Rod Miller: The Presidential Debate, Democracy and the Law of Entropy

Columnist Rod Miller writes, "Here we are, a nation of 350 million people, living in a democratic republic, and these two old farts are the best we can do? Give me a break!"

Rod Miller

June 28, 20244 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

I tried to watch the entire presidential debate. I really did. But I had to switch it off and watch Pulp Fiction, because the warning voices of two old dead guys kept echoing in my head.

The two old dead guys were Alexis de Toqueville and Sir Isaac Newton. Toqueville’s insistent warning was about democracy and Newton’s was about entropy. 

As I watched two old live guys struggle to articulate their vision of America, Toqueville kept repeating his warning that, “The true tragedy of western history is that a concept as noble as democracy was wasted on the American people.”

Newton kept dripping in my other ear that, “Available energy in a closed system is finite.”

As I watched, aghast, the standard-bearers of America’s two predominant political parties - the fat one mendacious and criminal and the skinny one senile and lost – I realized how close we are to proving Toqueville correct.

Here we are, a nation of 350 million people, living in a democratic republic, and these two old farts are the best we can do? Give me a break!

The glory of the political parties of Jackson and Lincoln has diminished to the point that these two doddering cretins represent the best of American politics? If so, I’ll choose Tarantino every time.

But YIKES, the country seems to line up behind one or the other, willing to overlook their obvious ineptitude and venality, and wave star spangled flags for the lesser of two evils. 

We seem more than willing to be led by the worst and the feeblest among us.

That Biden and Trump have shanghaied the party apparatus enough to vault one or the other into the White House, regardless of inherent worthiness, should worry any thinking citizen. 

And the fact that the debate occurred well before either party has officially nominated their favorite old fart at convention should make us question our own wisdom in tolerating this bullshit. 

It should also make us question the validity of the Republican and Democrat parties themselves. Meant to bring the cream to the top, both parties instead seem content to clog the sewers.

Do you see what Toqueville was getting at?

Now, about Isaac Newton. His Second Law of Thermodynamics holds that the amount of energy in a closed system is finite. Things will inevitably fizzle out. Entropy will take over and we’ll be left with a cold, dark inertia.

That’s a bleak thought when considering the physical universe, but it's even more troubling and immediate in the context of our political life. If entropy can be expressed on a ballot, it would be the box marked, “None of the Above.”

Political entropy is the point where energy and life is gone from the political process and all we are left with is …..well, the process.

Perhaps you can now appreciate why watching Pulp Fiction for the 37th time held more appeal for me than watching the presidential debate. Observing entropy is boring as hell.

The only solution I can come up with is Ken Kesey’s Corollary to Newton’s Second Law. Kesey’s Corollary states that, “If the amount of energy in a closed system is finite, open the system.”

Opening our system – open conventions, for example – might truly allow our cream to rise to the top and prevent two inept has-beens like Biden and Trump from clogging our pipes.

Opening our system so that the best among us have an even chance of election will give the entrenched powers-that-be a serious case of the dropsy, and they’ll fight that notion tooth and claw. But I think its worth a shot, given what I saw Thursday night.

Rod Miller can be reached at:

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist