Monday, February 11, 2013

American Democracy: No Debate, No Checks & No Balances

A Few Fundamental Responsibilities of Citizens

Theoretically, the American democracy was designed to rise to all challenges.  There were no foolish expectations that Americans would simply "get along" as the Republic moved ahead through its life time.  The ingenious mechanism at the foundation of our Constitution was intended to guarantee that no matter what sort of challenge we might face, our structure of government could successfully host our efforts to resolve it while respecting our fundamental commitment to egalitarian participation in the direction of things.

The ancient nation which adopted that Constitution enjoyed a few equally fundamental qualities which we seem to have conveniently forgotten.   One notable example was that the citizens of that early Republic were vividly interested in its success.  In those early days there abounded a great cultural memory of the pre-Revolutionary conditions and the price paid for liberation.

In, say, 1800 this served as a platform to compare, well, everything.  Citizens were innately interested in all things about the government --  policies being developed, decisions being made, debates between politicians, dealings with other countries -- because there was simply no way for them to not fundamentally value their responsibilities in the democracy and respect the tenuous idea that they were, in cold reality, charged with running the thing.  This was not a high flung sort of responsibility, either.  These citizens knew that they "were on the hook" to either make the democracy work or lose it.

Just about everyone in the country had seen first hand exactly what forces were standing by to retake control.  The British may have been the new nation's most visible antagonist, but it was no secret that there were others also lurking in the near by shadows.

Having invested almost without limit in the instruments and institutions of our national security, we no longer peer nervously at our ambitious neighbors.  We, as citizens, haven't had this type of concern for years.  Perhaps the last real instance of worry in this shade came after the Pacific fleet was destroyed in 1941, but even that calamity only strengthened the national resolve to fight for the West Coast if things came to that.

Moments during the Cold War with the old Soviet Union may have been even more darkly threatening, but by that time the threat was no longer graduated or particularly subject to opinion.  It had become absolute.

The point here is that during such times, the United States citizen turned out to be remarkably well versed in the details, facts, estimates, theories, politics and events of the moment as well as also having a profoundly insightful understanding of the "Big Picture" which accompanied such daunting instances.  Of course there were "differences of opinion," but there were seldom deeply seated "differences about the facts."

2013 finds this situation altered in some interesting ways.

Checks and Balances 
When There Are No Checks and Balances

The recent flurry concerning the President's order for drone assassinations of ex-patriot American traitors offers an immediate and chilling illustration.

Amid the predictable feeding frenzy over this issue, MeanMesa watched an uncommon rush to common purpose between the bigots and the hill billies of the Republican base.  Worse, the "red meat" treat also found plenty of volunteers among the more progressive voices.

In literally no time at all, every loyal, patriotic American citizen -- you know, the ones who find time to vote in almost every other election -- was horrified with the possibility that a drone was headed right to the house where they were sitting, eating cheezoes and watching television.

Clearly missing in all this furor was a single voice obliged to call it all what it was: ridiculous.  What's left of the last remaining check and balance process around here, elections, would correct such an over step very quickly.  Granted, voters would have to actually do something, but, well, confronted with such a situation, they might.

Still, the "slippery slope" hyperbole was being gulped down like a chocolate milk shake.  In fact, at the time of this post, that milk shake isn't even half finished yet.

Hysterically, there has even been talk of requiring the Congress to authorize such specific killings.



That would be the same Congress that just cut US carrier deployment in the Gulf from two to one in order to save money.  (Read the story here.)  This while the blow hards are still thumping their chests for war with Iran -- which happens to be "the other side" of the Gulf.

So, things would be much better if the black man had to run to Capitol Hill for permission to use the drones every time, right?  MeanMesa is sure that the target for that attack would wait patiently by his car until all the details got handled.

This is the Congress with a Senate permanently paralyzed by political filibusters and a House with barely enough time to pass 31 bills obliterating ObamaCare, gut Social Security, loot the Post Office pension and still become experts on vaginas, rape, abortion and austerity.

The Republican Party message is clear enough.  "Because of the way WE are, you can't trust anyone!"

Now, sure enough, even the Americans who decided they could trust the President, after listening to the constant fear mongering of the other side, have decided that they couldn't trust the President.  The "reinforcing" message right behind this is also oozing out of the scaredy cats.  "You may be able to trust this President, but what if someone like Perry, Santorum or Cain became President?  Then what?"

Well, what then?

The "what then?" question only begins to intimidate us when we continue to think that there is simply nothing we can do for any other outcomes.  While this stoic hopelessness has been a well financed meme of the GOP for several elections, it is utter nonsense.  If the electorate remains as uninvolved and uninterested as it currently is, we could shortly face a very material version of this hypothetical construct.

