Ever since maybe five hundred years before this current era, maybe even before then, demagogues, in their quest for power, have appealed to ignorance and the lowest common denominator while belittling reason and rational thinking. Of late, any listing of such should include Huey Long, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, most if not all red state republican politicians, and Donald Trump.
If the demagogue is one who panders for power, what do we call someone who panders for riches? An “Alex Jones” or a “Rush Limbaugh”? Possibly. Other possibilities include the likes of religious hucksters like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and a very long list of mega-church pastors. In addition to riches, both of these two types of hucksters have achieved significant political power because of their large followings.
To the admiration of all who pander, and those aspiring, Alex Jones pandered and huckstered his way to $50Million/yr at the expense of the parents of the children who died in the December 12, 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. Nothing is lower than making money at the expense of grieving parents. Doing so, Jones positioned himself on the very bottom. Not one from the above listing of religious hucksters was all that very far above that bottom.
In 2013, an income ascendant Alex Jones met up with the Roger J. Stone, Jr. in Dallas. Despicable, meet deplorable. Stone, once of some Watergate fame, since a long-time friend and confidant of Donald Trump, recognizing the political potential of tapping into Jones’ large following, arranged a Trump appearance on Jones’ popular radio show whereon the two worthies lavished praise on one another. Along the way to the 2016 election, similar Trump meetings were arranged with some luminaries from the above listing of religious hucksters.
All this pandering by recent politicians wasn’t without consequence. Those pandered to came to believe that their opinions were as worthy as those of experts; that their prejudices were valid; that they were right and everyone else was wrong; that reality itself was fungible. That they had been validated by the panderers. Began, themselves, to recognize that they had political clout. By 2016, enough of them believed along these lines to elect Donald Trump president. Mostly on the basis of lies and alternate reality.
For a century and more politicians and preachers throughout the former confederate states have both pandered and peddled ignorance to the citizenry on behalf of a few land and business owners. Have succeeded in convincing a majority of the people that ignorance was somehow superior to science, the facts. A majority of the good people of states like Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and West Virginia believe that they, in their ignorance and prejudice, and regressiveness, are right and that the people of the more successful progressive blue states are wrong; that it is the liberal blue states that need to change. Good job, Mitch, Marsha, Tom, and Joe. You have abetted the turning of reality on its head. Now, a bevy of bible thumping Sarah Palins represent your states in the halls of Congress.
Recently, especially in red states, in addition to ignorance, we see politicians pander to the denial of reality, of the truth. To the extent that denial has become a part of their platform. As if by by magic; if you don’t like reality, or the truth; simply deny them and they will go away. It’s Magic. In exchange for your vote, pandering politicians will gladly stage assist in this act of magic.
But, truth and reality are the purest of them all. They don’t change. They don’t go away. To deny either is to put off an inevitable reckoning. To put off doing what needs be done only compounds the damage; increases the final cost.
There is yet a third variant of pandering. One where the panderers use cultural issues as hot button issues to get the voters’ votes in order to implement an agenda that is counter the interests of those very same voters. For example, for forty-plus years now, Republican politicians in the House and the Senate have sought to do away with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, …; something they would never admit to their constituents. Their demagoging of cultural issues was but a guise to hide an agenda that served the interests of those very wealthy interests who funded the politicians’ campaigns.
The denial of science is one of the great crimes of all times. During the COVID pandemic, the denial of science has cost our nation alone hundreds of thousands of lives. Around the globe, the denial of Climate Science will cost billions their lives. To date, Climate Change has already caused hundreds of $Billions, likely tens of $Trillions, worth of damage. Is now causing the deaths of 150,000 humans per year; is headed toward 250,000 per year.
What we are to call those highly educated elites who pretend to be of the common folk, to even be ignorant and of the lowest common denominator, in exchange for votes? All we need do is look to last weeks’ Judge Jackson’s confirmation Hearing where we saw the highly educated, born to wealth and power, Senators Cruz, Cotton, Hawley, and Kennedy present themselves as being representatives of the common man while denigrating ‘coastal’, ‘educated’, and ‘cultural’ elites. Be they elites pandering? Or, be they pandering elites?
If there is a hell, it surely hath reserved a special place for those politicians who pander to prejudice and hate. Prejudice and hate destroy the souls of men, of nations; befoul the future. No panderer to hate and prejudice who attempts to camouflage their pandering, either by using code words or by promoting cultural wars, shall escape hell’s wrath. If there is a hell, there, they, along with all of the above-listed panders, shall burn for eternity.
If there is a hell, those who willingly allowed themselves to be pandered to in exchange for their vote, in exchange for the validation of their ignorance or prejudices, shall accompany the panderers to hell where naked, without any protection from the flames, they shall for all eternity hand-carry buckets of hot coals to keep the fires of hell burning hot. Deniers, for their atonement, shall walk the earth for all time in sackcloth burying those who died because of their, the deniers, denial of truth and reality.