Saturday, March 09, 2019

Pardon The Interruption, But American Democracy Is Dying. Will Anyone Notice?

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 writtenAmericans 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.    


Carol said...

I want to believe Kristof, but fear I must agree with you, Shaun. The political nightmare we find ourselves in was not quite unimaginable pre-Orange One, given Mitchie's and others' ("You lie!") disrespect for Barack Obama, elected by an overwhelming majority, and the ignorance of tea party adherents who told the government to keep its hands off Medicare and Social Security, who now seem to be in charge of the Republican Party along with rich disruptive Russians. The complete breakdown of our putative system of checks and balances—I don't know what to do about it. The county I live in voted firmly against sending Rep. Andy Harris back for another term, but we are the small and meek compared to even more conservative Baltimore County. I also see how one can blame the Democrats but tell me then: what is to be done?

DefenseLiberal said...

I am in MD-01 as well and also have to endure the 70's white flight idiots and right wing nut jobs in Harford County who rant about the Government but are mostly retired Govies on social security or feeding at the trough as government contractors. They all voted for the odious Andy Harris. It still amazes me that he convinced the minimum wage oyster shuckers and chicken pluckers down on the Eastern Shore that they really didn't need affordable health care. You can't fix stupid.

Sadly, we're stuck with Harris until the idiot base dies off or the Dems in Harford County get out and vote.

DefenseLiberal said...

Oops. Retired Govies dont get social security unless they double dip. They get their government or military pension. My bad.

Pete Simon said...

Donald Trump is what we get after decades of neglect; of Congress not paying attention to an outdated and broken Electoral College system in need of revision every ten years with the census. The current number of electors should be in the neighborhood of 655; not 538. If the Electoral College had kept pace, Donald Trump would not be President.

…. 1929 was the last time Congress set the number of seats in the House of Representatives at 435, based on 1910 census data; the U.S. had 94 million people then. Today we have 328 million people. This is why Donald Trump is President.

…. More than 100 seats should be added to the U.S. House of Representatives. That would give citizens across the country “taxation with equal representation”. As it stands now, one Congressman from Wyoming represents 577,000 people; in California the number is 750,000; Colorado 810,000. Why? Because the number of seats in the U.S. House keeps the number of representatives allocated artificially low.

…. With one plan afoot, the “Wyoming Rule” plan, Delaware would even have a Congressional seat added (

…. It will take both the U.S. House and Senate to approve any revisions in the number of seats in the House. I think people in Congress have kicked this can down the road long enough. Donald Trump provides the obvious wake-up call. It would make Congress and the Electoral College far more equitable. And it would be much easier to accomplish than getting a Popular Vote effort past the U.S. Supreme Court, which is where I fear the National Vote for President effort will wind-up, if it is not an amendment to the constitution. Do you think 38 state legislatures would approve an amendment which abolishes the Electoral College? Me neither.

Carol said...


I feel your pain. Since our county rejected Andy, he's spent an inordinate amount of time glad-handing in Galena, a town which seems to want to be annexed to Middletown.