I woke up to feelings of despair and disillusionment. I’m slow; I’ve lived my whole life with this idea that we live in a nation of laws, and I’ve been comfortable with the idea that I’ve been treated fairly by them. I’ve been able to face the fact that not everything goes my way with an appreciation of the fact that we have to accommodate hundreds of millions of different points of view. So Ronald Reagan got elected, I was horrified and knew he was a disaster for the country, but I could at least feel that he got there through a fair and equitable democratic process, and that we could work within the system to curb Republican excesses (and obviously, that it was just for them to work through the system to curb what they considered Democratic excesses). Rule of law. Checks and balances. Democracy. Everyone working together, sometimes in opposition, sometimes in concert. What a beautiful…fantasy.
It felt like something snapped in my head overnight, and the whole fabric of lies tumbled down. I don’t believe any of that any more. I can’t. The whole concept is at war with a deeper value, the importance of evidence and reason, and the evidence is all saying “No!”
The first cracks appeared with the appointment of George W. Bush to the presidency by the Supreme Court. That was not fair. We can’t pretend the court is impartial anymore — it’s been warped strongly by ideologues serving political factions (and the historians will tell me that’s always been the case, I’m just saying I can’t ignore it anymore), and has been shaped specifically by one side to favor archaic conservative views that do not reflect the will of the people at all. It has become a tool to strip power from the people and hand it over to the wealthy, and it’s in the process of being made worse.
Congress has become an object of contempt. Everyone expects it to be the domain of self-serving nincompoops, where incompetence is the rule, and our representatives now work only in the all-consuming process of raising obscene amounts of money for their re-election campaigns, and most of that money comes from rich special interest groups who will obligingly write legislation for their pet figureheads. Both parties do it, but the Republicans have taken venality to a new high, and have prospered for it.
And then, there’s the executive branch. You can’t witness the elevation of Donald Trump, a shambling, lying, illiterate boob of a man, and not lose all faith in representative democracy. He won by the favor of the electoral college, not the popular vote, and do you all remember the defenses of that at the time? It’s a relic from 200+ years ago, but it’s important that we abide by the rule of law (not that there’s been any significant effort to change obsolete laws since). We were fed pious declarations that the college was there to halt at the last minute any errors that would have put a manifestly incompetent person in charge. I don’t think that worked at all.
The system is broken. Totally broken. And it’s getting worse.
The Kavanaugh nomination is simply the last straw. Here is a man whose only qualifications are that far-right fanatics have selected him as representative of their views, and congress has rushed him through a meaningless process, hiding his record from critics, and even as it’s revealed that he was a selfish, uncaring thug, a blackout drunk who assaulted women, it has become apparent that none of it matters, that he’s going to be approved along party lines. The whole review process is a sham.
It’s not just the head that has rotted. The system is corrupt at every level. Your school boards are packed with religious bigots who hate science, and are doing their damnedest to wreck education. You want to know how to get such awful people elected to the highest positions in the land? Make sure the electorate is ignorant. Poison their minds at the earliest age.
And don’t get me started on the police. Does anyone trust Officer Friendly? That was a lie we were indoctrinated with as children, but now it’s clear that Officer Friendly was attending KKK rallies in their spare time, and that now they’ll bust into your apartment and murder you, and that they conveniently carry around toy guns to drop on the bodies of the children they kill so they can claim self-defense. The one thing you can trust is that when you are murdered by a cop, they will thoroughly dig into your background to find a post-hoc justification for the execution.
I don’t think it’s just Monday. I think I failed life when I didn’t raise the black flag and riot against the goddamn rotten system in oh, about 1980, and 2018 is way too late.
So now what? I don’t know.
Doubting Thomas says
Yeah. I have days like that too.
Ed Seedhouse says
“Rule of Law” has always been an illusion to me. The laws are obviously made by people (mostly men) aren’t they? If we have a constitution the laws in that constitution are obviously made by people (mostly men), aren’t they? Isn’t that just obvious?
I believe strongly that democracy is inherently inhuman – as in, it is a system which asks everyone in it to perform in ways beyond human capability. Democracy needs each and every one of us to be informed in many different fields (education, health, foreign relations, gender studies etc.) on top of our daily jobs, spending time with our family, having hobbies etc. Then, based on our accumulated knowlegde, we are supposed to make the wise choice and vote for someone who is able to put his own welfare behind that of a nation.
Basically, it is a ridiculous idea. A pipe-dream.
And yet I still believe in it. I try to vote for the candidate who is most likely going to help the greatest number of people, save the environment, curb the excesses of capitalism and combat corruption within the system that helped him get his job. Because, honestly, what is the alternative? The rule of the ‘wise men’? This will only end in oligarchical systems comparable to those we already got. A strong leader with a singular vision? Please, I am German. Just go away.
