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How the Election Really Works

How the Election Really Works

August 31st, 2016 // 1:24 pm @

“Sometimes the wicked man undergoes a change for the better,
but the fool never does.” —Anatole France

Seen and Unseen

family tvThey’ve become part of our cultural “truth”. Yet both are myths. Lies, in fact:

“Perception is reality.”

“It’s just business.”

Indeed, these two popular sayings are usually voiced precisely to justify doing something wrong. Or mean-spirited. Or both. The truth is that reality is reality; perception seldom is—especially in the age of modern media. And “business” is never a valid excuse for being unprincipled, no matter what the media tries to tell us.

For example, in the 2016 movie remake of Tarzan, the bad guy (a social-climbing bureaucrat whose role is to represent his European king in Africa) kidnaps John Greystoke’s wife Jane, tries to “seduce” her through manipulation and threats, and kills those who try to defend her. Then he sets out to sell her to Greystoke’s enemies. Not a nice man.

Perhaps the most poignant scene in the movie comes after a dinner where Jane refuses his advances and then leaves the room. Once she has departed, the kidnapper notices that her silverware isn’t properly placed on the plate—so he quickly remedies the situation, showing that he has the perfect table manners of the European royalty.

The irony couldn’t be more striking. Such perfect table manners in a man who is a slaver, murderer, thief, racist, and would-be rapist. He has all the appearances of nobility, but no actual nobility. Perception and reality are, in his case, polar opposites. He is the worst kind of degenerate—the kind who hides his decadence behind carefully polished surface appearances. He is Iago. Wickham. Tartuffe.

In this man’s case, perception is the opposite of reality. And to him the phrase “it’s just business” means corruption and debauchery are not only acceptable, but preferable—and routine.

Love and Freedom

The French playwright Moliere (“France’s Shakespeare,” as some literary experts argue) captured this all-to-human flaw in his most famous play, Tartuffe. This classic contains an important warning for today: The way most people gullibly accept the influences of media in modern life is a serious problem.

If any institution sets out to make perception seem like reality, and to justify all manner of questionable things in the name of “it’s just business”, it is modern media. From aggressive paparazzi stalkers to “gotcha” bullying in the name of investigative reporting, to exposés and even seemingly credible reporting that play to an agenda, in spite of available evidence – today’s media has, in large part, abandoned its role as the conscience and “watchdog” of society and become part of the bigger problem.  Indeed, much of media is a contemporary Iago, daily whispering the wrong things in the ears of citizens and voters. Sadly, many people seem as willing to listen as Othello or Orgon. Moliere summarized:

“People whose own conduct is the most questionable are always readiest to criticize the behavior of others.”

But Shakespeare and Moliere aren’t done with their scathing critique. In both Othello and Tartuffe, the power of the villains is based on pretending to be loyal, credible, dedicated to the truth, always genuinely helping the people. But appearances can be deceiving.

Not that anything is wrong with real faith, true commitment to what’s good and right. To the contrary. As Moliere wrote: “I have wit enough to distinguish truth from falsehood. And as I see no trait in life more great or valuable than to be truly devout, nor anything more noble, or more beautiful, than a sincere piety, so I think nothing more abominable than a pretended zeal…”

A few journalists get it right. They truly serve us all by doing things the right way. But the overall field of media is too often overrun with pretenders—like Iago, Tartuffe, and their peers—doing business instead of journalism, emphasizing headlines, ratings, and sales rather than what really matters. In Orwell’s famous Animal Farm, for example, the media icon is pig- aptly named “Squealer.”

The only solution to such media agendas is a populace made up of citizens who think for themselves. “Love requires a firmness of mind,” as Moliere assures us. The same is true of freedom.

Swaying Words

Too often, especially during elections, voters let media spin guide them. Like the character Orgon, deeply caught in the web of Tartuffe’s lies, tells Cleante—who has pointed out that Orgon should be wiser, not so easily swayed:

“Brother, your advice is the best in the world. It is very rational, and I highly value it. But you must not fret if I don’t follow it.”

Seriously? How often do we listen to Wickham’s silver tongue even when we know inside that something is wrong? Why do we let Willoughby, dashing Willoughby, sway our minds? A smile, a frown, or the seemingly-credible assurance of a popular Network Anchor. We swoon and follow.


“How strange these humans be! They choose the path of fools, though they know it lead to ruin … Emotion rules their ways.”

In the Moliere play The Would-Be Gentleman, the characters heatedly debate whether M. Jourdain is a good man and should be accepted into their society. Some criticize him; others praise him. But one comment sways a number of people. Dorante simply describes Jourdain as:

“A very polite man.”

This is the high art of media spin. Use exactly the right words to convey a certain impression—one that convinces, and lasts. Yet media commentary on candidates is far from objective. It is almost always steeped in some agenda.

Success and Rules

Best-selling author Neil Pasricha noted that in his industry, writing books, there are three types of success:

  • knowing that your book is excellent and helpful to people
  • selling lots of books
  • getting lots of praise from book reviewers and critics

He then wrote: “Here’s the catch: It is impossible to have all three successes.” If you can get one, great. If you can get two, wonderful. But he’s never seen anyone get all three, largely because if you achieve any two of these, they will get in the way of the third.

The election process is similar. If a candidate gets lots of votes and knows he/she is truly trying to improve the nation, it’s almost impossible to also get the support of the political media. You can aim for two, but if you aim for all three you’ll likely weaken the ones that really matter.

