Real Platitudes from a Fake Democracy

Trump is out and not a minute too soon. His current intransigence can be expressed in syllogism form, beginning with a faulty premise. I cannot lose a fair election; I lost; The election was not fair.

You know he’s treated very unfairly. Horribly. The IRS treats him very unfairly. Everyone in the press is nasty to him. Just recently Leslie Stahl was very nasty to him.

Meanwhile, with notable irony, the Proud Boys are standing back and standing by. I have to wonder if there aren’t some of them that cringe a little and wish he would “man up”, just go outside and pick up a stick or something.

But he’s not a loser. Everyone else is. Losing is for losers. Total losers. And he’s not little. Or small. Or tiny.

So yeah, he’s gone but the reactionary Republican Party is still here, not losing Senate control, picking up seats in the House, and still controlling state legislatures. Its banner (MAGA) should come in for a nomenclature change. America has never been great for blacks (heard at a rally).

Good news! Fascism is not just for Europeans. It’s for us too. As Webster’s puts it: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” Are we close?

Now we get four years of a Biden administration. It’s here because the voting was more anti-Trump than pro-Biden, so it will be very closely observed. There’s much to be undone, basically why he was elected. As to that and what new things may emerge, we’ll see soon enough. There will be the usual conflict between opposing parties, but the more telling one is within his own.

From the perspective of the Democratic Party, the down-slate results were dismal, loosing seats in the House and failing to gain control of the Senate. Now it has Georgia on its mind. What are the chances of picking up both Senate seats, and gaining control, in the upcoming runoff elections?

I’ll say it doesn’t figure to happen, but it’s not a hunch nor is it due to any significant analysis of voter sentiment. It’s the mathematics used in probability theory to determine the likelihood of compound events.

We don’t have to know in advance what the specific probabilities are in each runoff. We can use an heuristic approach by assuming a probability. If each Democrat had a 66 ⅔ chance of winning (a very healthy margin), then the odds would still be against both of them winning. The math is, ⅔ x ⅔ = 4/9 = 44% chance of winning both.

The mathematics are exact and enable a judgment under uncertainty, point being that an unexpected actualization of the events (underdog winning) cannot undermine the exactitude of the judgment prior to it.

Nancy Pelosi, figurehead for establishment Democrats, is sure as she can be that progressives are to blame for the poor down-slate results for being anti-police and pro Black Lives Matter (the police targets), and are to blame as well for the over-zealousness of their idealistic positions. Their out of place progressiveness. Misplaced in her party.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, figurehead for House anti-establishment progressives, can only point to social and economic justice positions that the majority of the country supports, like every single swing-state Democrat who endorsed Medicare for All winning re-election, and every single swing-state Democrat who opposed it losing re-election. Well, who are you going to believe?

The Medicare for All idea ripened before the 2008 election when Obama, as a candidate, said it was the only way to go. When he was put into a position where he could actually do something about it, he owned up to his previous position — not being a fluent liar like Trump — hedging that it would be the way to go if only we were starting from scratch. This is logically equivalent to flatly saying that it will never happen, because you only start from scratch once.

This is hardly a battle for the soul of the party. Where would you look for it? Location services were turned off a long time ago with the party’s betrayal of the working class. Perhaps a lingering scent could be picked up in the pages of the Wall St. Journal.

The Republican and Democratic Parties do have their differences, but on one thing they are in complete agreement. They are both capitalist parties, deeply indebted to corporate donors and dedicated to the continuance of American militarism. We are cynically assured that we are all Americans living in a model democracy, yet we are kept out of the decision making process, even where there is clear majority opinion. Nothing happens without the approval of one of the two ruling party leaderships. There is no cohesive left opposition.

The rightwing Republicans comically label the center right Democrats “leftist radicals”, while the Democrats, content to let Republicans define them, caution their office holders and aspirants to avoid progressive positions. More than that, just recently the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blacklisted and boycotted anyone doing business with left-leaning primary challengers to moderate and conservative sitting Democrats.

The intra-party battle facing the Democrats takes the form of a nascent but still disorganized left, popularly inspired by Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialists of America, the young female guns in Congress, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and a string of other small people’s movements sharing common grievances against racial and social injustice, income and wealth disparity, indebtedness, health and housing disparity, police brutality, militarism, nuclear proliferation and ecological environment degradation.

You see, political leadership is first about getting the population to agree but too much agreement can be unhealthy. In 2003 we were all Americans when we launched an illegal invasion of Iraq, killing, maiming, and torturing Iraqis for their own good. We are all Americans whenever we defend ourselves from foreigners in the foreigner’s land, when we arm Saudi Arabia and Israel to keep the Middle East safe for western capitalism, when we punish whistleblowers for revealing government crimes, when we bomb countries on humanitarian grounds, and when we back rightwing and military dictatorships in the name of fighting “communism”.
All may be Americans but few are participants. Much heard about are American Exceptionalism and God Bless America, but there are always real policies hiding behind patriotic sentiments and appeals to the angels.

It’s always a good time to question the platitudes about Americanism and democracy. We don’t exist at a national political level. That’s states’ rights, a holdover from slavery, and, with it, the electoral college with its twin party support insuring that Americans don’t even vote for president in a democratic way.

But this is nothing that would surprise our country’s founders who recoiled at the possibility of a majority ruling over a minority, and took pains to prevent it. Not that this is unique to our state. What is unique is the singular way the United States claims to be the embodiment of democracy on the world stage, and the way in which Americans confuse democracy with whatever the United States does.

Do a careful reading of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States and look for the word, democracy. You won’t find it.

The Declaration of Independence does have some interesting clauses within it…”governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it…”. This pays homage to democratic principle, although it turns out its purpose was single-use.

The Constitution places exclusive political power in the hands of the wealthy and codifies the existing social hierarchy. That’s elites at the top, followed by white propertied men (land and slaves), then other white men, then women and children with few legal rights, and then slaves and the indigenous with no rights at all. Worth contemplating when Supreme Court Justices position themselves as “originalist” thinkers in constitutional matters. More worrying is that a good part of the country could live with this. Interesting times.

James Rothenberg can be reached at: