Demagogue: "A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace."
The American Heritage Dictionary
Demagogues are vampires who prey on the viability of society. They depend on hatred, hostility, and dissension for their very political survival. Wherever there is underlying tension and hostility, they exploit it, and in the absence of hostility, they create it. They have a vested interest in creating discontent, and they are most creatively prolific, when society is in turmoil.
And there's a very good reason for that. A demagogue's agenda is virtually always fundamentally at odds with what's in the best interest of the people. So the only way that they can get the people's support is to appeal to their hatred, fear, or anger–that's when individuals are most prone to act without taking the time to think about their actions. Demagogues specialize, therefore, in appealing to the emotions. That allows them to circumvent the mind, and thus, not have to deal with the nuisance of one's common sense.
An example of that strategy at work is clearly demonstrated at a recent John McCain rally. While addressing his angry supporters–who were already frustrated over the economy, the financial bailout, pending foreclosures, and the loss of jobs-instead of reassuring them by sharing policy initiatives that he'd developed to address their concerns, he further inflamed the crowd by giving the floor to, and agreeing with, a supporter who stood up to called Barack and Nancy Pelosi hooligan socialists.
The event was more of a hatefest than it was a rally, and during a video recording of the event, in spite of the fact that the nation is going through the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression, neither McCain nor Palin wasted one word on how they intended to address the issue. Their entire message seemed to be that Obama is not one of us. While McCain didn't give the crowd any answers to their concerns, he did give them someone to hate, and the crowd loved it. He had successfully used their emotions to circumvent their ability to think, and in the absence of thought, nothing is as cathartic as unadulterated hatred.
It was an absolute must, therefore, for McCain and Palin to pull this off, because if the crowd had managed to remain in possession of their faculties, they might have started asking a series of embarrassing questions. They might have asked, for example, why did McCain come all this way and not have a thing to say about how we're going to address this national emergency? And why is it that Barack Obama didn't become a threat until McCain started sliding in the polls? They might have also wanted to discuss McCain's change in strategy. He started out the campaign talking about his experience, and how he was going to bring about change. So a clear thinking supporter would probably ask, "Ok, so how is the vast experience you've been talking about, going to get us out of this mess–and about that change you've been talking about, when is it suppose to begin?
So the fact is, by allowing themselves to be hoodwinked, McCain's supporters relieved him of the need to address the very issues they were most concerned about, just as they relieved Bush of the need to be responsible eight years earlier. The moment they showed McCain that he could get their support by simply keeping them scared and angry, they lost all leverage in getting their most passionate concerns addressed.
But fear and anger are not the only weapons that McCain has in his arsenal. McCain has been playing on America's patriotism for his entire career. In fact, that's one of his most formidable talents. Due to his status as a "war hero", most Americans feel honor bound to never, ever, question his patriotism. But fortunately, there are a few true mavericks left among us, and we tend to be rather reckless in our homage.
In that regard, if you take a close look at Sen. McCain's record when it comes to supporting the troops, you'll discover a few very surprising facts. While he's always delivering sermons on the necessity of supporting our troops, VetVoice.com gives him a failing grade when it comes to actually living his sermons
"In its most recent legislative ratings, the non-partisan Disabled American Veterans gave Sen. McCain a 20 percent rating for his voting record on veterans' issues. Similarly, the non-partisan Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a "D" grade for his poor voting record on veterans' issues, including McCain's votes against additional body armor for troops in combat and additional funding for PTSD and TBI screening and treatment."
You see, while McCain has a sterling record when it comes to voting our troops into battle, that's not supporting our troops at all, that's supporting Halliburton, Blackwater, and the military/industrial complex. When it comes to actually supporting our troops-by spending to provided them with the best equipment to help protect their lives while in battle, or paying to take care of the disabled, and many other vets, after they've completed their service, his record is atrocious-in fact, given his rhetoric, scandalously so.
The most cursory review of McCain's voting record reflects that in September of 2007, McCain voted against the Webb amendment calling for adequate rest for the troops between deployments. In May of 2006 he voted against an amendment (H.R. 4939, S. Amdt. 3704) that would provide 20 million dollars for veteran healthcare facilities. In April of 2006 McCain was one of only 13 Senators to vote against a $430,000,000 amendment (H.R. 4939, S.Amdt. 3642) for the Department of Veteran Affairs to improve Medical Services for outpatient care and treatment for vets. And in March of 2006 he voted against an amendment (S.Con.Res.83, S.Amdt.3007) to increase veteran's medical funding by 1.5 billion dollars. And of course, he didn't even show up to vote for the latest veteran's bill that increased veteran's education benefits.
According to USA Today, "The Arizona senator opposes the scholarship measure, as does the Pentagon, because it applies to people who serve just three years. He fears that would encourage people to leave the military after only one enlistment even as the U.S. fights two wars and is trying to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps."
It is astonishing that McCain would even make such an admission, since the stated rationale suggests that his philosophy is that we can't afford to improve the standard of living of the poor and middle class, because we need them to fight our wars.
I'm sure that many Americans are quite disheartened to learn these facts–and you should be. But actually, we're fortunate, because after allowing demagogues to control this country for the past eight years, we're lucky that we're not in worse shape than we're in. After all, we could be in the military, waiting for McCain to vote us a fair shake.
Eric L. Wattree