American “Democracy” as a Dead Parrot: Constitutions, Killing Floors, an Unhatched Egg, and Forced Motherhood

Image Source: This image is copyrighted by the BBC – Fair Use

Remarkable bird, id’nit, squire? Lovely plumage!

– Michael Palin in the Monty Python “Dead Parrot Sketch,” December 7, 1969

I shoulda quit you, baby, long time ago
…If I had’a followed, my first mind
I’d a been gone, since my second time…

And I wouldn’t have been here, down on the killin’ floor

– Chester Burnett, aka “Howling Wolf,” 1964

“If you don’t like how things are being done in this country,” a great American gaslighting narrative runs, “it’s your own damn fault because you’ve got the vote. This is a democracy,” the mindf*#k says, “and voting is how majorities get heard in a democracy. When you have the vote, you have the power. If the people don’t like what government is doing, they can vote to change policy.”

“E’s Not Pining, E’s Passed On!”

This patriotic lecture always reminds of the old Monty Python “Dead Parrot” sketch, featuring John Cleese as a dissatisfied customer and Michael Palin as a pet shop owner:

Cleese: I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

Palin: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue…What’s, uh…What’s wrong with it?

Cleese: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. ‘E’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!

Palin: No, no, ‘e’s uh,…he’s resting.

Cleese: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now.

Palin: No he’s not dead, he’s, he’s restin’! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn’it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

Cleese: The plumage don’t enter into it. It’s stone dead.

Palin: Nononono, no, no! ‘E’s resting!

Cleese: All right then, if he’s restin’, I’ll wake him up! (shouting at the cage) ‘Ello, Mister Polly Parrot! I’ve got a lovely fresh cuttle fish for you if you show…

(Palin hits the cage)

Palin: There, he moved!

Cleese: No, he didn’t, that was you hitting the cage!

Palin: I never!!

Cleese: Yes, you did!

Palin: I never, never did anything…

Cleese: (yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly) ‘ELLO POLLY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o’clock alarm call!

(Takes parrot out of the cage and thumps its head on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)

Cleese: Now that’s what I call a dead parrot.

Palin: No, no…..No, ‘e’s stunned!

Cleese: STUNNED?!?

Palin: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin’ up! Norwegian Blues stun easily, major.

Cleese: Um…now look…now look, mate, I’ve definitely ‘ad enough of this. That parrot is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not ‘alf an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein’ tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.

Palin: Well, he’s…he’s, ah…probably pining for the fjords.

Cleese: PININ’ for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got ‘im home?

Palin: The Norwegian Blue prefers keepin’ on it’s back! Remarkable bird, id’nit, squire? Lovely plumage!

Cleese: Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.


Palin: Well, o’course it was nailed there! If I hadn’t nailed that bird down, it would have nuzzled up to those bars, bent ’em apart with its beak, and VOOM! Feeweeweewee!

Cleese: “VOOM”?!? Mate, this bird wouldn’t “voom” if you put four million volts through it! ‘E’s bleedin’ demised!

Palin: No! ‘E’s pining!

Cleese: ‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

“The Wishes of Ordinary Americans Have Little or No Impact”

American “democracy” isn’t just stunned. It’s not resting. It’s not pining for the fiords or the hills of ancient Saxony. It didn’t just move. It’s a stiff. It’s bereft of life.

Don’t be fooled by “the plumage.”

Four in every five US Americans thinks serious gun control legislation should be passed. A vast majority think health insurance should be de-commodified and a made a human right in the US. Most Americans by far support progressive taxation and meaningful government action to reduce economic inequality, reduce the disproportionate influence of money on politics, and meaningfully tackle the runaway climate crisis.

So what? Who cares? None of these opinions and much more that the majority believes determines policy in the US. As the distinguished liberal political scientists Benjamin Page (Northwestern) and Marin Gilens (Princeton) showed in their expertly researched 2017 book Democracy in America?:

“the best evidence indicates that the wishes of ordinary Americans actually have little or no impact on the making of federal government policy.  Wealthy individuals and organized interest groups – especially business corporations – have had much more political clout…[so that] the general public has been virtually powerless…Majorities of Americans favor…programs to help provide jobs, increase wages, help the unemployed, provide universal medical insurance, ensure decent retirement pensions, and pay for such programs with progressive taxes.  Most Americans also want to cut ‘corporate welfare.’ Yet the wealthy, business groups, and structural gridlock have mostly blocked such new policies [and programs].”

