By Bradley Davis /// Business Manager
We all love demagogues.
For years, the Rush Limbaughs and Rachel Maddows of the world have been rightfully criticized for their demagoguery. The entertainment value of such talk show hosts depends solely on their tribalism. The majority of viewers comprise an in-group, an audience with homogenous values and beliefs, bemoaning an intolerable out-group. Following a simple formula, these hosts will point out some outrageous action by an outsider, demonstrate a great undertaking of an insider, and wrap up with a celebration of the audience for being a member of the in-group. Frighteningly, this form of “news” entertainment is wildly popular.
This year, the demogogues have taken center-stage with the likes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Without a doubt, appealing to political tribalism is how candidates win elections. Demagogues have won office since Alcibiades in Athens. Yet, this primary season is beyond reason. Despite an economic consensus disavowing Sanders’ policies and common sense condemning Trump’s rhetoric, the two continue to strengthen their electoral positions.
The reason why? We, the voters, like it.
We like to be told the world is how we perceive it. We like to be told that the system we consider corrupt and ineffective is the result of political collusion. We love to hear that society’s problem is our out-group and the solution is our in-group. They entertain us and they flatter us, so we love them for it.
While the Trump supporters and Bernie bros might seem a world away from Lewis & Clark, our bubble is no different. When students organize marches through class or want to tear down the Senate, they appeal to the the same mentality. The only difference between the real world and us is that nearly everyone composes our in-groups.
While this may lead to less conflict, it also prevents inter-group understanding. Perhaps, it makes our elections kinder and government more representative. It also makes both vapid. Though out-groups can be ignored, we learn nothing if we refuse to acknowledge their existence.
Every student I have met here wants to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, we seldom have the opportunity. However, this week the entire student body is presented with elections for Lewis & Clark’s student government. While the results will likely not alter the course of history, the process provides every single one of us a chance to reject demagogues—a chance, to make the world just a little bit better.