Ronald Reagan once said, “Demagoguery: The journalist Burnham wrote that, when operating on a Democrat Politician, not even the most skilled surgeon can separate living from demagogic tissue, without causing the death of the patient.”
In ancient times the word Demagogue simply meant someone who was a champion of the people or popular causes. In our world today, it has come to mean one who seeks to gain power by appealing to irrational fears or prejudices, and/or making false claims and promises.
In the last week, Mike Beebe and Bill Halter have shown that the journalist Burnham had them pegged. Their strategy seems to be to throw as many false claims as possible about their opponents out there. It does not matter if the accusations are accurate, or if it is even an issue that falls under the purview of the office which they seek. The only thing that matters is that they hit people’s fear buttons, rational or not. They know people tend to vote defensively. They want to arouse irrational fears in people to scare them into voting against their opponent, just in case some of the charges might be true. In short, they are demagogues in the modern sense of the word.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of Burnhams left in the mainstream media. Most of us are on the net, and our audience is limited. Demagogues can pull off their strategy if the “watchdogs” of the press shrug off outrageous claims from one side while meticulously scrutinizing every move of the other.
Let me give you specific instances of pure demagoguery from Beebe and Halter.
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