Readers of the celebrated 19th Century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen would be familiar with his classic, internationally acclaimed play, “An Enemy of the People.” The play brilliantly and instructively deals with the difficulty of costly, unpopular, and ethical choice over its popular facile, and profitable alternative. In the play, the protagonist, a physician, discovers that the large bathhouse complex, upon which the town derives much of its revenue, is polluted and unhealthy and alerts the local authorities. The town officials, in their overriding interest in the financial impact of closing the important facility, attempt in vain to induce the recalcitrant physician to withdraw his finding.
Ibsen’s play aesthetically deals with the eternal dilemma between moral, but unpopular and costly, choices and the practical impact of their compliance. The principled physician, heroically defying the officials, advocating for the benefit of his fellow townsfolk, is seen as a pariah, or enemy of the people.
In common with all great writers, Ibsen’s message is eternal. His empirical observation as portrayed, concerns mankind’s usual and disappointing tendency, to sidestep moral, uncomfortable, choices, in favor of their facile avoidance.
The Founders of our Democratic Republic chose to eschew the immoral and unjust European history of autocratic rule, inheritance of privilege and an underclass, and create an innovatively just polity in which the citizens were participants, viz., a Democratic Republic. They construed a tri-partite governmental architecture and a federal Constitution protecting the citizens and against interference with their enunciated rights while preserving the sovereignty of the incorporated States. In keeping with the moral consistency of their philosophy, the citizens were given the right to express their will by majority vote and were protective of the rights of the minority. It is indisputable that the definitional essence of the democracy was the franchise of each citizen to vote.
In the interest of historical accuracy, the right of women and black citizens to vote was not established until two decades later. Empirically, the Nation is still progressing, albeit slowly, after its past nightmare of the enslavement of black people, toward the goal of universal equality. Today, all Americans over the age of eighteen, have the right to vote, for the candidate or law of their choice, thereby implementing the historically intended, “rule by and for the people.”
Revisiting our previous reference to the distinguished playwright, Ibsen and his work, “Enemy of the People,” we have disappointingly observed, in many of our elected officials, the analogous operation of the classic dynamic of tactically avoiding the choice of moral responsibility and suitable action, in favor of the facile alternative of personal benefit. We will explain.
Since the election of Donald J. Trump, and most visibly, since his merciful defeat, [after one disastrous four-year term], the human [flawed] inclination, theatrically portrayed by Ibsen, has grown from being fearfully perceptible to a tragically encompassing full metastasis. The unexpected Presidential victory of this ignorant, ego-neurotic miscreant had been brought about by three factors. The apparent dislike of the democratic opponent, the unprecedented support of what we have denominated, “the underbelly of the Nation” [the semi-literate, ignorant, bigoted, discontented], perceiving a responsive identity to him, and vulnerable to his snake-oil demagoguery, and third, the financial support of rich, sociopathic, industrialists who value the immense profits from their air polluting industry, over human life and health, and who, like Trump, oppose government health regulations.
We have, in the past, amply written about Trump’s thoroughly incapable and unprincipled, four years in office, so that repetition would now be unnecessary. Such immoral and disgraceful term of office, however, was endorsed by his tribally loyal base, delighted with their commonality with his ignorance, scorn for learning and science, and his obvious bigotry, and like the colloquial “cockroaches coming out of the woodwork,” grew in formidable number.
Trump’s horrific rule, appropriately, led to his democratic defeat after serving an unprecedented, singularly dystopic first term. A definitional feature of democratic polity is that the Office of Presidency is peacefully handed over to the [winning] successor. Trump, however, in his egocentric pathology, refused to accept the loss and, without inquiry or any factual basis, [and contrary to the approved certification of three independent audits], declared that the victory was fraudulently “stolen” from him. His enlarged stable of underbelly cultish supporters, like Trump, picked up the battle cry that the election was stolen, absorbing the lesson from their cult leader, Donald Trump, that facts, however incontrovertible, which are contrary to your interest, are ipso-facto, false and fraudulent. Paranoid recounts, charges, propaganda, and, unimaginably worse, a violent insurrection by hundreds of Trump terrorists at the Washington Capitol Building, January 6, 2021; the event constituting no less than an unprecedented and existential threat to the continuance of our against democracy.
It is disappointing and worrisome that, in addition to the cultish “flat earth” worshipers of the current latter-day deity, Donald J. Trump, so many of our elected officials in Congress and elsewhere in the Nation, are fearful of offending Trump’s large miscreant voting base and thus losing their position. Like the financially self-interested townspeople in “Enemy of the People,” they exalt their self-interest in retaining their office, to the point that, like lemmings, they irresponsibly support the Trump agenda, shamefully casting aside any apparent offense to moral, empathic, and logical principles, and like him, seeking to selectively undermine voting rights. [The service that such people render to America’s joyful enemies is a material subject for a future essay.]
It would seem logical, that the most efficiently dangerous weapon against a democracy is the weakening of the institutions that sustain it; such as an unlimited and universally accessible, elective system and the foundational, peaceful transfer of office. The irresponsible actions of many Congressmen and other elected officials [some of whom, undoubtedly possess the sense and (subdued) moral instincts to know better], have the ominous potential, just as the selfish townspeople in the Ibsen play did, regarding their bathhouse, to pollute and sicken our unique and priceless American democracy.