Saturday, January 26, 2013

American Democracy: Terms of Surrender

Republican Party takes control after 2012 Democratic Party election victory.

Facing Facts

The chart shown above is not, by itself, a grim picture of a failed democracy.  If an election had been held where Republicans had swept the country, one could not only reasonably expect this outcome, but one would also be quite comfortable with its legitimacy.  The chart could very easily be representative of a robust American democracy in action.

However, the important condition in that argument would have been the one about a Republican electoral victory.  

Gosh.  If the Republicans hadn't won the election, and the results still turned out to be these results, the "legitimacy" idea would have already hidden under the couch -- under he couch with the old "robust democracy" idea.

One additional fact must be added to present that picture, and that fact is that Republicans didn't win the election.  It just looks like they did when we look at the chart.  To make all of this more easily digestible, let's try to forget that we're talking about the United States here.  Let's replace the "United States" name with that of a failed autocracy somewhere far away.

Sadam Hussein's old Baathist dictatorship would be a good example.  The rolling "imperceptibles" of Putin's Russian Federation might be another.  In cases like these, there are elections, but the results of the elections -- if anyone even knows what those results were -- don't have much influence on the distribution of power afterwards.

Here in the bastion of democracy, we know the results of the elections.  Also, around here we might have expected those results to have directed the distribution of political power afterwards, too.

When the broken down American corporate media actually reports post-election details from one of those unfortunate autocracies, that reporting paints a picture of a country about to blow its lid.  Like autocratic Egypt or Libya.  The citizens of such a country are well aware that they did not get what they voted for in the elections.

Those citizens knew very well that they were not in a democracy.

On a further note, the similarity to Sadam's Iraq can be taken another step in its comparison to the post 2012 election United States.  During the Iraq War the minority Sunnis had been convinced that they were, actually, a majority.  This "convincing" had been done by decades of relentless lie campaigns, and when the sectarian part of the war had been joined, the Sunnis had been misled to very reasonably expect an easy victory in their effort to brutally subjugate the "minority" Shi'ites.

Since the US corporate media won't touch this story with a stick, let's just settle in with this MeanMesa post for a quick run down on what's just "happened" to us.

The Post Election US House of Representatives

Every seat in the entire House of Representatives comes for a vote each two years.  Every seat.

This process can be -- and was -- subverted from any possibility of unilateral democracy by the redistricting "rights" reserved for state governments.  By gerrymandering the district boundaries, a state government can create pockets of partisan residency, masquerade these as "coinicidental" divisions of the state's population of voters while isolating pockets of opposition residency, and pretty dependably deliver "district" election "victories" which do not represent what would have happened if everyone in the state had simply gone to the polls and voted.

Eight US states had, by the 2012 election, fallen under the control of anti-democracy, Republican governments.  In these eight, both the state house and the state senate were also under control of the same group. Due to this unanimity, there was no effective dissent when the state voting district boundaries were "sliced and diced" to manipulate the election.

The anti-democracy results of these cases can best be understood by considering the alternative.  If these states had simply held a state-wide election to select House members, the total vote would have been manifest in the selection.    This was not the case when the gerrymandering had been conducted.  After that, a majority of votes  -- which would have presumably elected a corresponding majority of candidates from one party or the other -- instead, elected candidates from the gerrymandered districts.

The point here is that the House members elected in such gerrymandered elections did not, generally, receive more votes than those who lost.  In fact, if all the votes won by the House members who were elected were compared to all the votes cast for House candidate who did not win, we would see that winning more votes would not necessarily win an election in these gerrymandered states.

The number of votes for all House Republican election winners was, in fact, one million one hundred thousand lower than the total number of votes won by House Democratic election winners.  This would not be particularly troubling except that even with one million one hundred thousand fewer votes, the Republicans won a majority of the seats in the House.

In a democratic election, one would expect the party with the candidates receiving the most votes to elect the most candidates. Anyone who wishes can, at this point, begin to add a long list of "complicating factors" in the hope of resolving or buffering the paradox between what happened and a democratic election.  In MeanMesa's view, this paradox cannot be resolved or mitigated in the manner.

Something else happened here.  Something very undemocratic.

We have seen the outcomes of the election of this party's majority in 2010.  We should expect more of the same.  The tea bag House members will now not even look at the polling of their presumptive constituency.  Answering only the orders of the oligarchs who own their party, their governance would not be representational or democratic even if they had been elected legitimately.