Nothing that has taken place in the last five years remotely challenges that judgement. Quite the opposite.

It isn’t just on the political economy issues that Gilens and Page emphasized that the great American “democracy” defies its holy words of democracy with icy deeds of autocracy. Soon – by July 5th at the latest – we will likely see the absurdly right-wing US Supreme Court, which stands for to the Monty Python-esque starboard side of US public opinion, blatantly defy super-majority public support for women’s abortion rights (in Jackson v. Dobbs) and (in New York Pistol and Rifle Association v. Bruen) gun control.

Down on the Constitutional Killing Floors

And it isn’t just because of the political-economic power of concentrated wealth that US-American democracy is a dead parrot. A key finding in the autopsy is the lethal influence of many-sided corporate and financial power. Another part is the undemocratic, minority rule nature of the US constitutional set-up, which drastically overrepresents the nation’s most revanchist and reactionary, fascist, racist, fundamentalist, gun-worshipping and woman-hating sections. The critical slaying forces here include the following:

+ an undemocratic Electoral College system that renders millions of popular presidential votes irrelevant while focusing presidential elections on a small handful of contested states while grossly inflating the electoral power of the nation’s most reactionary regions and states. The loser of the popular vote has been installed via the Electoral College in two of the last six presidential elections – George W. Bush in 2000 (with some openly Orwellian help from the Supreme Court in 2001) and Donald Trump in 2016), with disastrous consequence for the composition of the absurdly powerful US Supreme Court (see below) among other things.

+ strictly time-staggered elections for federal legislative offices and the presidency.

+ an unnecessarily bicameral legislature with an exceptionally powerful upper chamber – the US Senate.

+ a grossly undemocratic and right-leaning Senate apportionment regime that grants each state two representatives (Senators) regardless of population size (If liberal and progressive, multiracial and multi-ethnic California, home to 39,237,836, had the same populace-to Senator ratio as super white, rural, and far-right Wyoming [pop. 578,803, less than 5% of the total population of Los Angeles], it would have 135 US Senators. If the New York City borough of Brooklyn were a state and US Senators were apportioned there with the same populace-to-Senator ratio as red Wyoming, it would have none 9 U.S. Senators.).

+ remarkable freedom for individual states to undemocratically manipulate representation in the more democratically apportioned branch of Congress, the US House of Representatives, and indeed to determine the composition of Electoral College slates in defiance of the popular vote.

+ federalism and states’ rights whereby fifty states possess remarkable autonomous power to make highly relevant policy in defiance of majority national public opinion with their own separate executive, legislative and judicial branches.

+ the awesome autocratic, God-like power of judicial review granted to a presidentially and lifetime appointed and Senate-vetted Simon Says Supreme Court technically/constitutionally free to violate majority opinion on any matter at all.

Let’s look at the Senate’s recent and ongoing conduct. Think of the Congress as a slaughterhouse and the Senate as the aristocratic killing floor of popular, majority-backed supported legislation. The following measures are among a massive slew of stillborn legislation passed by the US House and killed either directly or passively in the absurdly right-wing US Senate: the Build Back Better Act (combining infrastructure spending with social and climate reform), two key voting rights bills (the For the People Act and the John Lewis Act), five anti-discrimination bills (the Equality Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, the American Dream and Promise Act, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act), a bill to grant statehood status to Washington DC (which has a bigger population than two US states), numerous environmental measures, two gun control measures (the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and the Enhanced Background Checks Act), a workplace violence prevention bill, a bill to essentially re-legalize and re-empower union organizing (the Protect the Right to Organize Act), police reform (the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act) and…the list goes on and on.

The absurdly malapportioned Senate naturally failed to convict the fascist maniac Trump after the House impeached him for trying to “legally” and then violently cancel the 2020 presidential election and overthrow the government. As a result, the maniac remains free like Hitler after the Beer Hall Putsch to rally his demented shock troops and base for future lethal assaults on what’s left of American bourgeois democracy.

