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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Democracy is Dead

When I hear people discuss a presidential campaign (and in any country, including the United States, as well as Panama, where I live), they often say they would prefer Candidate A, but, since A is not a viable, electable candidate, they’re going to vote for Candidate B instead.

What does it mean to say a certain candidate is “electable”? It means that the news media have said that candidate has broad support among the people. But that’s a tautology, a logical loop-de-loop: people support a candiate because the media say people support that candidate. These people are “electable” because we are being told they are electable, because we are being manipulated into supporting them, instead of following the dictates of our own thought and conscience.

People should have the courage to support whichever candidate they think is the best, whether or not that candidate is deemed by the media to have broad support. In other words, the deciding criteria should be a candidate’s track record, views, and proposed policies, not the media’s anointing of “front runner” status.

This is, ultimately, another mechanism by which any pretense at a genuine representative democracy has been utterly undermined. You become a front-runner when ultra-rich plutocrats invest their money in your campaign, so you will do what the plutocrats want when you’re in office, and not what your constituents who voted for you want.

(And, what is more, the plutocrats get their investments back, because the money is used to purchase advertising time on television networks owned by the plutocrats, to buy storefronts in buildings owned by the plutocrats, to fly the candidate here and there to speak in huge conference arenas owned by the plutocrats, and so on.)

Other techniques for destroying democracy are also well known.

Politicians these days, as reader Zhimeng Yu points out, don't keep their minds open to good solutions. They rather are "branded", representing a previously arranged agenda. You don't get a representative who sincerely wants to fix problems, but one who wants to fix you: to persuade you to agree with the previously arranged agenda. These pre-programmed politicians intransigently resist any and all proposals made by members of other parties, even if they are good, workable proposals. Such intransigence freezes legislative bodies and amply prevents them from getting any real work accomplished. And, as Zhimeng Yu also points out, most people these days are woefully ignorant of economics, law, and even how they get their electricity or water, so they are not well informed enough to manage their public servants.

What is more, by law, the “party in power” is in charge of redistricting; that is, of redrawing the lines that define a voting district, and, in a method known as gerrymandering, they always do so to strengthen their own power and break up into different districts any communities where the other party is strong.

Polling likewise is a joke: whoever is footing the bill gets exactly the results desired (tricks of the trade, besides wording the questions to trigger certain responses, include polling during the day, when more retirees are at home, if you want more “conservative” results). Compare one party’s polling results with those of the other; though supposedly reflecting the views of the same voting bloc, you’ll think the results came from two different planets.

The Electoral College is another one. In presidential elections, the manipulators of the system keep careful tabs on this entity. Originally its purpose was to prevent fraud, but now it's a mechanism for fostering it, with the result that individual voters in most of the country are well nigh irrelevant. If a state's electoral college count is going to be solidly in one camp or another it is no longer subject to the attention of those manipulators. That is to say, if your state's delegation to the Electoral College is clearly going to be in the Democratic or Republican camp, there's no point your going to the polls. However if your delegation's stance is unclear, if it could yet flip one way or the other, then the manipulating begins. Districts in that state where the outcome is known are, like other solid states, ignored. The focus goes right down to neighborhoods in key districts, districts whose raw voting could change the delegate count and therefore whether that state's Electoral College delegates end up in one or another camp. These neighborhoods are peppered with advertising, canvassers, phone callers, offers of rides to the polling stations for people who might not otherwise vote: everything is done by both parties to try to squeeze out a win. And the rest of the country be damned.

The whole idea of “electability”, therefore, is the plutocrats controlling the system. In no way does it reflect the people’s choosing.

Once they get into office, the unfairness continues, because legislators vote at the behest of their party bosses. Political parties are not mentioned in the United States Constitution. And, in my view, they are unconstitutional. The whole thrust of the Constitution is to empower local voters to manage and control government as their servants. The way it is supposed to work is that a majority of voters in your district put Candidate A into office because A reflects their views better than B. Once in office, A then sets out to introduce legislation, or vote for legislation, with those views in mind. The way it works in actuality is that A votes not according to the views of that majority of voters, but at the behest of his or her party bosses. Those party bosses may be elected representatives, too (the Speaker of the House for example), but they represent other districts, not yours; often they are not even elected to office but are simply potentates in the party organization – in either case, you wind up without faithful representation by your elected representative, you are disenfranchised, which is contrary to the intent of the Constitution.

