Don’t hate the player, hate the game

Illustration by Julie Wang
Illustration by Julie Wang
Illustration by Julie Wang
Illustration by Julie Wang

Excitement surges through the auditorium as men and women clad in red hats and supportive t-shirts chant wildly at the announcement of their idol’s entrance onstage.

The crowd claps and hollers as the man saunters to the podium, signs thrashing in the air in overwhelming support.

Despite resembling a rowdy herd awaiting a famous musician, this is not the case. “I’m going to make America great again!” Donald Trump howls as the room is swallowed by an echoing round of applause.

With Nov. 8 right around the corner, many Americans sigh in relief at the impending end to the far-from-ordinary election that has, in many instances, seemed nearly-impossible to distinguish from a “Hunger Games” movie clip.

As the media continues to paint the candidates as celebrities, both Trump and Clinton’s campaigns reflect and feed off of this idolization. Rallies and debates have transformed into the likeness of a concert or play, with each of the candidates auditioning for the persuasive lead role.

Many Americans claimed Trump’s presidential campaign was nothing more than an act since the get-go. Equally as many citizens claimed Clinton was actively attempting to cover her trail with a facade of innocence and honesty in order to win the support of the country.

Regardless of the truth behind these assertions, are the candidates to blame for their behavior?

Numerous Trump opposers assume the Republican presidential candidate acts in this manner simply because he lacks a decent moral compass; his actions reflect his personal character.

But the truth is — Trump is just playing the game that is the American democratic system, and he’s done so quite strategically. Trump has followed in his own footsteps by allowing for his previous fame and experience in reality television to seep into his campaign strategy. Trump perpetually attempts to appeal to the public through manipulation and nationalistic ideals — and for the most part, it’s working.

With the world’s current state of terror marinating as a substantial threat in the minds of American citizens, Trump’s brazen statements against terrorism and immigration are more convincing than ever — even if they do not hold much weight.

But how has he gotten away with using these tactics?

The fault may lie in the American democratic system more-so than in the candidates themselves — and this theory is nothing new.

Plato foresaw this flaw in democracy long before our time, which he discussed in book IV of “Republic,” published in 380 BC. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Plato anticipated “those who are expert at winning elections and nothing else will eventually dominate democratic politics.”

Plato believed “the state will be guided by very poorly worked out ideas that experts in manipulation and mass appeal use to help themselves win office.” Sound familiar?

The 2016 election appears to best epitomize Plato’s convictions of Democracy’s imperfections thus far.

Between claims of singlehandedly destroying ISIS and saving the American economy, Trump has repeatedly made bold statements lacking any factual details or realistic plans for their execution or implementation. Although vague, these statements (and blatant lies, at times) are exactly what a decent portion of America wants to hear.

The American democratic system emphasizes and glamorizes victory, and in turn, downplays the vital importance of policy-making. With such a strong focus on winning, Trump was able to creep to the front of the Republican candidate pool and receive the party’s presidential nomination.

While switching the United States democratic system to another political system does not appear to be in the country’s near future (nor the best solution), there are steps that can be taken in order to lessen the emphasis on victory we as individuals put on candidates.

Recognizing this flaw in our democratic system and actively striving to distinguish between well thought out policy-making and mere propaganda is our responsibility as voters. The system may not change, but the way we view the system can.

The power to decide our country’s next leader rests in our hands.


Ellie Fialk. Photo by Julie TrippEleanor Fialk
Eleanor is a junior broadcast journalism and philosophy double major with a concentration in ethics and public policy. She often writes about issues of social justice and human rights, and her dream career would include traveling the world as a documentary filmmaker. You can usually find Eleanor binge watching an entire television series in one night or planning her next backpacking trip.
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