Meanwhile, as a great majority of US citizens favor significant gun reform including an assault- weapons ban in the wake of the nation’s latest insane uptick in its ongoing epidemic of mass shootings, it is understood that even mild and conservative adjustments in the nation’s gun laws will be shot down in the NRA-captive Republifascist Senate.

(Did I say killing floor? As of this writing on the morning of Monday, June 6, 2022, there have been 33 mass shootings in the US since the AR-15 grade school slaughter that killed 19 students and 2 teachers murdered on May 21, 2022.)

A largely doomed US House gun safety package likely to pass this week would merely “raise the age of purchasing semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, create new requirements for storing guns in a home with children, prevent gun trafficking, require all firearms to be traceable and close the loophole on bump stocks, devices that increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic weapons, among other things.” Republicans, The Virginia Mercury reports, have “raised repeated objections to the bill, blaming mental health problems and a lack of ‘family values’ as the reasons for the recent mass shootings. They criticized Democrats for rushing to pass legislation.”

The dull and centrist Democratic Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) is left to sadly announce that he is “heartbroken to see more lives cut short by gun violence—and I’m determined to act. How,” Kaine asks, “could the Senate—a body that calls itself the greatest deliberative body in the world—see tragedy after tragedy and decide the right answer is ‘we’re going to do nothing’?”

How? By virtue among other things of the nation’s absurdly venerated Constitution, which, as Daniel Lazare noted four years ago, makes it mathematically possible to “cobble together a [Republican] Senate majority with states that account for just 17.6 percent of the popular vote” — just over a sixth of the popular vote form the most right wing white, paranoid, and gun-mad parts of the nation.

Forget the “sausage-making” analogy for US policy. Go back to the beginning of the meatpacking production process. “The body that calls itself the greatest deliberative body in the world” is in fact an authoritarian, rotten-borough killing floor dedicated now in the Trump era to the white-nationalist murder of what’s left of American bourgeois democracy. Think of the House of Representatives (almost certain to be retaken by the Republifascist Party this coming fall) as Michael Palin nudging the dead parrot’s cage and telling John Cleese “look, it moved!”

With a far-right swing majority constitutionally appointed by a president who ascended to the White House after losing the popular vote and approved by an absurdly malapportioned Senate, the Supreme Court is another great democracy killing floor. It is in place not merely to veto potential, well, doomed contemporary liberal and progressive legislation coming up from the briefly Democratic House but to veto longstanding liberal and progressive legislation and human and social rights. Provisionally backed by the entire far-right 5-4 majority created by three Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell appointments, right-wing Justice Sam Alito’s draft decision overturning Roe v Wade and thereby re-imposing the bondage of forced motherhood is an assault on all liberal and progressive legal precedent in the nation’s history. As lead CounterPuncher Jeffrey St. Clair has brilliantly noted:

“Overturning Roe is just the first thread pulled in what will be a much greater unraveling, which will take place over the next decade Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs. v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which wipes away a fundamental right to bodily autonomy and sets the groundwork for abolishing dozens of other personal rights… We’re seeing a deeply reactionary ideological agenda come to fruition and the Alito Court (I guess we should call it that now) is going to be the wrecking ball that smashes any legal impediments to its completion. The fact that it has taken place even as the rightwing has repeatedly lost the popular vote in national elections shows how broken our political system is…Alito’s draft opinion declares that like the right to an abortion, the right to marry a person of a different race (Loving v. Virginia), the right to contraception (Griswald v. Connecticut), and the right not to be forcibly sterilized (Skinner v. Oklahoma) and the right to gay marriage (Obergfell v. Hodges), are all ‘phony rights’ that lack ‘any claim to being deeply rooted in history’…With lifetime appointments and no ethical standards, the Court holds itself accountable to no one, not Congress, the executive or even its own lax set of rules. With a super-majority of ideological clones that may exist for a decade or more, the current court is poised to become the most authoritarian branch of government. Soon it will be working in tandem with a rightwing Congress, at which point history itself will begin to run in fast-reverse, the only avenue of resistance left to us being public ridicule and humiliation of its members and open defiance to its decisions.”