Some have objected to my anti-party views by saying “nothing would ever get done”, since, with hundreds of representatives, each one touting his or her little district’s needs, there would be no means to build consensus or compromise. I disagree. If someone from a certain district makes a good case that that district needs a new bridge, it is discussed in plenary session, and, if other legislators are convinced, and if the money is available, it will be allocated. If the bridge joins two districts, those two legislators present their case conjointly. Such a need is discussed and weighed against other needs elsewhere, so available funds can be best allocated. Nobody presses for their district at the expense of others; they work together, as they should, for the good of all.

Another trick to squelch democracy: Once they get into office, these charlatans keep up only a pretense of debate between the major parties. In reality, it is a happy compromise. Few are the Barney Franks and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warrens, the genuine statesmen and -women, these days. Most Democrats only go through the motions of reflecting popular sentiment (especially that expressed by the Occupy movement), and they rest content in the knowledge that the Republicans will shoot down any efforts at real reform to the system that that gives them plenty of money and power. And the Republicans do the same, only making feints at pretending to do what they claim to support, knowing the Democrats will help them from making it really happen. It's a "gentleperson's agreement" in effect - the Dems can tell their supporters that they introduced the bills but those dastardly Reps shot the bills down, and the Reps can tell their supporters that, although those dastardly Dems introduced those bills, they, the Reps, bravely shot them down.

Another particularly nefarious nail being driven into the coffin that carries democracy off comes in the guise of religion. Rare is the political candidate who is without a personal religious perspective and membership. But increasingly rare today is the political candidate who thinks holding public office is an opportunity to press home her or his personal religious or ethical views.

I well remember the fear that many citizens expressed when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was running for the presidency, poppycock like that he would be getting his instructions over a hotline connected to the Vatican. Of course all this proved false – because, as former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, another great politician who happens to be Roman Catholic has eloquently explained, the job is to do the will of the people, not to impose one’s personal religious or moral views on everone else.

Thus, unlike some pundits, I have no problem with Mitt Romney being a Mormon. Nor do I have a problem with his being a privileged son of extremely rich, powerful people. Kennedy, too, was the scion of a wealthy, powerful family. But Kennedy stuck to his principles of doing the people’s will for the sake of the people. This is clearly not Romney’s approach; he seems more than ready to impose on the entire country his repugnant political views (or, more likely, those of his plutocrat masters, since he sang a rather different tune as governor of Massachusetts).

But I do have a problem with a system that prevents any serious candidate for political office, no matter how intelligent or qualified, who isn’t extremely wealthy and backed by people even wealthier – especially when these people use political office primarily to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor. It used to be that sons in both rich and poor families apprenticed with their fathers at the same work, to learn the trade and prepare for their own lives as husbands and fathers. Nowadays, only the children of the wealthy have this opportunity; no matter how stupid or unqualified, they can be sure of a cushy do-little job with daddy’s big firm. Mitt Romney is rich purely because daddy was rich; if he had had as much opportunity as you and me, he would be worrying about paying the bills just like the two of us. Nowadays, for those of us who aren't born into the plutocracy, our sons and daughters are lucky to find any work at all, and as parents there is little if anything we can do to help them.

Which brings us to Candidate Rick Santorum (or, as I call him, Sanatorium, because that’s where he belongs). Again, I have no problem with his being Roman Catholic or the pampered son of plutocratic potentates. But I have an immense problem with his selectivity as regards what aspects of his faith to promote publicly, and they are all the “conservative” ones; he ignores the strong Roman Catholic support for the poor and the environment, among other things. That is hypocrisy; who is he to say what is Roman Catholic and what is not?

He forgets that there are two kinds of law: civil and religious. As citizens or residents in whatever country we live in, we are all bound by civil law. As participants in whatever religious expression we espouse (if any), we are over and above the civil law required to obey the dictates of of that religious tradition. No matter what our religious viewpoint, it is not only foolish to impose our particular religious view on others who do not hold it, but an insult to the Deity we claim to venerate to drag the higher, spiritual, covenantal, religious law down to the level of merely human, secular, contractual, very human civil law. It is a blasphemous mistake no matter who does it – whether that person is an “Islamist extremist” as the media put it or a candidate for the presidency.

