Monday, December 31, 2012

Homicidal Democracy: Suffocated by Equanimity

First, an important announcement for MeanMesa visitors. 

 MeanMesa Adopts Shocking New Attitude of Tolerance

With this posting MeanMesa undertakes a "new attitude" toward descriptions of the GOP base.  In an effort to "broaden" the old, somewhat controversial, previous terms, there have been some "soul searching" and "thought provoking"  late night meetings here at the Short Current Essays Galactic HeadQuarters.

This blog's young contributor, Cameron, was, unexpectedly, adamant.  His relentless, nagging, lament during these late night meetings?

"The constant reference to the GOP base as 'hill billies and bigots' is simply too exclusive.  It selectively neglects any proper attention the Republican Congressmen in its overly specific focus on GOP voters."

Cameron, slipping comfortably into one of his more editorially philosophical moods, added, "The continual use of the terms 'hill billies and bigots' falls far short of the high literary ideals of MeanMesa."  He continued, "The practice reveals a troubling lack of equanimity."

Equanimity?  Give us a break, Cameron.

To "bring everybody up to speed," let's review the dictionary meaning of the term: "equanimity."  [Thanks to Webster/Google]

1:  evenness of mind especially under stress i.e. nothing could disturb his equanimity
2:  right disposition : balance

Of course, there was simply nothing to do but respond quickly with a mitigating commitment to, as Mullah Nassr Edin might have said, "do better." 

Consequently, upon further discussion, the following, reconciling agreement was made to resolve this troubling "interruption in the force." 

"It lacks equanimity.  Got it?  EQUANIMITY!" (image source)

Henceforth, references to the GOP base will use the "hill billies and bigots" term only about two thirds of the time.  For the remaining third -- in an effort to achieve "greater equanimity" and to include the Congressional Republicans in such descriptive instances -- MeanMesa will adopt the term:

 "tea bag scum."

There now.  Having remedied this stubborn "equanimity problem" so generously and so effectively, MeanMesa is now not only entirely rehabilitated in the "literary sense," but also wonderfully re-invigorated and refreshed for the next post.

(image source)
Does this mean that MeanMesa is actually going to write a post on "equanimity?"  Yes.  Happily, we have an example close at hand.

The first part of this deals with "equanimity" as it embraces both tea bags on the street and the miscreant horde they've sent to Congress.  In the second part, the synthetic "equanimity" expounded by the repetition of the over-simplified and deceptive cracks that "the problem is simply that there is no compromise" will be the topic.  So, here we go!

Homicidal Democracy: Suffocated by Equanimity

2012 saw the already drearily over used complaint about partisan compromise reach a frequency unseen in the prior years of Congressional deadlock. Buried miles below the incessant media cracks about how "the two sides will not compromise," we find the lost meaning we may have sought all along.

"Compromising" with Congressional Republicans, at least as it is characterized by their commercial, "wholly owned" media, is depicted as some sort of Holy Grail of bi-partisan politics. The complicit media dutifully trotted out the same tears and sighs every day during the two year campaigns. The part of the story left missing was any discussion of what, exactly, "compromising" with the Republicans would mean.

They certainly weren't talking.

MeanMesa will, for anyone who hasn't been paying attention, address this right now.  "Compromising" with the Republican Congressmen means giving them everything they wanted to loot next year while they still thought they were going to win the election.  This evaluation of the scheme only gains more mass when we recall the repeated pundit analysis that the tea bag scum [there it is...] had yet to accept the fact that they had, in fact, lost the 2012 election -- and not "just barely," either.

Now relegated to the violent extortionist control of less than one fourth of the three branches of government, the scum continues to insist that they answer to no one, are not bound by public opinion and, actually, serve without the burden of representing any kind of particular constituency other than the ghostly hypotheticals of the hidden oligarch class which issues their marching orders.  MeanMesa has always suspected that their imaged purity may be both deceptively shallow and not so deceptively, utterly putrid.

You know, scum.  The happy part is that's working less and less.  Hardly a time for compromise.

