A Threat to Democracy

A Threat to Democracy May 24, 2017

Is it more likely to come from the evangelicals who voted for Trump or from the writers and producers of Saturday Night Live?

Shadi Hamid shows great restraint and these days uncommon wisdom in recognizing that viewers of the hit series Handmade’s Tale should not rush to condemn evangelicals as theocrats:

What makes Gilead, or for that matter any authoritarian theocracy, so terrifying isn’t just, or even primarily, the religious absolutism. It’s that religious laws, once promulgated, cannot be undone through the political process, because there is no political process. There are no elections and there are no opposition parties. There are no voters. Citizens have no recourse except to stay silent or to resist.

In other words, Christian evangelicals—or for that matter conservative Jews and conservative Muslims—who oppose abortion, gay marriage, or refuse to dine with women or men other than their spouses are not any less American. What would make them less American or un-American is if they believed, as a matter of faith, that democracy should be done away with and that there was only one truth that could be expressed by the state. Then the rest of us would have, quite literally, no choice. It is the closing of the avenues of possibility—and therefore of hope—that makes dictatorship, and not just the religious kind, so terrifying.

Consider those observations in connection with the way that late night television regularly refuses to accept Donald Trump as POTUS:

Longtime Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal recently shared his view that, “Saturday Night Live is the vanguard of the opposition party, which is the media. There’s a desperate race for satire to keep in front of the reality, or surreality.” Now, whenever Trump makes a speech, commits a gaffe, or (more rarely) announces an actual policy, SNL is guaranteed to pounce. Millions of viewers—including the president himself—regularly tune in to see how the show will handle that week’s news. For the large segment of America that remains not just dissatisfied with but indignant at the fact of Donald Trump’s election, SNL has become the mouthpiece of choice, a corner of the cultural battlefield where one knows one’s among friends.

That this is the case is a problem for our democratic discourse. For one thing, when political debate is handed over to the comedians, it suggests a forfeiture of that responsibility by traditional media establishments. Vigorous, goodfaith deliberation is undermined by a society that rushes to find a joke in every headline.

If democracy matters, Mike Pence is more legitimate that Melissa McCarthy.


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