The Post Election US Senate

Even with the illegitimate oligarchic control of the House of Representatives, a functional Senate could have theoretically continued to provide at least a modest reserve of democratic governance.  This "theoretical dream" would have seen the traditional political adversaries in the Senate proposing competitive legislative solutions in response to the needs or ambitions of their constituencies.

Had this traditional process been under way in the Senate, we would have seen the debates where alternate solutions were being presented by the respective sides.  Naturally, during such a traditional process, there would have been "winners and losers."

However, this is not what we've seen going on in the Senate.  Rather than accepting the "winners and losers" outcome of opposing arguments, arcane Senate rules have been employed -- over and over -- to preclude any outcomes at all.  Although a variety of these "rules" has been employed for these ends, the Senate filibuster has been the worst offender by far.

To be fair, the rules of the Senate have followed an historical purpose.  As a "deliberative body," the Senate has, in the past, adopted rules such as the filibuster to prevent the "tyranny by the majority" where the majority in the Senate simply runs over the minority on ever issue.  This was, reasonably, considered to not be "deliberative," and hence, not consistent with the fundamental idea of the Senate.

However, the Republican minority in the Senate during the Obama Administration has essentially employed the filibuster rule immediately every time Senate legislation has come up for "cloture," that is, every time legislation has emerged from committee on its way to a vote in the entire Senate chamber.  When this occurs, rather than a simple majority of 51 Senators to pass the bill, 60 are required.

The filibuster chart used by Dr. Maddow (image source)
The most recent problems have arisen for exactly this reason.  With Senators now voting almost exclusively along party lines, the Democrats don't have a 60 vote majority to pass legislation because the Republicans block such action with their minority votes.  The "cloture" mechanism prevents the bill's vote in this precise manner.

Almost nothing is getting through the Senate.

Worse, when "almost nothing" is getting through the Senate at the same time that "almost nothing" is getting through the House, the government is paralysed. (The House, under control of the tea bag oligarchy, is actually passing bills right and left, but these tend to be ridiculous political statements rather than any serious legislation.  During the last session, for example, the House tea bag ideologues repealed ObamaCare 33 times, undercut the Supreme Court decision on Roe vs. Wade dozens of times and attempted all manner of other bills which had no chance of surviving the Senate or ever being signed by the President.)

The Senate, at the beginning of each current session, has an opportunity to "change the Senate rules" (by a simple majority) which will be in effect for the entire session.  One of these changes could have been a modification of the filibuster rule.  Several ideas were presented such as requiring a "talking filibuster" or putting a "time limit" on how long a filibuster could prevent progress on a certain bill.

The Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, had spoken openly about changing the filibuster rule during the 2012 election campaign.  Americans favored such a change by a significant majority as seen the public opinion polls.  We can see the sort of thing that the Majority Leader was saying in this except:

Huffington Post
December 5, 2012
Harry Reid: Filibuster Changes
 Will Take Place In January
(Read the whole article here. )

WASHINGTON -- Keeping with his post-election pledge to reform the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday proffered that changes to the rules of the upper chamber will be made, leaving it up to Republicans if they would like to participate.

"There are discussions going on now [over filibuster reform], but I want to tell everybody here. I'm happy I've had a number of Republicans come to me, a few Democrats,” Reid told reporters Tuesday at his weekly press availability. “We're going to change the rules. We cannot continue in this way. I hope we can get something that the Republicans will work with us on.”

“But it won't be a handshake,” he added. “We tried that last time. It didn't work.”
Asked to confirm if his comments meant that the rules would change and Republicans can choose to be a part of that change if they want, the Nevada Democrat responded, “That's right. Yup."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly slammed Democratic efforts to reform the filibuster, was unmoved by Reid’s statement.

"Well, there is growing Democratic unease with breaking the rules to change the rules,” McConnell said later Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I think it will be very difficult for that to come about. I think it will be bad for the Senate.”

Now, remember that Senator Reid is in charge of the sole remaining element of the Congress which continues to represent an actual constituency of voters. Expectations were high that a change to the filibuster rule would result in a Senate which could actually act.  Naturally, his comments in favor of changing this rule were well received voters hoping to re-establish the representative democracy.

Now, it is January, and Senator Reid has just closed the "rule changing" period for the next Senate session.  Instead of changing the filibuster rule, Senator Reid has agreed to allow the minority Republicans continue to paralyse the Senate for the next session.  This means that Senate Republicans will continue to be able to filibuster every bill in the same way they filibustered every bill in the last session.

Reid's leadership could take some of the blame for this treachery, but the real villians were sitting in the Senate chamber casting their vote on changes to the rules.  Of course, the Republicans had been instructed to vote against the changes, but Reid's ambitions were defeated with Democratic votes.