For this reason, what the media says about elections is often (usually) off on election night. Marketing experts Ries and Trout made it one of their famous 22 Rules of effective marketing that whatever the media says, it is always wrong in some way—and wise people know it and look for it. They take media reports with a grain of salt. Always.

In elections, specifically, the forecasters are notoriously inaccurate. Why? They pay attention to others in the media, not the masses. Studies show that people answer surveys and polls differently than they vote, so studying the actual intentions of the masses before an election has proven very difficult.

Wisdom or Wisdom

Pasricha also noted that common wisdom is often confusing:

  • Birds of a feather flock together vs. Opposites attract
  • Nothing ventured/nothing gained vs. Better safe than sorry
  • You get what you pay for vs. The best things in life are free
  • Good things come to those who wait vs. The early bird gets the worm
  • The pen is mightier than the sword vs. Actions speak louder than words

In short, we don’t really understand how elections actually work. Sure, if they’re fixed, or manipulated, or rigged—that’s one thing. But a truly free election is nearly always a surprise. Madison called every free election a “peaceful revolution.” Not truly predictable. We have to wait for the people to actually vote to know what they’re really thinking.

This will probably be even more the case in an election where the two candidates (Hillary and Trump) are so hated by so many people. A lot of voters won’t cast a vote for either. We won’t know…until we know.

In this election, perception isn’t reality. Not even close.

Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Citizenship &Community &Culture &Current Events &Generations &Government &History &Independents &Information Age &Leadership &Liberty &Politics

11 Comments → “How the Election Really Works”

  1. Ardie Compton

    7 years ago

    Good insights Oliver, thank you. What do you think of Evan McMullin’s possibilities?

  2. Keith

    7 years ago


    I often wonder from what derivatives you calculate. It is academic and rarely the words of a deliberate mind. Why on earth do you write when you never say anything? I keep looking for vision. I have watched you deteriorate into lazy pontification. It’s depressing. Why are you hiding? Is is because you cannot handle the panic? Why do you write with no purpose, no principle of value, and with no real question that moves the soul to greater value?

    In the middle of a major ideological war taking place between globalism and nationalism, this is all you can say? I am not intending harshness, I am just tired for lack of insight from one who should be over filled with it by now. It is like heaven pangs to be delivered and you do not get it and you do not even see it. This is very disturbing and lonely.

  3. Bill

    7 years ago

    Keith, have you read Oliver’s books? Few people offer as many insightful perspectives and practical solutions to the nation’s problems.

  4. Oliver DeMille

    7 years ago

    Keith, If you are on a cause that I do not share, then I wish you godspeed, and would hope for the same from you. I write in answer to the cause that is written on my heart.

  5. Carolyn Alder

    7 years ago

    I was quite surprised and disappointed by your article. I thought you might take an opportunity to explain the FAR superior method the Framers intelligently designed. They rejected the idea of a popular vote of the people, and designed a system avoiding party politics, and intrigue and cabal. Especially in an election like this one where both candidates have questionable allegiances and objectionable character traits. As you stated yourself, “This will probably be even more the case in an election where the two candidates (Hillary and Trump) are so hated by so many people. A lot of voters won’t cast a vote for either. We won’t know…until we know.”

    Are these the most outstanding individuals America can produce to be the Chief Executive and represent the best interest of the nation?

    This election proves for sure, that we need to find a better way. The Framers established a Far superior way. I sent you a copy of our book several years ago, “The Evolution and Destruction of the Original Electoral College. I was hopping you would examine our research and advocate the principles of the modified federation they established in the Constitution and in the process of electing a president.

  6. Carolyn Alder

    7 years ago

    I should have asked you to refer me to an article where you explained the method of constitutionally electing a president, rather than assuming you hadn’t. I couldn’t find one right off. I just saw this as a missed opportunity.

  7. Kami

    7 years ago

    Thank you for this article. I am surprised by the comments above. Through your books and blogs I have understood that the discussion is what counts. I could be wrong, but I feel as if your blogs are intended to pose more questions, reading and deep thinking. We should be responsible for investigating on our own, doing our own studying and applying action.

  8. Stefania Vaughan

    7 years ago

    Oliver, first, I wanted to thank you all your articles and second, I wanted to comment on all disappointments above: we are so used to being told what to think that we sometimes can’t even appreciate a good mentor prompt to building your own conclusion. This article is not about who’s the better candidate, although it’s tempting to just “copy all the right answers” from the best student. It’s about different currents that exist and effect our opinion, emotion, vice, perception. We are still in charge of making our own conclusion, be it a candidate or food choice, but being aware of these currents is making our choice more educated.
    Thank you Oliver!

  9. Oliver DeMille

    7 years ago

    Carolyn, I do have a little on my blog on the electoral college: Here and here. For more of my commentary on the constitutional process for presidential elections (and a WHOLE lot more), see my books The U.S. Constitution and the 196 Indispensable Principles of Freedom, 1913, and We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident.

  10. Carolyn Alder

    7 years ago

    Thank you.

  11. Greg

    7 years ago

    Thank you Oliver. I have not read all of your books but have been impressed with your insight always. I think the negative comments above demonstrate that people are uninformed about your literature and probably get their info from liberal modern (untrustworthy) media as you have written in this article. I do think you have hit the nail on the head. I also think that if we follow the money it’s all about being enslaved in the financial matrix.

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