Making America Safe for Democracy

It must have been during one of those invasions that America is so fond of that we first started hearing about it. Sure, we can rain hell and topple a government, but what next? A country needs more than a dictated instruction manual — it needs people to run the joint, and citizens to fill their roles. A nation needs a civil society.

You know, like ours.

That was the point: A constitution is just a piece of paper, as are laws. America is Americans, and we show the world how it’s done. We’ve had more than two centuries of practice, after all. We’re not just a democracy, we live by democratic norms.

At least, we used to. Or thought we did.

We were right about the idea: Self-government doesn’t run by itself. The veneer of democracy is not the substance. We laugh at despots claiming 98 percent of an election, because we know the whole thing’s a sham, rotten to the core. We applaud the sight of voters — elsewhere — exercising their franchise, holding up their purple fingers, claiming their stake in the future of their nation.

We want to believe that’s how it works. We really want to believe that’s how it works here.

David Frum — yes, we know, but these are the times we live in — tweeted a photo this week, one of his lines tagged on a board. It’s a good line, a very good line, something close to what we’ve been saying a lot lately:

“If conservatives realize they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism, they will abandon democracy.”

And here we are.

To rehearse the litany: After sweeping state governments in 2010, Republicans have gerrymandered Congressional districts so precisely that Democrats will need to win by 10 points nationwide to take the House. Leaving nothing to chance, voters who might disagree have been systematically excluded from their rights, via unnecessary identification laws, unnecessary purging, and to put a cherry on it, unnecessary shutdowns of voting times and locations.

That’s not how a civil society does it.

But even the previous status quo has deep structural issues: Twice in sixteen years, a President has achieved office without the support of a majority of voters. And half the Senate represents only 16.2 percent of the population.

That’s not democracy. That’s a con. America doesn’t believe in its own self-determination. We only pretend we do, to keep up appearances. Just like dictators!

It’s easy to imagine how an actual democracy would look on these shores: All it would take is people believing in it, and taking collective action to exercise that belief. We could make voting the sacred right we pretend it is just like that — if we wanted to. We could order up a couple of amendments, abolishing the Electoral College and restructuring the Senate, in a snap — if we cared. Heck, let’s also add a couple of states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, because it’s the right thing to do, everybody knows it is, and doing the right thing is what America is all about.

Unless, of course, it’s not.

A majority of Americans would love to do the right thing. You see it in the polls, and in the votes themselves. But a majority of white Americans would prefer we didn’t — you see that in the polls and votes, too. There’s a reason for that — an historical reason, an ugly reason — and the sense you get from it, reinforced by the news day after day, is that the only reason white folks pretended to believe in democracy in the first place was that they got the better of it.

Soon as their grip started slipping, whites reverted to form and have been reviving Jim Crow wherever they can. Because when we talk about “voter suppression”, that’s what we’re talking about: Depriving the rights of citizens whose skin is darker than toilet paper.

Luckily — barely — America has a chance to redeem itself, if only a little, in nine weeks. Despite all the carefully crafted obstacles, there’s a chance that the party that doesn’t consist of racist traitors will take over the House, and start practicing some of those democratic norms we’ve heard tell about. It’s by no means certain — that’s the frightening part — and it won’t begin to solve all our problems. But it’ll be a start, and it’s all we got.

Because if it doesn’t happen, we’ll have no choice but to declare America’s grand Experiment in Democracy an utter failure, killed by its own citizens who couldn’t stand the thought of it actually working.

7 comments:

1:47 am • Saturday • September 1, 2018

Remember what my good friend @mr_electrico (driftglass) said: conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed. They believe this nonsense.

And much of it should be torn down and fixed, but the ruling party means to strip out the copper plumbing and anything else of value before they let that happen. And they will do it, but then it is up to us to take back the levers of power and strip them of their assets that once belonged to us. Probably not gonna happen.

11:16 am • Saturday • September 1, 2018

Trump Disapproval Rating Reaches All-Time None Of This Matters

WASHINGTON—Offering an overview of Americans’ opinions of the commander in chief’s job performance, a new poll released Friday indicated that President Trump’s disapproval rating had reached an all-time none of this matters. The report, released by who really cares which of the utterly useless polling firms and corroborated by several leading increasingly feckless news organizations, confirmed that well over half of those surveyed for really no goddamn reason.

In addition, the poll found strong support for who gives a shit, it’s just a bunch of fucking numbers. Sources explained that the change in the polls was in response to something the president did or said that is similar to things he has done or said for years, and that the disapproval rating would change on a whim soon just like it does with every president because those surveyed will have gotten mad about something else or forgotten about it or are just unable to contextualize current events within any sort of historical or societal framework, so simply gathering and staring at a bunch of different statistics doesn’t mean jack shit.

At press time, a new poll had found that President Trump’s disapproval rating was now at, Jesus Christ, a sizable portion of the country supports and has always supported an openly white supremacist president and the party he leads, and a bunch of goddamn numerical ratings aren’t going to do a fucking thing to change that.

It’s like they read my mind.

3:40 pm • Monday • September 3, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Hey! Hey! HEY! You’re our Resident Optimist. Act like it!

Please and thank you,
My sad, sad, soul.

3:43 pm • Monday • September 3, 2018

But OTTERS! So there’s that. The meek shall inherit the Earth and eat the white supremacists’ faces. I’m building my antifa backyard army.

7:16 pm • Thursday • September 6, 2018

BUT HIS EMAILS!

Whoever was supposed to “sanitize” Kavanaugh’s emails did an awesome job.

8:09 pm • Friday • September 7, 2018

Sweet FSM, I love this Jezbian fanfic:

The Ghost of James Madison’s Rage

If you were writing a mystery about this Anonymous letter, the selection of Jared and Ivanka to locate the author would be the perfect set-up for the twist at the very end.

Trump stood over the bodies of John Kelly and Sarah Sanders, watching their blood color the Oval Office carpet. The stink of gunsmoke hung in the air. He ignored the pounding on the door as the Secret Service agents struggled to get in.

Jared stood next to him, coolly wiping his prints from the gun. Ivanka pushed her toe against Sanders, seemingly checking for any traces of life.

“I can’t believe it was them. Them and Pence. To betray me like that after all I did for them and the country.”

Ivanka laughed softly at his words. For some reason, Jared handed him the gun. He took it, blinked at it in confusion, then looked up.

“Get Shah to put out a statement,” Trump said. “We need to close the door on this.”

“We’re going to do nothing, Daddy,” Ivanka said.

Trump glanced over at her.

“So trusting, you were. Putting us in charge of the investigation, never knowing the truth.” She looked down. “Now they’re all safely out of the way.”

“And your prints are on the gun now,” Jared said.

“What are you saying?” Trump gasped.

“It was me, Daddy. I wrote the op-ed. We filled it with clues we knew you would follow. Clues to get rid of all of them. And there’s nothing you can do now.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

8:13 pm • Friday • September 7, 2018

My own take on the identity of the op-ed writer:

The Deep State Strikes Back

They just tossed a psy-ops grenade into the White Trash House, and they’ll let the FSM sort out the bodies.

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