Friday, December 02, 2005

Democrats and Democracy

Amid the swirl of comment and opinion blowing in the winds of establishment thinking and up-start thought, caught in the baleen of our news media like spinach in the dentition of a baby-kissing politician is this compound thought: Is democracy "as we believed in it" done for?

Do most of us hold back a certain crucial reservation about our fellow man and woman, or a conviction about the nature of the human condition, or some key notion about the nature of government? Do Americans see their nation as a platform upon which religion is to be respected, or is it the other way around—finally—that religion is the platform upon which government is erected?

Put another way, do you see as I do that many strong voices in America seem to have already presupposed a nation substantially different from the one charted in the Constitution and then glibly honored in twelve agonizing years of public schooling? Do you see that the oligarchs of the press do not care for truth or fact, but only positioning the pieces where players like themselves can play them?

I sometimes have the very uncomfortable feeling that most national-level politicians are sold out to an idea that is fundamentally alien and inimical to the Constitutional form of government based on representative democracy. They have sold out both to campaign money and to their own physical and moral comfort. Outrageous practitioners like DeLay mince no words. Pay up or shut up! Players like Biden are "simply" hacks for corporate interests and it never occurs to them that all the little people of his little state have thoughts, needs, goals, and the only legitimate franchise. Players like Hillary Clinton trade on their fleeting celebrity for votes, hoping that the electorate will not discern a mugwump from a progressive in the glare of all the tinsel and klieg lights. Players like Evan Bayh and Ted Kennedy trade on family name and connections and deliver a quantity of noblesse oblige into the docket each year, while guarding closely their own magnificent fortunes. There are those like the Bushes who skip the noblesse oblige part entirely. Oren Hatch, Rick Santorum, the Senators from Oklahoma, and scores of the righteous-rich from other states trade on religion as the currency of the franchise. They would trade in the Constitution for the Bible in a New York minute. There are many among them who see it as an either/or situation. They are wrong, of course! All of them contribute in their own special ways to a perversion of democracy.

There is a point where holding philosophical reservations goes beyond the point where the original premise is relevant. You can say you believe in science, but if you preach that the sun rises rather than the earth turns, you are eligible for more dangerous thoughts. You can say you are a Democrat, but if you speak Empire, then you are really not and really cannot be. If you are a Republican and speak ruinous federal deficit, then you are really not a conservative, but a dangerous anarchist spendthrift. You can say you believe in the goodness of the common man, but if everything you do is a negation of that principle, then what are you? It is literally impossible to believe the worst of your fellow citizens and still be a Liberal. Impossible!

I have the feeling that the rise of the radical religious right wing in the Republican Party and the simultaneous emergence of the Pax Americana Neocon Imperium represent a fundamental departure of the ruling elites within the Republican Party from the basic principles of Constitutional democracy, a fundamental change of heart and premise. On one hand we have wild-eyed mad-hatters like Gary DeMar of American Vision telling us that a government based on "secular humanism" is a form of theocracy, and on the other hand the founders of the Project for a New American Century expounding the civil righteousness and (obvious) superiority of the American nation, the final manifest destiny of which is to rule the whole bloody world!

These people cannot possibly believe in Jeffersonian or Jacksonian democracy. The masses in America are much too unruly to fit in their plans. They have given up and are recruiting the unwary and the frightened to their philosophies of theocratic and imperial control. Stuff like this happens in an open, democratic society, of course. There are always nuts and cranks and wild ideas that get bandied about, some for fun and some for the pure delight of the certifiably insane. But, these people cannot be allowed to team up and win. They will utterly destroy the nation. Yet they are teamed up, they are in power, and they are dismantling the Constitutional republic before our bleary eyes!

This essay began on a thought primarily about Democrats, though. The question is, given that fish must swim, whether Democrats have gone over to the anti-democratic Dark Side like the key Republicans seem to have. Put another way, can the Democratic leadership be responsive to the will of the people, or will they play games with the electorate and steadfastly refuse to congeal the Democratic coalition around the essential issues.

But, I am not the DNC ... and neither is Howard Dean, by the way. The DNC is the leadership of the Party until we have a clear, unfettered candidate, however. The DNC is fractured along two decisively divisive points of view: one, the Iraq War, and, two, organized and unorganized labor. If Democrats do not come to a conclusion—not a untercarpetschweepen—a real decision about the vast difference of opinion between the Democratic electorate and the Party elite, Democratic voters will be tempted by red herrings and third party candidates or will stay at home in patriotic-but-antiwar disgust. And, organized labor must prove itself to be other than the lackey of corporate management. When they do that then they can identify from among the candidates the one or two who will make common cause with labor and the middle class in this country. If this does not happen then labor and the middle classes voters will wander away from their economic moorings to play in the deep and treacherous water of theocratic and imperialist neo-fascism.

There will be red herrings enough to feed the masses, of course: abortion and school prayer, to name a couple. Of course, these are issues in which the Presidency plays a very minor role, but about which voter emotions are a significant part. Inflation, job-exports, education, credit and bankruptcy, and even social security will garnish the table. The real bread and butter structural issues remain: they are "war and peace" and "protecting labor and the middle classes." Unless there is a platform that addresses these issues from the point of view of the voters, the Democrats will fail and ultimately their coalition will fragment. This would be an unholy disaster given the current coalition on the other side.

James Richard Brett