Stupid dictators are stupid. They boil a sealed pot. They unwisely crank up the heat while allowing no steam to escape. They don't know how to make dictatorship work.

I saw it work in high school when I was elected Student Body President. Boy, there're going to be some changes around here! And then I ran into "District Policy." I found out what the office actually meant. The student government and student counsel handled issues of "school spirit" and student infractions and everyone had a vote over things, so long as they did not fly in the face of the overarching "District Policy."

Modern dictators are exceedingly clever. They encourage people to speak out in opposition. They allow steam to escape while never easing up on the caldron's burner.

Some dictators were on the right track, though. Under Stalin the voter turnout was close to 99-percent and approval was also 99-percent. Silly Stalin. It would have been better he adjusted the numbers to make his victory look like a real contest before he announced his "mandate." If he had had a 70/30 victory, by US terms a landslide, he could have called his elections democratic. The 90-percent who got tallied as 30-percent would have gone home, having been told, "yes, there are very many of you, but you are not a majority. You only think you are because you are talk merely to yourselves, but hold an unpopular view." And there's always, "District Policy."

So the dictators on the right track encourage freedom of speech. They encourage the opposition to voice their opinions before demagogues who sneer, roll their eyes, and then say "well, how are we not listening to you? We let you give your (stupid, minority) opinion. What else do you want?"

The electoral process is very important for it isolates those who are not in power and legitimizes the media that in actuality controls things.

And everyone likes to be on the winning side as any Red Sox fan knows. Wow! We finally won and I feel genuinely good, too. But only we diehard fans sit to the bottom of the ninth. We watch the so-called fans file out of Fenway Park because it isn't looking so good with the score 7-2 and we have to make six runs. Patton said of Americans, "Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser."

It is not any longer about issues. That's too complicated. Starting, perhaps, with Johnson who was losing Vietnam, Nixon who needed a shave, Ford who banged his head, Carter who could not get the Arabs to give him more oil - all that back there - showed guys who were losers. Dukakis. Loser - my spell checker doesn't even know his name. Dole? Loser. And Nader? Now there's a loser who runs on the Loser Party ticket.

So, now that we have the loser to vote for and the machinery to over power the loser, the winner also attracts people who want to be winners and to make it interesting, like the Red Sox, and we give the "losers" a few victories so they can cheer and blow off steam.

So long as we think we're in control, control by those who are actually in control is rather easy. It's why "Archie Bunker d'here" has the last laugh when Meathead's guy loses election after election and Meathead finally votes for the winning party.

In the taverns in the Bronx and cocktail parties on the Upper East Side, well lubricated tongues can wag all night and people register their dissatisfaction and so long as the steam vent is open, all the hot air will create no problem for those who actually rule.

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