IEET > Rights > CognitiveLiberty > FreeThought > Political Empowerment & Participation > Affiliate Scholar > John G. Messerly
Devastated by the American Presidential Election
John G. Messerly   Dec 10, 2016   Reason and Meaning  

Like most of my readers, I am devastated by the 2016 American Presidential election results (and by the Congressional election results as well.) I have waited a few weeks to write about it so as not to be reacting too emotionally to the results. Since that time my usual focus on philosophy has faded into the background as the country in which I was born and lived all of my life finds itself in perhaps its greatest existential crisis.

I hope that I am wrong, but the possibility of a fascist, authoritarian, banana republic with the power to inflict worldwide catastrophe is now a real possibility. At this time obtuse philosophical speculation feels superfluous and indulgent. So for the foreseeable future I will write about the grave situation in today’s America.

But man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d;
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
As make the angels weep.
~ Shakespeare, “Measure for Measure

First, a bit about my background. I have followed politics closely since I was a small boy discussing the issues of the day with my father, who himself was an ardent student of politics. I grew up in the Midwest and my father was a blue-collar worker with a union job. I remember him first explaining to me that the Republican party of the 1960s in the USA was the party of the wealthy, while the Democratic party represented the populist alternative. (No doubt a lot has happened in the intervening 50 years, but to a large extent that analysis still holds true—Democrats give you affordable health-care, Republicans can’t wait to take it away.) I remember reveling in his stories about the honesty of Harry Truman, the intellect of Adlai Stevenson, the oratory of Everett Dirksen, and the whining of Richard Nixon‘s “last press conference.”

I also recall watching the entire TV coverage of both parties political conventions in 1964 at the age of 9, something I’d bet my contemporaries didn’t do. As an undergraduate I had courses in American government, American history, and political philosophy. Later, as a graduate student in philosophy, I had to pass oral exams on a required reading list that included: Plato’s The Republic; Aristotle’s Politics; Hobbes’ Leviathan; Locke’s Second Treatise of Government; Rousseau’s The Two Discourses and the Social Contract; Marx’s The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844; Hegel’s The Philosophy of Right; Lenin’s The State and Revolution, and many others.

I also had a graduate seminar devoted to the study of the radical libertarian thinkers of the Austrian school of economics like Joseph SchumpeterFriedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises. Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations was also required reading there. And, as a young assistant professor I taught a class called “American Political Thought,” where I read most of The Federalist papers and was introduced to, among others, the economist Milton Friedman.

I don’t claim to have mastered the above material, nor do I claim to specialize in political or economic philosophy. Thousands of scholars of political science, political philosophy and economics know infinitely more than I do about these subjects, so I’m not bragging. I simply want to suggest that I’m not a low information voter, and that I have some familiarity with various economic and philosophical theorizing.

Of course I recognize that in the USA today, acknowledging that you know even a little bit about a subject results in being labeled an elitist. My own take on this is that sometimes experts are too sure of themselves, sometimes people are jealous that others know more than they do, sometimes people can’t distinguish between a real expert and a fake one, and sometimes people are just ignorant. As for myself, I know almost nothing about auto mechanics, programming a computer, playing the piano, and a million other things, yet I’m happy to have experts fix my car, program my computer, or teach me how to play the piano if I am so inclined.

What I have done in the last year or so—as our political situation has become more dangerous—is read literally thousands of articles about the current state of politics from reputable and intellectually sophisticated sources like The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, The Atlantic, and dozens of others. (Not from fake sources forwarded from facebook.) I’ve probably read more than a hundred in the weeks since the election. What I would like to do in the coming posts is summarize some of the best pieces I’ve read. As I go along, or at the end of that journey, I will try to reflect about what is most troubling in our current situation. Stay tuned if you’re interested.

John G. Messerly is an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET. He received his PhD in philosophy from St. Louis University in 1992. His most recent book is The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives. He blogs daily on issues of philosophy, evolution, futurism and the meaning of life at his website:


It’s been 4 weeks and specifically 34 days actually.  At the age of 54, being raised white in Texas and having served in two wars I’m not given to emotional reactions or decisions based on emotional reactions…  and I still can’t talk about it out loud without getting very emotional.  To the point of tears.  Even writing this is hard.  I won’t stop being devastated until this is over and the loop I’m stuck in is that it won’t be over.  The act is done and it’s forever changed my view of my country, my neighbors, my friends and sadly my family.  We’ve gone down a path that, even if we turn away from, will leave us damaged for generations. 
Obviously I’m not talking about the “event” of the election.  I’m talking about what got us there and what we’re seeing as fallout - all bad as far as I can see.
This is like a nightmare that just can’t be woken up from.  That’s as much as I can say.  I pray to God I can recover enough from this to see my country and its people positively again but right now that seems impossible.

