repeating it really created a bond with his supporters. [My transcription].
Saying these things, according to O’Donnell, caused Trump’s supporters to question the sacred cow of whether American elections were genuinely fair, infuriating them, and leading to the “insurrection” that was indeed—according to O’Donnell—a “threat to democracy.”
So, even if there has been a rigged election—or even if you genuinely believe that an election has been rigged—you should surely have enough “discretion” to not go public about it.
Although Americans aren’t generally aware of it, international analyses have concluded that America is the one of the least democratic countries in the “democratic” category of countries. It is only just about possible to call it democratic at all. According to the Electoral Integrity Project’s analysis, the US came near the bottom of this second highest group for honest elections, tying with Mexico. This because a number of factors frowned on by international observers open it up to electoral fraud. These include: no voter ID, mail-in ballots, duplicate registration, election observers being prevented from observing, unreliable voting machines, the media calling results while some areas are still voting and so literally influencing the election, and voter fraud not being prosecuted often enough.
But of course voter fraud can’t be prosecuted. To admit that it happens would be to admit that a component of the American Civil Religion is nonsense.
There was way more than just that one component confirmed as denialist moonshine during Trump’s wearing term under Oval Office siege. Ultimately, though, the problem vexing our present-day Swamp “nobility” is the same one their Medieval forerunners—cited by the author in a most apt comparison—were eventually undone by: once the serfs have witnessed the slaughter of those Sacred Cows, there’s no way they can be made to unsee it.