If it wasn't so self destructive, the tendency of many Americans to walk around with their heads up their asses would, beyond the proctological discomfort, have a certain naïve
charm to it. We're still the greatest country on God's green earth, right?
A certain amount of un-reality is un-derstandable when your world doesn't extend beyond the comfy confines of your Barcalounger and your TV remote finger falls on Fox News, or you skip the news altogether because what those brainy kids are saying on "The Big Bang Theory" is all you really need to know.
Now that I have your attention, you kind of know where my un-reconstructed self is going.
American democracy is dying a painful death, but because its slow-motion passing won't be broadcast on prime time TV, let alone Fox News, the demagogues who are hastening its demise -- Mitch McConnell, Rupert Murdoch and, of course, Donald Trump leap to mind -- continue to work their dark arts.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell, who will stay on the president's good side as long as his own power grubbing isn't seriously in jeopardy, won't allow a sweeping package of House-approved proposals to root out political corruption and streamline elections to come to a vote "because I decide what we vote on."
Fox News owner Murdoch has created a news channel that for all intents and purposes is a U.S. version of Soviet-era state TV, its commentators de facto policy advisers and apologists for Trump, while Rupert himself killed a story about Trump's affair with a porn star just before the 2016 election.
Then there is Trump, whose (small) hands are un-questionably all over the Russia scandal, which the punditocracy is belatedly finding to be far and away the greatest scandal in American history, yet he remains so firmly entrenched well into his nightmare presidency that he may run for reelection.
Democracy is indeed "the worst form of government, except for all the others," as Winston Churchill is reputed to have said. (He didn't, but nobody knows who the guy who did is.)
It's no coincidence that McConnell and Murdoch are dyed-in-the-wool Republican conservatives and Trump claims to be one because that self-identification was his -- and Vladimir Putin's -- best shot at him becoming president, but American democracy also is chockablock with systemic failures that Democrats have enabled, as well. (Don't be dopey, libruls. Democrats have had just as much to do as Republicans with the yawning disparity in income and cementing the monopoly power of corporations in the era of the information economy.)
Speaking of systemic failures, there's Paul Manafort, a man for whom the word "evil" is grossly un-adequate.
Democracy was very much in action last August when a single Trump-loving juror refused to join 11 other jurors in convicting Trump's former campaign manager of 10 banking and fraud charges that would land mere mortals like you and I in the slammer for a long time. And again last week when a white-bread federal judge, who hides his prejudices behind a veneer of curmudgeonliness, has the God-playing right to ignore stiff sentencing guidelines and metaphorically wrist slaps Manafort for the charges on which he was found guilty.
Nicholas Kristof, the crusading longtime New York Times columnist, un-convincingly wrote that American democracy was too resilient for Trump to destroy. Sadly, his applause for the red, white and blue was the sound of one hand clapping.
Kristof pivoted off the congressional testimony of former Trump consigliere Michael Cohen, who in effect warned of a coup in testifying that "I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power," in writing that could never happen.
"We are seeing a backlash to Trumpian authoritarianism that may ultimately strengthen the rule of law, as happened after Watergate," the hopelessly hopeful Kristof opined. Given that Trump remains wildly popular among an un-healthy minority of voters, that is so much wishful thinking, and Cohen's warning of a coup -- or an insurrection by Trumpkins, as some others have warned -- would be beyond the pale in an earlier time but today are not to be dismissed.
While I'm piling on, there is no better example of democracy's death rattle than the demise of the American Dream, even if it was a cliched concept endlessly reworked by Hollywood and Madison Avenue.
America's middle class is suffocating, we have turned our backs on newcomers and racism is ascendant, the infrastructure is crumbling, that income gap grows and grows, the health-care system is a money-gouging abomination, and the 9/11 attacks -- our last great crisis before the ascendancy of Trump -- was an opportunity not to reaffirm our core values but to undermine them.
As I have written, Americans always have had an un-justifiably lofty view of their society, which is why they are able to look down their upturned noses as Tutsis beat up on Hutus in Rwanda, Serbs beat up on Croats in the Balkans, Shiites beat up on Sunnis in Iraq and Buddhists beat up on Muslims in Myanmar, to name just a few of the blood-soaked conflicts in recent history.
We believe we're beyond such tribalism, and indeed the Founding Fathers were determined to build a democracy where the individual was more important than the tribe.
That failed spectacularly in a little dustup called the Civil War, and the big message underlying the election of Trump is that it is still failing as democracy slowly and perhaps un-extricably slides into dysfunction one ignored principle and one broken promise at a time.
As much as Trump deserves our animus, he did not make America what it has become. America made Trump because of what it has become. Pardon the interruption, but that is un-freaking-deniable.