As St. Clair points out, the Democrats failed numerous previous opportunities to codify Roe v. Wade – abortion rights – as national law: “But they didn’t want to in large measure because the threat of Roe being overturned was a huge fundraising machine for them and one of the few reasons to vote for otherwise awful candidates” run by “this pathetic bunch of neoliberal losers…” Very true, though we must not let the insane constitutional order off the hook. The plutocratic campaign finance mechanisms that do so much to turn the Dems into a big sad club of corporate imperialist clowns have been given full carte blanche by the God-like Court in two key decisions (Buckley v. Valeo 1976 and Citizens United 2010). Big money runs elections cuz constitutional Simon Supremes Say. And the Supremes are free to invalidate federal legislation, including a codified abortion rights bill, in the name of judicial review.

“The People,” Who “Secretly Sigh for a More Equal Distribution,” Must “Be Taught…They are unable to Govern Themselves”

As my previous subtitle suggests, all of this autocratic madness bears the living imprint of the nation’s 18th Century Founders – the militantly propertarian, racist, and sexist slaveowners, gentry, and merchant capitalists for whom democracy and popular sovereignty were the ultimate nightmares. Their still-revered national charter from the days of Louis XVI was brilliantly crafted precisely to make sure that the power of the propertyless and property-poor majority would be checked and balanced at every turn in accord with the needs and prerogatives of those deemed most qualified to make policy: the propertied elite and its loyal publicists and politicos.

It’s darky amusing that pointing this out is considered controversial by right-wing scolds who lecture us on the need to “study the Founders.” Study them indeed! Drawn from the elite propertied segments in the new nation, most of the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention shared their compatriot John Jay’s view that “Those who own the country ought to govern it.” As the celebrated U.S. historian Richard Hofstader noted in his classic 1948 text, The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It: “In their minds, liberty was linked not to democracy but to property.” Democracy was a dangerous concept to them, conferring “unchecked rule by the masses,” which was “sure to bring arbitrary redistribution of property, destroying the very essence of liberty.”

Protection of “property” (meaning the people who owned large amounts of it) was “the main object of government” for all but one of the U.S. Constitution’s framers (James Wilson), as constitutional historian Jennifer Nedelsky has noted. The non-affluent, non-propertied and slightly propertied popular majority was for the framers what Nedelsky calls “a problem to be contained.”

Democracy – the rule of the majority – was the last thing the nation’s holy Founders wanted to see break out in their new republic. Anyone who doubts this should read The Federalist Papers, written by the leading advocates of the U.S. Constitution to garner support for their preferred form of national government in 1787 and 1788. In Federalist No. 10, James Madison argued that democracies were “spectacles of turbulence … incompatible with … the rights of property.” Democratic governments gave rise, Madison felt, to “factious leaders” who could “kindle a flame” among dangerous masses for “wicked projects” like “abolition of debts” and “an equal division of property. … Extend the [geographic] sphere [of the U.S. republic],” Madison wrote, and it becomes “more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength and act in union with each other.”

At the Constitutional Convention, Madison backed an upper U.S. legislative assembly (the Senate) of elite property holders meant to check a coming “increase of population” certain to “increase the proportion of those who will labour under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings” [emphasis added]. “These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former.”

In Federalist No. 35, the future first U.S. secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, argued that the common people found their proper political representatives among the small class of wealthy merchant capitalists. “The idea of an actual representation of all classes of people by persons of each class,” Hamilton wrote, “is altogether visionary.” The “weight and superior acquirements of the merchants render them more equal” than the “other classes,” Hamilton proclaimed. Someone tell that ridiculous musically challenged identity-inverter Lin-Manuel Miranda!

In Hofstader’s 1948 account, the New England clergyman Jeremy Belknap captured the fundamental idea behind the Founders’ curious notion of what they liked to call “popular government.” “Let it stand as a principle,” Belknap wrote to an associate, “that government originates from the people, but let the people be taught…that they are unable to govern themselves.”

Madison, Hamilton, Jay, – think of them and their ruling class ilk as highly skilled knifemen on the pre-Thermidorian killing and cutting floors of the US fake-democratic slaughterhouse.