They are simply grotesque, opportunistic ideologues of convenience.  Even better, their heavily financed image as anything else is growing as fractured as a natural gas well on a Pennsylvania farm.  Any day now, even the tap water will be aflame -- that is, more and more of the base voters are beginning to feel incendiary themselves.

A Little More About "Compromising"

The Psychology

By continually proposing that "compromising" is actually a solution to the political and economic problems confronting us, Americans find a convenient means to deflect responsibility, in this case, the responsibility of citizens to direct our democratic government.  With the convenient, all encompassing excuse that these is "no compromise," coupled with the hollow proposition that a "compromise" would offer the solutions everyone says they seek if there were to be one, the burden of having a position, endorsing a plan, supporting some leader or pursuing some political policy is conveniently eliminated.

When "no compromise" is accepted as "the problem," the possibility of being "mistaken" is removed from the picture, obviously, it turns out, a very attractive alternative for the citizens.  

MeanMesa has proposed a number of times that one analysis serves to explain much of this right away.  The American electorate has become desperately co-dependent.  It has been groomed in many absolutist habits, but this may be  evidence of the aggregate sum of all of them.  We have become far more likely to stand for nothing than risk the possibility of being wrong.

If the country collapses under the growing weight of this present calamity, that will not occur because we were wrong in our ideas for solving our problem, it will be because we would not dare to have ideas -- right or wrong -- to solve our problem.

We forsake that seemingly hazardous responsibility in favor of all sorts of massless alternatives -- ideological purity, an exquisite and voluntary lack of information or, perhaps, even a self-destructive stoic nihilism which has extinguished all hope.

We are simply watching our own gang rape with stolid grey faces, frozen in a stoic equilibrium, punctuated only by a furtive whimper now and then.  This is not an exaggeration. 

What in the hell are we doing?

There are no dragons here.

The "Partners" in Compromise

Running in terror from a dragon would probably make pretty good sense.  The reason such flight would be "sensible" has everything to do with all the horrible things that dragon has done in the past. However, if it weren't a dragon, and instead it were a crooked used car dealer, would we still be inclined to run away so desperately?

Or worse, run back to the same used car lot where we got royally screwed the last time?

When we speak of "compromise," we are speaking of partners.  When we add in the additional idea about equanimity, we are speaking about the quality of those partners, at least with respect to what's required for deal making.

The old idea that compromise alone fully maps the path to a solution to our difficulties implies that we have already assumed the qualities of those compromising partners both reflect "workable honor," that the conflicting positions which are to be compromised represent roughly equally mixed combinations of what is desired and what is not and that both parties to the compromise have agreed to finish up with both an ox well fed and another ox at least slightly gored.

This means that while me might ultimately, grudgingly, compromise with the crooked used car dealer, we really can't expect to make a similar settlement with the dragon.  

So, the "mix" of factors for compromising doesn't really even begin with pure  "equanimity."  We also have to take a "hard nosed" look at the records of our potential compromise partners.

Why would we be anxious to compromise with partners whose records lack any particular evidence of past accomplishments we might wish to share?

In this case, even an overly generous review of recent GOP policy accomplishments comes up bare, if not outright frightening.  GOP policy for the last four decades has not accomplished the objectives which were meant to initially justify everything from banking deregulation to pre-emptive wars. It has been destructive.  

It has been a train wreck.  And, that is not just once in a while, either.

Constantly offered a full plate of decidedly "easier to ingest" propaganda, the Republican base has been encouraged to simply refuse to inform themselves. We have heard the embarrassing results with one egregious misstatement after another from a political party which would have moved ahead in the polls if it had simply shut up.

A similar embarrassment fell upon the very top of the Party apparatchiks, in this case their "red faced" Presidential candidate himself, when, after swallowing the same propaganda, he found himself without a Secret Service ride home at precisely the same time he expected to be bathing in victory as the next President.

Clinging to Compromise, Equanimity
 and "Working Together"

Two months ago the psych divisions of the commercial media had clearly been issued orders to promote the "both parties are the same" meme at every possible opportunity.  Interviews with the "man on the street" or the "busy housewife" all seemed to include this same "clarifying opinion."

