Our political upheaval wasn't caused by mob rule, but by institutions designed to preserve elite oversight

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/09/16/world-turned-upside-down.html


Yet we continue to misdiagnose America’s political disease as “mob rule” rather than “elite rule.”

And of course the conservative elites have spent the past 50 years gulling the Know-Nothing mob with increasingly bigoted and sexist rhetoric until we’ve reached the logical conclusion: a right-wing populist in the White House.

Now we have the spectacle of some of those some of those same conservative elites wringing their hands in shock and surprise over how this “suddenly” happened.


I see what you did there.

That’s nonsense. The big problem is that elites’ power is increasing. Time was that the Coastal Elites kept to their turf and couldn’t vote, had to stay in their own elite schools, and kept out of sight of Real Americans. That changed, and America wasn’t Great any more. Once we round them up and deport them, lock them up, whatever it takes – once we keep them from voting, especially – then we will Make America Great Again.

1 Like

I’m old and almost elderly. One of the perks is believing in whacko theories that are actually supported by a long lived life and reading stuff out the corporate media propaganda.
So here’s one: The only reason we got as much democracy as we did was to match such democracy as citizens in the UK had. Couldn’t rebel just over the domestic elite wanting to have as much power as the elite in the mother country. If the Founding Fathers had their way, we’d have even less democracy than we initially got.
And reminder (as if): Trump was not democratically elected.


The National Popular Vote bill is 64% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

It simply requires enacting states with 270 electoral votes to award their electoral votes to the winner of the most national popular votes.

All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.
Candidates, as in other elections, would allocate their time, money, polling, organizing, and ad buys roughly in proportion to the population

Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
No more distorting, crude, and divisive and red and blue state maps of predictable outcomes, that don’t represent any minority party voters within each state.
No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable winner states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.
We can limit the power and influence of a few battleground states in order to better serve our nation.

The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes among all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

The bill was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
Since 2006, the bill has passed 36 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes.
The bill has been enacted by 12 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 172 electoral votes – 64% of the way to guaranteeing the presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes in the country



Don’t forget that an awful lot of the conservative elites these days are members of that Know-Nothing mob. At first, the True Believers were being cynically used by the people at the top, but by the natural process of attrition and replacement, more and more Republican politicians were coming from the mob, and rising up in the party, until these days the inmates have taken over the asylum.

It’s the worst aspects of mob rule and elite rule, combined in the person of Donald Trump, who’s both an aggressively ignorant, boorish bully embodying the petty xenophobia and bigotry of the right-wing mob while also being an Ivy League-educated New York real estate tycoon who’s the son of a millionaire.


The thing that cheeses me off is all this complaining the whole problem is passion. It’s the idea Madison was a big fan of - this hardcore Enlightenment idea that delay & emotional coolness & an educated elite is going to automagically get us to rationality & truth & good political decisions. No no no, that’s totally wrongheaded.

Actually now researchers are saying the more educated people are the more they’ll dig in & defend their biases no matter what. All the harmful right wing think tanks & support institutions & media conglomerates were built up over long decades, those were generational efforts there, not spur of the moment, and still they’re supporting lies, propaganda, outright reality denial just to grab power. Lots of cool calculating political operators worked to mislead people & set up anti rational policies. I mean look at the whole Russian bot ecosystem. So no, delay & coolness & educated elites doesn’t automatically give us better politics. And hot passionate decisions aren’t automatically unthoughtful & they don’t automatically give us worse politics. This whole Enlightenment faith in cool logic is overblown, cool logic can be abused like any other tool.

And really how do you tell the difference between mob passion and engaged citizenry? Let’s say right off the bat we’re not talking about lynch mobs rolling out the guillotines. Say we’re talking about universal health care or free college, the difference between mob passion & “proper” engagement is just a pundit’s political biases.

No red state is going to support this, for obvious reasons, and no purple state will support it, because it will dilute their outsized power in the EC, so I’m not optimistic.

This is an oversimplification that misses something important. In a study where they compared a case where opposition to evidence was popular among conservatives (climate change), and one where opposition to the available evidence was popular among liberals (nuclear power.), they found exactly the effect you describe among conservatives. That is to say, the more educated conservatives are, the more likely they are to be climate denialists.

They found the opposite effect among liberals. That is, the more educated liberals are, the less likely they are to be knee-jerk opposed to nuclear power.

This is not a problem with educated elites or technocrats, it’s a problem with conservatives.


The bill was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).

In 2016 the Arizona House of Representatives passed the bill 40-16-4.
Two-thirds of the Republicans and two-thirds of the Democrats in the Arizona House of Representatives sponsored the bill.
In January 2016, two-thirds of the Arizona Senate sponsored the bill.

In 2014, the Oklahoma Senate passed the bill by a 28–18 margin.

In 2009, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed the bill

1 Like

Since 2006, the bill has passed 36 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, Democratic, Republican and purple states with 261 electoral votes, including one house in Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), North Carolina (15), and both houses in Colorado (9),

1 Like

I still maintain that the filibuster is a good thing for minority rights - if it were done the old fashioned way, where you actually have to care enough to talk for hours to days on end, and hold up the whole rest of the government to do it. If the Senate got rid of cloture and tracking, and went back to unlimited debate… I could see that working.


Family therapists have a term for this, called The Identified Patient. For example, when parents bring a young child in for therapy determined to identify the child as the patient, even though the child may just be acting out due to problems caused by the parents or family dysfunction.

Mob = Children Acting Out
Elites = Dysfunctional Parents


yes manqueman culturally your founding fathers were associated with their eastern brethren more closely than many believe. we the indigenous natives have seen this kinship twist and turn since 1776. elites are humans just like the poor. pseudothink relates them as parents. this “shadow looming over our politics” can be seen each day when one person affords superior resources. lets all put our feet in the dirt as it was meant to be. aho

Was it really an upheaval, though?
Or the culmination of a trend that started roughly two or three generations ago?

(Perhaps) unfortunately, it never worked that way. Grandstanding with it is just something that happens every so often.

Cloture is just the latest in a series of changes over the years meant to make sure the Senate occasionally passes a bill instead of being in it’s natural state of gridlock.

Doctorow is spot on. and this:

“But if political and economic elites have lost their stature in American life, it’s only after a generation of profound mismanagement, from misguided foreign adventures to wage stagnation and broad economic collapse. Their failure, and the extent to which they’ve never been held accountable, is the shadow looming over our politics.”

Failure? Trump is President, the Republican party has been taken over by the very same rabid libertarian voters conservative strategists lovingly conceived and nurtured over many decades and whose representatives now control both houses of congress —and the Supreme court is packed with reactionary judges. I mean seriously, how do “analysts” miss this? What is this urge to sugar coat?

I think you missed the fact that ‘elites’ is a word that means very different things depending on the speaker.

Sure. Here’s what I mean by it in this context: the absurdly wealthy who feel that citizens voting just gets in the way of their quest to soak up all the wealth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elite

What the people you call “elites” are not the ones that the ruling Party calls “elites.” What the ruling Party calls “elites” in the pursuit of removing them from “power” is minorities whose right to vote is threatened, whose even remotely equal legal treatment is threatened, who are criticized for demanding “special treatment” such as not being shot in the streets while unarmed, and (most immediately) who live in cities where even if they manage to get past the obstacles to voting their votes count for much less than others who don’t live in those “elite enclaves.”

1 Like