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.

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A User’s Guide to Our Illegitimate Government

Come Tuesday, when an unrepentant rapist is sworn into our nation’s highest court, the despotism of our government will be complete.

The President who nominated Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch will have taken office without the consent of a majority of voters.

The Senate majority that confirmed both represents only 46 percent of the population.

And between them, a Supreme Court majority will be established that lasts a generation.

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The Imperial Senate

We didn’t watch. We couldn’t.

There was nothing to be gained from watching. What we could know, we already did — not only about the witnesses, but the circumstances. It was yet another setup, yet another event engineered to provide the appearance of legitimacy without the substance. We couldn’t watch, because we couldn’t participate in yet another sham ritual. We’re done with that.

We couldn’t watch, but we did follow. We followed the responses, followed the reaction, followed the news coverage that accepted the sham as legitimate, which is why we’re done with news coverage, at least political news. We’re too old for this. We know too much.

Here’s what we know: The Senate majority represents 18 percent of Americans.

That is a sham of legitimacy as well.

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The Second Time Around

We have been here before, of course. We have been here many times in the past year, and the story always involves power, and the lengths to which people will go to achieve and sustain it.

And if that were the entire story, we could understand it, the corruption of the individual, the stuff of novels and movies. But the real story is never about one person; it is always about the infrastructure of power, the aiders and abettors, people whose silence can be bought, people whose fear keeps them silent, people whose own power depends on staying in line.

This is how you get rape apologists.

This is also how you get traitors.

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Mr. Justice Rapist

Here is what we know: While in high school, Brett Kavanaugh, who is now 53, got into trouble.

He was at a party in Maryland. He pushed a young woman into a bedroom. He was joined by another young man. They locked the door from the inside. They cranked up the stereo so her screams could not be heard.

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The Silent Resistance

Much attention has been paid to the defiant op-ed in the New York Times, as is inevitable, as are the suspicions surrounding it.

On the surface, it reads as an heroic account by an anonymous insider to protect America from Donald Trump, maybe even to protect him from himself. Actions are taken to “insulate” the business of government from his whims. Without those actions, the worst we have feared would have come to pass.

The immediate, obvious suspicion is who wrote it. Because it was published in the Times, and because we trust the Times’ professional standards, if not their editorial judgment, we accept the claim of “senior official” as offered — we trust that they’re not inflating an intern, or just writing it themselves. We don’t know how senior, we don’t know how high up the food chain the writer grazes, but we presume it’s high enough to matter.

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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.

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