That was deception.

Even then -- even before we were told nightly for months that the race was solidly locked in a "dead heat" -- Americans had already long ago disabused themselves of this clearly manipulated, simplistic confusion.  Confronted with a "meme campaign" that wasn't working, the new media refrain became "if the parties could only work together."

You know, work together with ... you guessed it ... "equanimity."

The commercial pundits -- the ones in the $5,000 suits reporting on politics as if it were still 1960 -- began a relentless insertion of the "compromise" and "equanimity" words, either directly or by insinuation, wherever possible in their "news" broadcasts.  Occasionally, we listened to a drifty, commercially sentimental proclamation of fealty to the "two party system."

That, obviously, didn't work for the Republican controlled commercial media, either.

These two parties in their current form will never work together.  MeanMesa, for one, has no desire whatsoever to ever "work together" with the Republican Party as it is now cast.

In fact, MeanMesa has trouble falling asleep some nights while recalling that 47% of American voters were "totally on board" with this nonsense.

Putting It Back Together

If "something is to be done" with this present catastrophic state of our democratic process, fixing the election itself will barely represent more than a good beginning.  It's the electorate.  That's the problem.

It would be easy enough to simply say that the "electorate problem" is that part of the electorate doesn't vote the "right way."  However, we've had too many good years of solid adversarial "two party" rule to think this very seriously.

This is not a case of political disagreement.  Political disagreement started being dismantled in the Reagan years with the old "Moral Majority."  When voters began to accept the idea that the new, ultra easy, "morals" of Jerry Falwell's Christian right represented a reasonable way to select a candidate in a secular democracy, the truck had begun to "roll down the hill."

What we have today has its ugly roots in this development from the 1980's.  And, of course, we also have the political equivalent of a "wrecked truck" -- one which came close to installing a creature like Mitt Romney into the Oval Office.

Rather than becoming "down in the mouth," with all these toils and travails, let's get down to some MeanMesa suggestions.  None of these can be accomplished over night, and most of them will be pretty much impossible so long as the tea bags retain their Bronze Age death grip on our Congress, but a few "light houses" on a far horizon are far more positive than the seemingly endless grey malaise this 2013 New Year brings us.

Think of these as a New Year's "wish list."

1. Civics Education in Public Schools

We are all familiar with the competitive collapse we face when compared to other counties with functional educational systems.  However, when we discuss that grave short coming, we tend to concentrate on mathematics and science.  This suggestion is that, just perhaps, we should focus on "citizen building" first.  If we could do better at that specialty, maybe the other short falls would lessen a bit.

One of the reasons we have crappy public school outcomes has to be the inability of parents as citizens to effectively demand better performance.  If those same parents had a basic grasp of what is required to make their goals materialize, the prospect of some of those goals being realized would improve greatly.

But, how could we do this?

We institute new requirements for classes on economics, civic government and perhaps even a bit of sociology.  Additionally, we absolutely cease buying text books from anyone who has anything to do with the "fountain of fundamentalism and fascism" known as the Texas school board.

Parents everywhere else don't want their kids to become Texan jack-asses.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816 

2. An Understandable National Budget

Every oily expert across the country seems to have a life's ambition of skewing the national books into something that will better serve whomever has contracted him.  The result is an incomprehensible mess.  Citizens have, amazingly, lost interest in their own finances.  Further, they have long ago ceased having any sort of trust in the information they are getting.

An example is the House of 2010.  Citizens have no idea whether the deficit has gone up or down.  Sure, they are told whatever message will serve the interests of the messenger or they are confronted with what may actually be fairly objective data but in a form most have no time to decipher.

After the Great Republican Recession of 2008 citizens have once again become interested in actually knowing how the country is doing.  But, now, economic data -- from any source -- is not considered trustworthy.  Supper PACs with microphones and television networks routinely attack whatever economic data might emerge which doesn't reinforce their talking points.

This one can be solved rather directly.  The government owes us this one.  As tax payers we need to know the latest information in an easy to understand, reliable form -- information which has been prepared for us under strict rules by reliable agencies which we can trust.  