This idea goes along with the notion that politics, elections, policies and the like just happen.  They don't.  Whether we are ready to accept the responsibility or not, we create those things.  This is a democracy.

Just having someone available to blame for our own national mis-steps doesn't change the facts.  As citizens, we sign off on everything that goes on in our democratic government.  If we don't like it, we change it -- we don't just complain endlessly.

A Few Conclusions Might Help

First, we really have to disabuse ourselves of the whimsical possibility that the Congress can or will function.  It doesn't function.  In fact, there isn't much of any reason remaining to assume that it will ever function again.

Second, the GOP's House and Senate "war experts" aren't.  They're bigots.  They are obsessed with "correcting" the last "check and balance" process by undercutting the President.  If that happy dream of theirs includes undercutting the Republic while they're at it, they're willing to pay that price.

Third, we are squarely confronted by the unavoidable evidence that spending cuts, austerity and every other cheaply camouflaged version of adolescent schemes for wealth distribution will not recover the US economy.  Of course the actual facts about the budget, deficit, debt and so on, mean nothing when voters never hear enough actual information -- or even take the time--  to know what they are.

Fourth, we must not expect the "fourth estate" to take any effort to rectify the incredibly saturating misconceptions it has been paid so very well to insinuate into public perceptions of such matters.

Fifth, we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that the traditional process of "checks and balances" remains in place.  Exaggeration?   Think back.  The time to have a debate about the drone wars was during the Presidential election.  The GOP nominee didn't know drones even existed, and the President could hardly  debate himself without "hanging his panties" in front of the FOXite bulls.

Sixth, don't think that the entire world doesn't knows all about the US Republican Party.  They see and hear the crazy, self-serving piety, the misogyny, the oligarchic colonial ambitions, the weirdly convenient religious fundamentalism and the shallow bellicosity.  The rest of the world also remembers the Bush Jr. "Church of Death," giving them pause should they have any inclination not to take the shatteringly grave but fickle "killing power" of the United States too lightly.

We're smiling because we have decided to paralyze the Senate, protect the rich and trash MediCare. (image source)

The rest of the world knows that the United States is now unable to ratify even the simplest international treaty.  The rest of the world knows that with Republicans tacitly in control of the Congress, American leadership is presently crippled, divided, paralyzed and and wounded -- mortally wounded.  The rest of the world knows that a political patriciate has absconded with the control of the American democracy, a recklessly ambitious monied class with obscured motives quite estranged from what has been made to appear to be a simple racist tantrum.

Seventh, our next task on the path back to nation maturity is to quit pretending that the Congressional part of our democracy can still work when the population suffers mass demographies of voluntary political illiterates.  Ask a few of your acquaintances why they voted the way they did -- if they voted at all.  Pay close attention to the verbs in their responses.

"I feel..."

"I believe..."

"I don't trust..."

These are not the way we vote in our democracy. 

These are all evidence of a carefully crafted, logical cul-de-sac.  These are not the products of investigation or even curiosity.  They certainly are not displaying  the evidence of responsibility.  They represent a logical cul-de-sac because each of them is a doleful solicitation to be delivered, not a statement of determination to run things as well as possible.

Should you encounter a conversation partner brimming over with facts and conclusions, you need to take note.  "This one is ready for 'checks and balances.'  This one has an opinion based on something beyond what someone else has simply told him."

The fact is becoming abundantly clear.  There is not a single American who is too busy to be up to his neck in politics.  The neglect with which we have indulged this destructive habit has now come home to roost.

President Barack Obama is famous for his cool, calm and collected attitude toward things.  However, when it comes to the nation's descent into oligarchy, the President is painfully aware.  His Presidential prerogatives during his term in office have been constantly limited by the perpetual threat of civil war.

Although such a war would have ground troops of hill billies fighting for issues of racist supremacy or salvation, the financiers of such a conflict would be a familiar clutch of faces indeed, the Kochs,  Addelson, Rove, Simpson and probably Romney along with the others.  Even the eager, fascist Supremes have remained perched and ready to leap and exploit such a fray.

There is only one power remaining on the planet which can halt this advance.  That is elections conducted by an informed electorate.  That idea, "informed electorate," means voters capable of debating and willing to engage in "checks and balances."

The dreamy ambition of the oligarchs is that they can manipulate that electorate just long enough to render it toothless and powerless.  Once they have accomplished that, the future of the Republic is permanently changed.  Citizens already lacking an interest in operating the democracy all around them will never rise up to challenge the established authority of their new masters.

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