Santorum declares that anyone he disagrees with is influenced by Satan, and anyone he does agree with has accepted G-d’s will. What he forgets is that G-d gave us free will. That is to say: we may be tempted by evil or motivated to do the right thing by good, but we still choose as individuals for ourselves. Yet Santorum foolishly ascribes his words and actions, and everyone else’s, to either G-d or Satan.

What is more, he is guilty of hubris in assuming he is right, and therefore doing the will of G-d, and that those he disagrees with are wrong and therefore doing the will of Satan. That is not only ego, but idolatry. The truth is, although pretty much every person thinks of her- or himself as right, we can never be sure of our own rectitude, and thus we must constantly examine ourselves to strive to be closer to the good.

Sadder yet, Santorum, like the other Republican candidates, is not, or not merely, espousing his religious views. He is entitled (as far as I am concerned) to espouse any views he wants, no matter how repugnant they may be to me. But he is using religion as a tool, as a talking point, merely to try to win votes. Religion is something within the heart and soul (or it should be), not something used to sell automobiles or insurance policies or political candidates.

Santorum talks about the United States of two centuries ago as a kind of golden age. That is when only white men could vote, when African Americans were slaves, when Native Americans were being systematically exterminated and driven from their own homelands, when Latin Americans were on the very fringes of society. People of his ilk don’t care where dark-skinned or gay or Muslim or liberal people go; they don’t care even if there is no “there” for them to go to – rather, these rightwingnuts just want them to go.

And that is why none of them are fit to serve the people as president. And that is why democracy is dead.

I used to say "vote your conscience", rather than "hold your nose and vote for the least repugnant of the so-called electable candidates". More and more I am thinking it is pointless and worthless to vote. Those bright boys in the pinsuits have already calibrated your vote to make it work for them the way they want, democracy be damned. The only way to stop their evil is to boycott elections and take peaceably to the streets.


Sixteen of my books are now available in E-BOOK format (Kindle, Nook, etc.) at this website. L'un de mes romans est disponible en français, y una de mis novelas está disponible en español.

The same sixteen books are available in uniform, meticulously copyedited and designed, softcover editions as follows.

Across the Silence: Poems of James David Audlin

All You Need (novel)



Rats Live on no Evil Star (novel)

Undr (novel)

Seven Novels of the Last Days Volume I: The Voice of Day

Seven Novels of the Last Days Volume II: The Wings of the Morning

Seven Novels of the Last Days Volume III: The Productions of Time

Seven Novels Of The Last Days Volume IV: A Mirror Filled With Light

Seven Novels of the Last Days Volume V: A Stitch in Time

Seven Novels of the Last Days Volume VI: The Stars Blindly Run

Lives of the Saints (stories)

Mooreeffoc: Stories from This World

The Other: Stories from Elsewhere

The Circle of Life (nonfiction)

Undr (novel)


  1. I think another problem with American political discourse is that it's centered on people representing a certain set of policies, as opposed to wanting the best of everything and figuring out which of whose ideas work the best.

    Plus, a democracy is a bit useless when most people don't know how their own water and electricity infrastructures work, among other things...

  2. One must also wonder whether the American political system was designed taking into account party politics.

  3. Ni hau, Ximen Yu, xie xie! You are absolutely right, and I've incorporated your points. Thank you very much!

  4. In China, leaders had to be proven to know philosophies like Confucius and other Sages, and proven to have practiced those.

  5. Aleikum asalaam, Brother Faried! Yes, that is so - mainly K'ung Fu-tze (Confucius, as his name was Latinized) and Lao-tse (who became Lotius in Latin, by the way), sometimes others such as Chuang-tse and Meng-tse (Mencius).

    This had plusses and minuses. Certainly public servants were well-versed, but there was still a lot of greed, graft, and bribery in the system, as evidenced, for instance, in Shih Nai-an's wonderful novel known best in English as "The Outlaws of the Marsh" and in a heavily truncated translation by Pearl S. Buck as "All Men are Brothers". Furthermore, the system was complex, a huge bureaucracy that took a lot in taxes to run and wasn't particularly efficient overall. And there was a civil examination system not unlike the German "Abitur", and how you did on it basically determined the course of your entire life.