We should of walked off their “constitutional” killing floors a long time ago.

The Founding Fathers are deeply complicit in the attempted return of forced motherhood. We shoulda quit them a long time ago.

An Eagle Egg that Never Hatched, a Gift Horse, and Parrots That Can’t Stop Gaslighting

Perhaps readers still with me with have already sensed the central through deliberate flaw in my Monty Python analogy. The deceased bird in the Dead Parrot Sketch is a full-grown parrot: it was once alive and grew to maturity. Not so the bird of American democracy. It was an eagle egg that never quite hatched – and was never supposed to. That was the point of America’s distinctive “bourgeois revolution,” which was driven in no small part by North American ruling class anger at the limits England was putting on the new “democracy’s” freedom to slaughter Native Americans and expand Black chattel slavery.

The astonishing durability of the aristo-republican and propertarian charter that emerged from that “revolution” (or national proto-capitalist break-off and slaveowners’ secession from England) shows that the modern corporate era and world-imperial US ruling class has known an historical gift horse when it sees one. Among the United States’ claims to “exceptionalism” it can include failure to make a new Constitution – the blueprint for what the bumbling neoliberal idiot Joe Biden moronically calls “a system of governance that’s been the envy of the world for more than 240 years” – across its entire life. It’s a very rare and dubious accomplishment.

Another amazingly durable phenomenon: the willingness of a vast army of 21st century American politicos, pundits, and reporters to continue shrilly chattering like trained parrots on how the American capitalist-imperialist oligarchy and autocracy is “the world’s greatest democracy.” That’s gaslighting on an epic scale.

Lovely plumage on the Norwegian Blue, eh?

Savio Says: One Monday Down, Four to Go, Shut This System Dow if They Overturn Roe

Yes, there have been great popular and democratic accomplishments in the US “national experience.” They were not achieved mainly via the ballot, however. Name the modern social reform that merits applause and defense in American history: the outlawing of child labor, the minimum wage, union organizing rights, workers’ compensation, legal desegregation, Social Security, environmental and consumer protections, right to an abortion. None of these things were gained simply by voting. They were won through mass popular resistance and disruption: strikes, marches, sit-ins, sit-downs, occupations, work stoppages, social movements and movement cultures beneath and beyond the quadrennial big money major party candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas that are sold to us as “politics” – the only politics that matters. The franchise itself – the right to vote – was through mass popular disturbance. The abolition of slavery and the achievement of Black citizenship was won only through an epic Civil War in which Black masses took up arms against their owners.

Would a decent human vote to keep degenerate lunatics and fascists like Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump out of the world’s most dangerous job? Sure, for two minutes, but with the understanding that what matters far more is what you after those two minutes[1]. That is American and indeed world history 101. It’s not just about who’s sitting in the White House, the Courts, the legislatures, and the suites. It’s about who’s sitting in the public squares, the town halls, the workplaces and the streets. If you want to stop the autocratic re-enslavement of woman and girls in this so-called democracy, for example, you should get militant and, yes, revolutionary right now, not later – right now, before and not after the coming decision. It’s a Mario Savio moment:

“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

Go with what Savio and the CIO packinghouse union said, not with what the Simon Supremes Say. Shut down the killing floors. Stop the kill and cutting rooms, and the whole plant goes down. Which brings me to a slogan just I cooked up after learning that the Supreme Court (which rules on Mondays and who has until July 5th to hand down its current decisions) did not yet reverse Rose v. Wade this morning (Monday, June 6, 2002): One Monday down, four to go, shut this system down if they overturn Roe![1]

Maybe it should be “shut this company,” I mean “this country” (my bad!) “down if they overturn Roe.”