What this really means is that we've been sold out.  What this really means is that the Senate has now fallen under the control of the same oligarchs who presently control the House.

This has happened after a majority of the ballots cast in the 2012 election were cast for Democratic candidates -- both in the House and in the Senate.

Republican Senate Minority Leader McConnell now remains in charge of the Senate.  He and his GOP cronies answer only to the oligarchs who finance their campaigns.  As common citizens, we should expect nothing from the Senate -- just like we should expect nothing from the oligarch controlled House.

 The Post Election Supreme Court

We have to comment on the Supreme Court even though the Justices were not subject to the electoral test like the Congress and the President.  The important factor for the Court comes later.  With several Justices reaching retirement age, the President will have an opportunity to nominate replacements.

During this process, the heavily soiled, reactionary Court majority appointed under the unelected autocracy of  George W. Bush can be replaced by more sober, more functional, judicial minds. 

However, any Supreme Court nominations made by the President will immediately fall into the maelstrom of the now non-representative Senate for confirmation.  Interestingly, those same Senate rules which prevented any change to the filibuster problem also happen to contain equally arcane elements with respect to arbitrary, secret blocks for such nominations.

Those "Senate rules" concerning Court nominations weren't changed, either.

Referring to the chart at the top of this post, we can see the possibility of the Senate simply not confirming any nomination should the oligarchs now issuing the orders there so decide.

It doesn't actually matter which name was on the ballot you voted for Senate.  The man in charge of the Senate remains the same as it was in the previous session, Mitch McConnell.  The Senate minority leader will remain in charge of the outcome of every bill.

In terms of the democracy, the Democratic Senators who failed to support Reid's rule changes would all, presumably,  claim to have voted based on their constituent interests.

The Post Election US Media

Like the Supreme Court, the US corporate media was also not subject to an election test in November, 2012.  However, the fundamental idea of the US "free press" is that, just as any other corporate enterprise, it is subject to a continual "market correction," that is, the idea that elements of the "free press" would have to compete with each other by offering competitive credibility.

For a "free press" enterprise to succeed in a capitalistic way, it must offer its consumers what they perceive to be credible, factual "press products."  At least, this was probably close to the original idea as it was trotted out in 1776.

The corporate media is no longer actually subject to this market correction because it is no longer faced with the necessity of competing for credibility.  Not surprisingly, the ownership of corporate US media is now limited to a mere handful of corporations, and those corporations clearly see no particular benefit in competing with each other for media credibility when their consumers have ceased demanding it.

This kind of comment is a common lament.  MeanMesa, however, is not convinced that these common complaints actually communicate the gravity of the destructive influence this exerts on the democracy.  Rather than having a few isolated peccadilloes of "over editorialized" reporting, we find a significant minority of the American electorate "living in another world" where they are constantly saturated with "corporate truth" in the place of this credibility.

In terms of similarities, we can recall the mass, voluntary civilian suicides which occurred on Saipan and Okinawa when US forces were capturing those islands.  The civilians had been saturated by Japanese propaganda for decades.  They had been told repeatedly that US soldiers and Marines would systematically murder them, rape the women and eat their children.

When faced with the immediate prospect of this actually happening, mothers holding their infants, young lovers in a last embrace and entire families holding each other's hands dutifully stepped off the cliffs to fall to their death.

This media saturation effort here has produced a myriad of open threats to kill the President or "escape" to another country should he be re-elected.  These are not fascinating exceptions.  Such thoughts have become the daily fare for millions of Americans.  There are no "correcting data" or "countering arguments."  The water in this saturating pool of media manipulation is calm, tepid and relentlessly wet.

The Post Election Strategy of the Oligarchs

This cannot not fairly be described as the strategy of Republicans.  Whatever "strategic capabilities" remaining in the remnant of the Republican Party have been entirely overwhelmed by the strategy of the oligarchs and corporatists which now control it.

The oligarchs learned a few things during the election.  Prior to November their deep cynicism allowed them to be convinced that the sheer persuasive weight of their media money would deliver the power they sought -- all this absent any particular element of policy or explanation.  Even on election night, these anti-democracy players remained, embarrassingly, under the thrall born and nurtured by exactly this cynicism.

The uninformed, illiterate and uninterested making up the GOP base took the bait just as expected, but the essentially uncontrollable remainder of the electorate were more interested in their personal living conditions.  The psych-handlers for the oligarchic think tanks had not anticipated this showing up on election day to nearly this extent.