I fear that we are really moving quickly to an authoritarian if not totalitarian government. Almost 1/2 the country lives in a bubble of fake news or severely distorted news. What if a thin skinned leader, who has already bashed the 4th estate, really moves to shut down the press? Who will stop him? Nothing has stopped him yet. I hope I’m wrong but the trends are very disturbing. I don’t know if it will be more Orwellian totalitarianism or more Huxley and we’ll just be distracted to death, or a little bit of both. But the situation is very scary and people should be careful. The parallels between Trump and Mussolini’s rise are truly frightening.

To instamatic:  I’m a Christian-that means a follower of Christ - as in the new testament, also known as the new covenant.  That means - and feel free to ask any actual biblical scholar, priest or pastor - that we are under grace not the law. That’s what Jesus freed us from.  It means God doesn’t punish people or nations.  But if you prefer to live under an eye for an eye then I suggest you become Jewish as they reject the new testament too.

Secondly, it’s up to the electorate to make an informed choice. That responsibility lies with voters not candidates and there is overwhelming evidence - unless you live in the alt right bubble - that a massive amount of so called “news” that millions of people read and believed without checking was fake.  A large portion of which came from Russia, the anti-American autocracy that Trump invited to interfere with our election.  Elections are considered vital infrastructure and any nation that attacks that is by our country’s definition an act of war.  Which also makes his invitation an act of sedition.  The electorate made a poor decision based on fake news and outright provable lies from Trump and that decision is damning this nation - not God.

Finally, I’m responding to your attack not inviting debate or argument so feel free to respond but don’t expect an answer because you won’t get one.  I’ve had enough pointless arguments with your type to last a lifetime and I won’t be engaging you further.

What I Saw at the Michigan Recount
By Nick Sharp, Medium
10 December 16

n December 7, 2016, I volunteered as an observer with Recount Michigan 2016. I showed up at 9:00am sharp in the heart of Detroit, in heavily democratic Wayne County, Michigan.

It was a bloodbath.

I did not count a single vote during my entire first four-hour shift.

Trump’s legal team was there in force, circling the room like sharks. They were challenging everything, gumming up the works and disqualifying whole precincts. I was only aware of a single Green Party attorney plus one law student in my (large) room. Many challenges had one or more Trump lawyers speaking with election officials, and no legal advocate present for the other side; they were simply outnumbered and outgunned.

Every recount table had 1–2 Trump observers present, each one holding written scripts to challenge every single precinct, regardless of the facts.

(Note: I am not a lawyer, the next two paragraphs are my understanding based on what I observed on site.)

When a precinct is challenged, everything is recorded in writing by the election officials present. If the challenge is obviously true, the precinct in question is deemed un-recountable, right there. The civic employees write a report, return everything to the box, seal the box, and move on to the next precinct, then the process of recording and unsealing a box begins again.

But, even if the challenge is clearly contrived, it still has to be recorded, on the spot. The civic employees must fill out a form, in longhand, and write up a report―also in longhand — before they can get back to work counting ballots.

I sat at my table for a full hour before our first box was even unsealed.

Around the time our first box was finally getting unsealed, an exasperated election official shouted an announcement to the room. It was a large room and there were many people in it — he would have needed to shout anyway — but his frustration was clear. He had the air of a normally calm civic bureaucrat trying to do his job and get the votes counted on time, but who had been pushed to the breaking point by Trump’s lawyers and their delay tactics.

The election official announced that Trump’s head lawyer had just filed a blanket challenge in the state capitol. So, (here, I’m paraphrasing from memory) “All precincts have already been challenged. You don’t have to read your scripts anymore, we’re not writing down the challenges. If you still want to read them, go ahead and read them.” (Shouting louder) “But we’re not writing them down any more.” (He raised his arms) “We’re not gonna do it!”

Trump observers kept reading their challenges, and civic employees kept counting ballots, trying to concentrate on the count. A miscount of one in a thousand could (and did!) disqualify entire precincts from the recount. Thousands of votes and hours of counting were disqualified if one ballot in a thousand was missed amid the chaos in the room.

Why did Detroit and Wayne County — the bluest county in Michigan — have so many Republican lawyers present?

Where did all these Republican lawyers come from? They looked like they walked in straight out of a Brooks Brothers catalog, but they were not there to have a good time.

I can only speak from my own experience, but I wonder — were there similar swarms of Republican lawyers in the red counties, challenging everything?

Amazing, stunning but sadly not surprising.  Everything he and his people - including his supporters - have done has been thuggish, strongman Putin tactics which makes sense considering Lewandowski’s Baltic ties.  Oh that’s right - he didn’t work for the campaign after he went to CNN…  except that he did of course.  It was the biggest known “secret” of the election.

Thank you for relating your experience.  I can only imagine how frustrated and angry this might have made you.

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