Postscript: “As Things are Now”

I can already see readers’ eyes rolling over my use of the word “if.” Yes, the reversal of Roe seems more than a little likely. Still, the threat of truly mass resistance, which needs to be demonstrated before the actual decision, might change calculations in the minds of right-wing Court members who have real concerns about their institutional legitimacy. (I’d like to think they could care less about the disruption of business as usual, but my guess is they don’t with a Democrat in the White House the small democratic majorities in Congress. They likely believe that mass disruption would help their party in the mid-terms.) In any event, a decision reversing Roe – whose survival is supported by at least two-thirds of the US population – will spark mass outpourings and needs to be seized upon by non-armchair progressives, and leftists as a deeply instructive event illustrating not just the obvious awfulness of the now fascist Republican Party but (a) the longtime neoliberal nothingness and right-wing complicity of the neoliberal Democrats and, I think even more importantly, (b) the utterly bankrupt, autocratic, and minority rule nature of the ridiculous Biden’s “system of governance that has been the envy of the world for over 240 years.”

Effective post-decision education and organizing along these lines should start before and not after the ruling on Jackson v. Dobbs. The ubiquitous liberal and even left mindset of “oh, the people will come out if the right wing does something as outrageous as that” must be retired. Americans must get it through their heads: the rightmost of the nation’s two viable and capitalist political organizations has gone fascist and is playing for keeps. It’s going to do one outrageous thing after another from now own. Waiting until it steals basic rights and elections before taking to the streets and public squares is a fools’ game. It’s an excuse for surrender – for doing nothing in the present moment under the cover of a promised future action that comes too late.

Also worth noting: the chances that the Democrats will buck history and use horrible Supreme Court decisions on abortion and gun rights to keep Congress are extremely low. Inflation is both combining with and fueling Biden’s extremely low approval rating and the very high percentage of Americans who say that “the country is on the wrong track” to almost guarantee a Republifascist takeover of the legislative branch in November.

One of the Democrats’ key functions in the class rule system it upholds is to keep the masses off the streets and to channel the people’s political aspirations and hopes into the coffin-like confines of the bourgeois ballot box. That is the Democrats’ key assignment in the ruling class’s internal division of labor. Watch them and their allied “pro-choice” groups (led by Planned Parenthood and NARAL) do everything they can to “sheepdog” popular anger into the doomed venue of major party big money candidate-centered electoral politics if and after Roe is butchered on the high Court killing floor. The Women’s March and Indivisible sorts will bring out their pink hats (adding some Ukrainian war flags perhaps) to “One [or maybe two] and Done” mass protests meant not to challenge the insane dominant order but to turn everything into a big conservative Get Out the Vote effort for the inauthentic opposition party of Hollow Resistance. For a different sort of real people’s movement politics beneath and beyond the “killing confines” of ruling class electoral politics, sign up NOW with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights.

In the meantime, some words of wisdom from the left historian and journalist Thomas, reflect among other things on my own prior and voluminous effort to move people off worship of “our” toxic constitutional plumage:

‘One would think with so many issues now being corralled into the “intractable” category because of the very forces you often cite — the constitution and the entire political map so tilted as to be irrecoverably undemocratic (even by the standards the Democrats themselves use) — there would come a reckoning in which millions of erstwhile Democrats see their idea of the good life as impossible with the system as it is. And these are not explicitly “class” issues (though many of them actually are “class” issues); they are everyday life issues (not getting shot at a grocery store or your kid getting murdered at school, or the right to control your own body, etc.); everyday life issues that are now being made impossible by the current political dispensation. And the Democrats have no solution because it goes to the core of who they are (a la Jamie Raskin). They talk about passing legislation “codifying” Roe v. Wade. Well, SCOTUS has the authority to declare the legislation unconstitutional. Only way Roe v. Wade could be truly “codified” is with an amendment to the constitution, as was the case with the Civil Rights Amendments of the Civil War era. As things are now, an amendment is impossible (for the reasons you frequently cite), and of course the only way the Civil rights Amendments were ratified was with civil war.’

Civil war it may be.


+1. Howard Zinn in March of 2008, as electoral Obamania swept the land, polluting the minds even of self-declared leftists (e.g. “Marxist Obamanist” Carl Davidson) with risible neoliberal delusion: “Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth. But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.” There are 2,102,400 minutes in four non-leap years. Let’s generously say that voting takes you 60 minutes including transportation and fixing your special Election Day hair and make-up. 60 divided by 2,102,400 = 0.00002853881. That’s a pretty minor participation in “our” supposed “democracy.” And that’s without even getting into the choices on the ballot and how policy gets made and so on.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).