Democracy à la mode

Suppose you want to be president of the United States. How would you get there? Well, assuming you were born into a wealthy family, you might start with law school and local politics. Make sure to practice public speaking and cultivate as much personal charisma as you can muster. Campaigns are expensive, and you wouldn’t want to squander all of your family’s wealth on them, so seek sponsors. After all, you understand that a personal investment of wealth in your own campaigns is a gamble, but for sponsors it’s an investment. Use the money donated by wealthy corporate and individual sponsors to advertise. To attain these donations, of course, you must support the interests of donors when in office. Those are the interests important to you for keeping your office; the lower classes can be influenced well enough by advertising and speeches, and you don’t even have to bother trying to earn the votes of partisans at all, as long as you purport to be a member of their party.

Once you’ve got a nice position as a state governor, US representative, or US senator, you may bide your time a bit, gathering allies and resources and waiting until you are a respectable presidential age. When the time comes, your campaign spending will make records and if you’re more charismatic than your equally devoted opponent, and you tell the public what they want to hear convincingly enough, you may even win. Congratulations! You’ve done it!

But wait. You’re being inaugurated, but something is off. Why did you want to be president in the first place? Wasn’t it for personal power? To hold the world in your hands and bend it to your whims? What are these pesky checks and balances? This will never do. Mere president… no, what you really want is to be King. Not just of the United States, but of the world.

So now what? Well, you know some of your subjects might react unpleasantly if they knew your true goals, so you’ll have to keep a lot of secrets until you can properly condition them to accept you in your rightful place. The first thing you’ll have to do is minimize the ability of others to constrain your power. Fortunately, you have an army of lawyers at hand to help, and allies with enough money to buy several third-world countries. They may inform you, or you may already know, that the president is granted the most power in times of war. Eureka! Start a war.

Hold on, though. That’s one of the things Congress isn’t supposed to let you do, and while they can be influenced, they’re not likely to approve an unprovoked war. They don’t seem to much mind what you do on the other side of the world, though, as long as you’re supporting US corporate interests (which happen to be the political lifeblood of most Congresspeople). Those interests mostly revolve around trade agreements which are much easier to negotiate to US advantage with wealthy autocrats than with democratically elected leaders or councils, so have your people ensure that those are the types of leaders you’ll be dealing with. When the opportunity arises, you can even hand-select the people who will be put into power after the revolutions you’re funding. Your sole criteria for selection, of course, is how amenable the leader will be to the interests of your financial backers. Conveniently, these practices will likely infuriate some plebeians in the countries affected, enabling you to attain approval for “humanitarian” interventions and overseas wars to stabilize the rule of law (i.e. the king’s will) there.

Unfortunately, by this point, your term of office may be up, and you still haven’t been able to eliminate that silly rule. They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Groom your children for the presidency, and help other presidents between now and then to continue the course. Perhaps by the time you have a son in office, the resources and rage of the foreigners whose freedom you’ve been violating will be enough to provide you with the perfect opportunity, which you could not have foreseen (until, no more than a few months in advance, you may be informed that it is coming): an attack on US soil.

Glorious! What a gift! Oh, of course it’s tragic, and you’ll be sure to be filmed reacting with horror and devastation at the proper time, from a safe distance. But now Congress and indeed the whole country is wrapped around your finger! War? Yes, please! Against whom? Well obviously this attack didn’t come from any one country, so we can’t just declare war on a foreign nation. We’ll have to use a scary word to identify these enemies: terrorists. Didn’t some old president or something say once that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?” It’ll be the War on Terror! These people could strike anyone, anywhere, at any time, which is great, because now you can, too. It’s only fair.

This accelerates the plan wonderfully. Invade a foreign country if you like; just say they were collaborating with terrorists or harboring weapons of mass destruction and most of the world will support you. Want intel? Why not access to the private communications of all US citizens for a start? They won’t mind. Well, a few might, but their opinions won’t matter, because terrorism! Oh, that wonderful word. It’s as if everyone has been hypnotized, and the keyword to switch off their reason is right there, oh-so-easy to access. This magic word causes virtually all impediments to your will to simply vanish. Such is the power of the public’s outrage that if you invoke the term “terrorist,” anyone can be assumed guilty until proven innocent; any Constitutional right can be ignored.

If you can get self-professed liberals on your side through charisma, partisanship, or any other means, the world is your oyster. Throw anyone you like in prison; your lawyers will come up with a justification for why they never need to see the outside of a cell again, let alone the inside of a courtroom. In fact, go ahead and torture and kill whomever you wish also. People may be a little alarmed at first, but as you’ve seen through all of this, they’ll get over it. Terrorism! Words are so powerful. Might as well enact policies to apply them automatically so that anything you do is beyond reproach. For instance, any man you happen to kill from afar with remote controlled flying robots is a militant (syn. terrorist) unless proven otherwise after the fact.

Maybe you will find that you’d like to kill some of your own citizens. And why shouldn’t you? You’re King, after all! But oh yeah, they don’t know that. No bother; the lawyers will provide. Meanwhile you can keep all this from ever being ruled on by a judge (who might inexplicably object to your obvious right to do whatever you want) by telling them it’s all too secret for a courtroom. If your process were to become public, then terrorism would run rampant in the streets! “Never you mind, judge, just let me keep you safe.” When you find that this works, you’ve gained a powerful tool to disable one of the more problematic constraints on your power (since many judges can’t just be bought the way votes can).

Uh-oh. What if some of your corporate backers tank the world economy by stealing a little too much, a little to recklessly? Not to worry: now that you’re King, you can simply explain that because they are so important, if they were to face any consequences the entire world would suffer. Just give them a bunch of your subjects’ money and everything will blow over. If citizens start to complain that their homes are being stolen, get Congress to pass a law disallowing those complaints from being admitted in court. When this works, you’ll know that judicial oversight has been completely defanged. Might as well set up special courtrooms to help your banker buddies take those houses faster, while you’re at it.

From here, there’s still more you can do. Your greatest threat is still and always has been your citizens, but as long as the majority of them aren’t unduly inconvenienced by your policies and can be convinced they still have some power, a revolution is completely out of the question, so that’s not something you’ll have to worry about for quite a while. Importantly, though, you’ll want to keep as much information from reaching the public as possible, so you should be unflinching in pursuing any non-propaganda journalistic efforts with heinously overblown criminal charges, or when that doesn’t seam feasible, at least harassment at airports and other places where you have a strong presence. What the public doesn’t know won’t hurt you.

What’s left? Term limits and elections. Blargh. How to do away with those? Back up a second, though: maybe you don’t have to. There’s no reason to bother with such unpleasantries if you can simply ensure that each successive person to officially work in the Oval Office is your puppet. Then there is nothing preventing you from establishing your dynasty in perpetuity. In fact, you never have to personally hold any official position at all. All you need… is money.

One thought on “Democracy à la mode”

  1. It’s much easier to convince the people that you are one of them and espouse their pain and anger all the while stealing them blind through confiscatory tax policies and obliterating any chance they have of bettering their human condition. Then to top that off you saddle the next 3 or 4 generation with enough debt that a revolution will be the inevitable outcome. Alas chaos becomes the catalyst to subjugate the masses to your whims!

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