The United States is a republic, not a democracy.
People say that like it’s the most insightful thing ever, but it’s meaningless. It’s like saying your dog is an animal, not a pet.
These things are not opposites, nor are they mutually exclusive.
If you want to say “a republic, not a direct democracy,” you might be onto something at least factual. But you know exactly why the people who love to say this don’t use the qualifier: it’s a sophomoric debating trick to deflect any legitimate criticism of our system as being undemocratic.
Us: “Voter purges are undemocratic!” Them: “It’s a republic, not a democracy!” Er, that’s not on point but it sounds cool if you’re gullible.
Can we be clear on this one bit of meta-bullshit?
Suppose hypothetically that I am telling you that your hair is on fire. By that I’m really saying two things:
0. Your hair is in fact on fire.
1. I know for a fact that #0 is true. I’m not just guessing.
Now if I randomly tell a stranger their hair is on fire without even bothering to look at their hair? That’s a lie EVEN IF their hair happens to be on fire.
When Trump says that X number of people voted illegally, the fact that he has no idea whether that’s true or not doesn’t make it not a lie. It’s a lie because he’s asserting knowledge that he absolutely doesn’t have.
Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns
Remember this fantastic statement by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld?
[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
Trump here is going into a new quadrant: The unknown knowns! These are the things we supposedly know, but we have no way of knowing we know them.
(Oddly, Wikipedia has a really interesting analysis of this thing called “the Johari Window” that applies.)