A Reverence for Democracy

With a noun as vaguely defined as “democracy”, it's not surprising to find a wide variety of attitudes toward the concept.

I hope that every American schoolchild is still introduced to Lincoln's “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. But there's also Homer Simpson's “When will people learn—democracy doesn't work?”.

A more nuanced view, perhaps, is that offered in Robert Anton Wilson's essay Who's In Charge Here? (which introduced The Illuminati Conspiracy, by Donald Holmes):

Democratic theory is beautiful and inspirational, but has nothing to do with the actual situation of the domesticated primates on this boondocks planet.

Currently in the news are four stories that portray the various attitudes of the US government toward democracy:

  • In Iraq, the administration's claims that the invasion's purpose was to establish a democracy are being tested. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who's demanding elections as opposed to caucuses, recently provoked a demonstration estimated by British observers to be close to a hundred thousand people; then a few days later made a conciliatory gesture in agreeing in advance to accept a United Nations judgement on whether elections are possible in the time available.
  • Members of the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council are proposing a variety of plans for the passing of control from US to Iraqi hands. These plans, like those for caucuses, have in common at least one factor: they all keep some power in the hands of IGC members, few of whom have any real chance to win elections.
  • In Iran, the conservative Guardians Council has barred 3,000 reformist candidates from running in the upcoming elections, leading Iraqi students to claim that “There is no possibility of fair and free elections”. Their pro-democracy group Office for Fostering Unity may have an insight into the American political system as well as their own when it proclaims:
    Considering that people's vote has no affect on the establishment, and there is no way to hold fair and free elections, there is no justification for people to participate in this election.
  • Back in the US, we have issues with elections, whether it's city workers being ordered to assist in a political campaign in San Francisco, or big-name TV interviewers trying to cause domestic discord.

These cases all illustrate the basic conservative nature of power: those in power tend to try to hold on to it. Duh. What makes them interesting is that, being contemporaneous, they also illustrate the level of commitment the US government has to democracy (“beautiful and inspirational, but...”).

But also contemporaneous, or nearly so, is an article from Pat Buchanan, the former Presidential candidate and speechwriter for Nixon, who says, about the war in Iraq, that

how we were persuaded to go to war raises grave questions about the character and competence of those who led us into it.

He lists the reasons given by the administration for going to war, and examines the methods used to generate the so-called facts used to back up those reasons:

Upon such "evidence," the White House stampeded Congress and the country into war, a war we now know was utterly unnecessary. We were misled, and the only question that lingers is: Were we deceived?

Happily, George W. Bush has cheated so baldly that he has enemies on his right as well as his left. The National Guard flap has not yet produced evidence that Shrub broke the law, but he certainly got away with a lot of cheating, and certainly did not demonstrate the courage of his convictions, if any. I've seen a number of quotes from people involved in the question of whether Bush's Guard files were scrubbed to remove incriminating evidence, who say that they voted for him last time, but they're not pleased with him now, and they haven't decided who to vote for this time.

Then there's the question of why he had to get a new driver's license number.

But in the end, the real issue is not whether George W. Bush is a crook, any more than it was for Nixon. Everyone knows he's a crook. The question is, will people actually rouse themselves to go to the polls and vote against him? I mean, you and I will, but what about the people in Montana and Missouri and Mississippi?

It appears that John Kerry has the nomination in his grasp at this point, and one thing that gives Democrats is a non-scary candidate. Apparently most Americans are so easily frightened that the tape of Dean's scream, which the media played something like six hundred times in a week, scared them (though people who were in the room say you could barely hear him at the time). Personally, I was more scared by the fact that he tried to claim the high ground because he opposed the Iraq war but supported Bush I's Gulf War, while Kerry did the opposite.

In any case, the right is already trying to portray Kerry as a wild-eyed liberal, and anti-military. This is the depth to which they are forced by the fact that, as one Bush supporter said, while Kerry was in fighting in Vietnam, his guy (Bush) was in Alabama drinking beer.

As Jerry Bowles says:

So the Republican strategy for November is clear. They're going to focus squarely on the issues: John Kerry is a commie, faggot-loving, gun-hating baby killer. Not only that, he was the really driving the car the night that Mary Jo and Teddy went off the Chappaquiddick bridge. That was a "dike" bridge, wasn't it?

When in trouble, always reach for the classy stuff. Paging Willie Horton.

I'm not so sure that "Dukakizing" is going to work this time around. For one thing, Kerry is tall and looks good in a tank. For another, he has been a presence--granted a rather boring one--on the national scene for a long time. He doesn't scare people. His voting record is varied enough that he is hard to pin down.

A few months ago I said on this site that I couldn't vote for Kerry. Although I stand by the criticism I made then, I now believe I can bring myself to vote for him:

  • Like everyone else, I want Bush out, and am willing to sacrifice something to get that. I'm not willing to vote for Clark or Lieberman or Gore, but I am willing to vote for Kerry.
  • As compared with Dean, who was right when Kerry wrong on the most recent Bush war against Iraq, Kerry looks bad. But then you look at the previous Bush war against Iraq, and Kerry was against that one. So Dean doesn't beat him on the numbers—they're each right once and wrong once.
  • By nominating Kerry, and doing so without the circular firing squad for which Democrats are famous, the party presents the public with a candidate who's not vulnerable to the standard Republican scare tactics, which means people who worry about whether Bush cheated on his National Guard service have a comfortable alternative.
  • Kerry did hold hearings on the guns-for-drugs trades during the Reagan administration and on BCCI, “bank of crooks and criminals”, not to mention intelligence agencies. He does know what's going on. The question is, as a member of Skull and Bones, is he for what's going on, or against it? Will he work to rein in the secret government, or is he an instrument of it?

All I can say at this point is, I don't think Shrub has a realistic chance of being elected in November. (Is there an emoticon for finger-crossing?)

You're welcome to use this form for private as well as public comments; but if you don't want your comments posted to this site, please say so explicitly. As far as I know, this form works in every case, unless you're running XP (and if so, why?). If you have problems with this form, send your comment to count_belisarius@earthlink.net.

All fields are optional.