Real platitudes from a fake democracy — and a sigh of relief

joebiden 4

Trump is gone and not a minute too soon. You know he’s treated very unfairly. Horribly. The IRS treats him very unfairly. Everyone’s nasty to him. Just recently Leslie Stahl was very nasty to him.

At the same time, the Proud Boys are standing down and standing by. I have to wonder if there aren’t some that cringe and wish he would 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 backward-looking Republican Party is still here, odds on favorite for Senate control, picking up seats in the House, and still controlling state legislatures. Its banner (MAGA) may have to 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? A lot of hope is being placed in the Biden administration. The hardest part is over. It’s here. The comparison says enough.

We have to come together as Americans, meaning, at a minimum, to cease threats of violence. The Biden administration will be closely observed. He’s here because Trump is not. 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. The big battle will be between parties, the smaller within his own. The job of progressives is, as always, to hold the president’s feet to the fire.

The Republican and Democratic Parties have their differences, but on one thing they are in complete agreement. They are both capitalist parties. 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, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blacklists and boycotts anyone doing business with left-leaning primary challengers to moderate and conservative sitting Democrats.

The party has to face a fledgeling left popularly inspired by Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialists of America, the young female guns in Congress, the Green Party, 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 degradation.

You see, too much agreement can be unhealthy. Just recently we were all Americans when we launched an illegal invasion of Iraq and took over the country. We are all Americans when we arm Saudi Arabia and Israel to remake the Middle East, when we attempt to remove Venezuela’s president, when we bomb countries on humanitarian grounds, and when we block imports of essentials and medicine to a target country.

Political leadership is first about getting the population to agree, and last about actually involving it. All may be Americans but few are participants. America first and God bless America, but there are always real policies hiding behind patriotic sentiments and appeals to the angels.

And, to the point, if there’s one thing we can’t take from this presidential election (or any other), it is that we are all Americans. Sure, the party with the most popular votes won this time, but what we learned, once again, is that we are Californians, New Yorkers, Nebraskans, and Iowans. We are Virginians, Floridians, Vermonters, and Texans. We do not vote for the president as Americans in a clearly 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. Using words of Renate Reeves-Ellington (because I can’t find better ones), “the two documents served different and not overlapping purposes.

“The Declaration of Independence is a promotional and sales document written to solicit widespread support for separation from [Great Britain], whereas the Constitution was a document to create exclusive social and political power for the founders…That required creating a constitution that embedded the existing social hierarchy in stone”.

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, of New York State, writes on U.S. social and foreign policy.
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