Crock the Vote
The pretense of government legitimacy in America rests, ultimately, on our right to vote — that as citizens of our republic, we collectively determine who governs us. An election lost can be deeply disheartening — our first presidential ballot was cast in 1980 — but if the loss is fair and square, so be it. Don’t blame us, we voted for the lesser scoundrel.
In many ways, the efficacy of voting, its guarantee of the consent of the governed, is an illusion: A President can achieve office while losing the popular vote. Half the American population is represented by only eighteen senators. House districts can be gerrymandered beyond recognition. The pretense of legitimacy is maintained — people voted! — but the results are engineered to thwart the popular will.
And even voting isn’t left to chance.
The tools to restrict and shape voting while maintaining the pretense of legitimacy are immense, starting with holding elections on a midweek workday. Some states permit early voting in various forms, but those that don’t conduct elections by mail — that require a voter to show up somewhere — have a way of restricting voting times and locations to the benefit of the Republicans in power.
And even that isn’t sufficient: Voting itself is discouraged by requiring unnecessary identification, by voiding registration, even, when all else fails, requiring a street address where some voters — guess who! — are only served by post-office boxes.
These methods of suppression should be universally condemned as undermining a sacred right of citizenship, but instead objections are treated as partisan matters, and election-night tallies regarded despite them as the voice of the people, the pretense of legitimacy maintained for another cycle.
We wonder how long this can last.
Historically, alas, it can last a long time — decades, generations, a century. The beneficiaries of this pretense aren’t just the crooks who steal elections, but the wicked citizens who support them, and the craven political media that toes the line to maintain its proximity to power. The network of corruption is vast, jealous of its power, and vain in its need to project legitimacy upon its cowardice, for it lacks the courage to welcome an honest reckoning of its ideas.
But this year, awareness of the tools of suppression has been growing, and where the results are decisive against the interests of citizens — Georgia comes to mind — perhaps we’ll see a refusal to accept the legitimacy of those results. Power will be maintained, but respect for that power will have been undermined in its corrupt achievement.
We’re seeing hints of that here and there, green shoots of awareness that our government has become despotic, not because of its despicable actions, but that it lacks the consent of the governed to begin with, and does not represent the citizens it rules. We’re hoping that awareness reaches a tipping point where action must be taken to redress this fundamental grievance, or consequences faced.
Because we may live under a despotic government, but we don’t have to pretend it‘s not.