The oligarchic strategy had been, actually, quite pragmatic.  Expecting the number of votes against their artificially profiled candidates to represent a smaller majority, they had carefully orchestrated every possible manner of election crime in the areas under their control, that is, in states where they controlled the entire state government.  The election results show us that they had under-anticipated the scale of the rejection of their candidates -- one which could have been mitigated by the electoral crimes.

It is not a mystery why the anti-democracy forces have concentrated their ambitions on the Republican base.  In a maneuver quite similar to the under principles of the prevailing religions, every fear and desire was exploited to prepare the narcotic arguments.  Racism, classism, effortless dreams of the ambition for wild success and incendiary propositions of humiliation inflicted at the hands the whatever caste was to be castigated were packed into the oligarch pitch.

These were precisely the mechanisms employed to propagate pseudo-religions such as modern Christianity and Islam.  This was not a coincidental, unanticipated, unexpected affinity.  It drew the "less than high school" Republican base eagerly into the vacuous ideology of the carefully groomed tea bags, one over spiced with the induced pain of a failed economy, the ghostly fear of sexual inadequacy compared to black men and the inebriating prospect of being elevated and respected, valid or not.

With the intentionally confusing fog of the campaign rhetoric now receding, we can easily isolate the post election posture of the oligarchs.

1. Austerity

The program has been a dismal failure everywhere it has been implemented.  It has effectively cratered the economy of the EU; it has deeply wounded the domestic economy, too.  Neither application has demonstrated any remedy for the Great Republican Recession of 2008.

2. Spending

The ready clue here is the incessant repetition of the meme from the think tanks: "We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem."  Every Republican who gets close to a microphone comes up with this before anything else.

3. Wealth Redistribution

Don't be mistaken.  Austerity and spending cuts have everything to do with wealth redistribution and practically nothing to do with economic recovery.  We can add to the list the brazenly ideological spending cuts for things like abortion and, in the converse, spending increases for things like military procurement.

4. Tax Policy

The oligarchs know that if they cannot control the House, they can be hurt by what replaces their artificial majority.  The mood of the populus is to increase their taxes -- big time.  That same mood includes cutting their corporate subsidies -- big time. This goes with military spending, financial regulation, consumer protection, environmental protection, climate change mitigation and so on.  Every one of these will ultimately be paid for by money which is currently in the pockets of the oligarchs.

5. Permanently Redefined Conservatism

The traditional definitions of conservatism are useless to the oligarchic ambitions now. We see this in all sorts of cases, perhaps most notably, in the paradox between the image and reality of the alleged conservative paragon, Ronald Reagan.  While the idea of conservatism must be refined into a usable modern corollary, the oligarchs have hit the wall like obstacle of the basically total lack of education in their base.

This base could manage to claim a very fleeting view of traditional conservative ideas, but simply can't keep up with the task of understanding what they are supposed to understand now after things have changed now.  We see this in two important ways.

a. Conservative voices embarrass themselves with comments like the ones we heard about rape and abortions.

b. There is no real possibility for a coherent replacement for the traditional model, hence, no particular policy or platform -- just talking points.

6. Fear of Their Own Record

The modern Republicans are actually managing a remarkable game of "bait and switch."  They have clearly become infatuated with issues such a deficits, debts, international respect and the like. Yet, the exact policies they find most onerous in the 21st Century US government are precisely those which are attempting to repair damage inflicted by past Republicans.

The think tanks have warned their owners that this is, at best, a tenuous, temporary tactic for this very reason.  There is a constant possibility that some -- or many -- of the loyal hill billies in their base will, someday, realize all of this. The "distance" between the sign slogan complaints at a tea bag rally and the unfortunate reality of the last Republican President is not that great.

Unhappily, compared to this very utilitarian policy of denial for political and economic catastrophes, bigotry seems conveniently eternal.


Normally, someone visiting a blog and encountering this word as a topic would, perhaps, simply grumble and search for alternate reading somewhere else.  In defense of MeanMesa, consider the picture painted in the post above before you make that quick conclusion.

This is YOUR democracy being discussed here.

You may think MeanMesa's conclusions to be overly hyperbolic and tastelessly dramatic.  Yet, anyone who is so inclined is welcome to refute what has been presented here as fact.  In fact, this skepticism is encouraged.  This proposition is too serious to simply avoid it.

Further, if it is, in fact, too serious to be avoided, it is also too serious not to elicit corrective action.  Political action --  and, maybe, more than political action.

Whether you like to admit it or not, you depend on this democracy.  Everything about the life you anticipate living here depends on this democracy.  Your future will be defined by the politics, policies and decisions which derive from this democracy.

Enough said.

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