Or even, grow to trust.

3.  Year Round Political Fact Checking

MeanMesa is pleased to say that this idea has grown  into a robust "power player" for many voters already.  The problem is that with the credibility of the commercial media at a well deserved, all time low, the Americans who access the existing fact checkers are limited to those on line.

This must be expanded so the "non-on-line" also have access to it.  The existing fact checking industry is competitive.  This means that credibility has become the marketed product, and totally in tune with the mantras of "market correction" and "value selection" so often chanted by the free enterprise chorus, fact checking companies which produce results are getting the business.

Tens of millions of American, for instance, know all about Nate Silver even though we have to assume that major commercial networks still have no faith.

During the campaign -- MeanMesa saw at least one fact check on President Obama, too -- voters very reasonably adopted a rather aggressive caveat emptor ["buyer beware" Lat.]  attitude toward the various campaign claims.  The "morning after fact checking" curse continually tormented the Romney campaign.

In MeanMesa's view, this new development was so effective that it should somehow be expanded into a day by day, year by year affair along with some plan to greatly increase accessibility to it by voters.  There has been talk about laws which would automatically place elected officials under oath when they spoke from their office -- not likely in a government like ours, but the fact checking business could cover a lot of the same ground. [MeanMesa - Are We Too Dumb for a Free Press?]

4. Federalization of Voting Rights and Processes

As if serious affronts to democracy ever really bothered them, this election's Republicans have pulled a massive "bite and grab" maneuver on our democratic system which may have set a new low.  The GOP's tea bags retain control of the House in spite of the fact that more Americans voted for Democratic members than Republican members.

This has to stop, and it has to stop now.  Without democratic elections, we're done.

Even the hill billies should know this.

MeanMesa has proposed several solutions to this.  Election courts, entirely dedicated to the judicial protection of voters' rights, could offer rapid access for prosecution and remedy for the schemes we watched unfold during the 2012 election. [MeanMesa - Election Courts]

However -- and this is being mentioned more and more frequently now -- it's clear that the entire US election process needs to be federalized.  The same rules and regulations must prevail over elections whether you are a voter in the swamp country of Alabama or in an air conditioned polling station in Connecticut.

The laws governing voter registration, register voter purging and scammy GOP tricks like the infamous Rove plan for "caging" must not only be distasteful but illegal, prosecuted and penalized.  Reflect for a moment.  Now, name a single political operative who has pilfered votes or disenfranchised voters who is now in a penitentiary. There are a few cases -- such as the successful prosecutions of Ohio anti-democracy criminals Ken Blackwell, Vu and Bennet -- but the rate of actual proceedings compared to actual crimes in far less than one in eight.

The federalized regulations should drive a permanent stake through the heart of electronic voting machines owned by Republican political hacks [Romney's son owned major stock in a voting machine supplier in the 2012.]  The machines have a terrible record of being vulnerable to tampering and out right fraud and cheating.

Naturally, the Citizens United ruling must be set aside at once.  2012 saw Chinese mob casino money and Saudi petro-dollars flowing freely into the Republican coffers along with who knows how much other invisible dough.  MeanMesa isn't surprised that the GOPCons slithered right into this anti-democracy gold mine, but there is absolutely no reason why the American political democracy has to be sold to the highest bidder.

If we put up with this kind of behavior, we will rapidly lose the initiative.  This is precisely the "enemy from within" about which we have been repeatedly warned.  If the situation tips to the favor of those who value our democracy so little, we will have no choice but to accept all that they hand us. 

"Putting up with this kind of behavior"  means that we simply sit through the final destruction of the free election as our national process for self-governance.

Finally, the ideas of the electoral college and "winner take all" census redistricting need to take their permanent place in history.  These things were created years ago by elitists not dissimilar to those we see around us today.  Both policies were originally designed to protect slavery, but that original mission has expanded greatly since then.

When you are having a conversation about "what can be done," the items on this list are hardly a comprehensive recipe for solution.  However, they may well be very good places to start.

No comments:

Post a Comment