Democracy is inhumanely hard on those who live within it, especially if it is undermined by lobbyists, corrupt officials and hate groups that want to topple the system – whether from within or without. The only thing to do is to keep fighting, to keep striving for that ideal. Because it is not a perfect system, but it is the best we got.
you’re right. reagan was first. and he lied to congress about iran contra, remember him with his hand to his ear can’t hear the reporters questions over the copter noise? and then bush 41 with his 1st oil war in iraq, then bush 43 with his 2 iraq oil war, supposed to cost 98billion and last six months. now we have the orange ferret wearing treason weasel. and you cannot say that we have had an honest congress or senate since bush 43
What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says
There are always more straws. They have an infinite supply of straws, to break the backs of an infinite number of camels.
Being Mexican American I’ve always suspected rule of law was an illusion.
I heard stories as a kid about how the Texas Rangers murdered us.
Another thing is, laws can be evil. Living in Michigan, I was not directly effected by segregation laws, but my parents’ interracial marriage would have been illegal in Virginia until I was 12 years old.
You think revolution is better? Try a Cultural Revolution on for size. Instead of teaching your classes, you could be out in a field picking corn.
I’ve been watching The Vietnam War, and it constantly reminds me that we’ve been in worse places than this and we got through. Left-wing radicals bombing buildings and rioting in the streets? National guardsmen shooting campus protestors? A president who lied – yes, LIED – to the American people? (OK, not so much that last one…)
You keep pointing at the republicans as the source of evil. The democratic party is right wing. The republican party is far to the right. Neither party represents Americans. About 3/4 of democrats and over 1/2 of republicans favor all of Bernie’s planks if nobody tells them they were associated Bernie. Most of the population is to the left of both parties. But because we’re so locked into the idea of “the lesser of two evils” we can’t escape their shared control on the behalf of the donor class. I’m sure there’s some parallel with xians who don’t really believe in god but are too locked into nonsense like Pascal’s wager to leave the church. Because both are examples of humans being exploited by very human means.
Duth Olec says
Rule of law should be an illusion that keeps awful people from being selfish, murderous monsters. What’s happened is the selfish, murderous monsters realized it’s an illusion and that they can use that illusion to make normal people allow them to be selfish, murderous monsters.
Whether this has always been the case and the original lawmakers were selfish, murderous monsters, or if they were shortsighted and misguided and created laws that couldn’t handle the selfish, murderous monsters from taking control of the narrative illusion, is a moot point. We need an entire overhaul of the whole system.
But that is not something that I would know how to start, see through, complete, or create–at any level, whether it’s actually beginning the process of overhauling it, actually overhauling it, or what we actually want to overhaul it to, which is even more important than the actual starting of the process. Furthermore, as a human, I can’t guarantee that if someone else, one person or even a group of people, had a good idea, that I would be 100% certain I can tell if their ideas would actually succeed in making a proper, functioning system, or if it would result in something even worse because they’re actually selfish, murderous monsters who are good at disguising that.
But the status quo ain’t gonna work. I know that, at least.
I comfort myself by reading older history. The fig leafs they use now are 2-5% unemployment, the end of most contagious disease, and almost no starvation at all (don’t read about Yemen, it’s genocide, but you know, people can see it, it might stop).
The crashes are, well, less bad than those of the 19th century, most countries now try to soften the blow, where it used to be a point of pride not to. Employment conditions are, well, falling, but still well above even the 1920s, where dying on the job was just normal, those guys riding up on the girders didn’t actually have any choice and any slip was them hiring your replacement the same day. Getting mutilated in a factory job was … well, old men with all their fingers were a strange sight.
When my father started in farming, he mentioned to an old guy, that the heading machines hurt a lot of people, seemed terribly dangerous, the old guy regaled him with a list of his friends had died working with the horses that preceded them. Draft horses tore people up all the time, and having a leg crushed or ribs broken would just kill you. He didn’t have all his fingers either.
The militias are, smaller, weaker, shooting a lot less people, than say, the tens of thousands strong who would come out to murder hundreds every election day through the 1870s and 1880s. The election cheating, it was at least close for Bush, not that many generations back and both parties would turn up with official documentation saying they’d won a state, sometimes after 101% turnout, and that would sometimes be resolved with guns and swords inside the senate.
And Cops? They were literally the Mafia. Some of them haven’t got the memo about that changing. It’s probably a better deal than the older systems, and it’s nice they’re armed well enough to take on the militias now.
I mean, police violence is awful, but militia violence before they got strong was insane.
Nazis now, only killed a few people in the last year. Not millions, at least not yet, reading about the 1920s in Germany is quite unsettling at this point.
But no, it’s not great now. It’s just, like democracy, better than a lot of the alternatives, better than it has been. Democratic primaries are looking good though, serious voices for justice turning up and winning, social media getting people to re-enroll themselves after each illegal roll purge. Should get better, or at there’s a chance of it if everyone votes.
A bloody revolution is in order, but the booger-eating trailer trash has all the guns. The system will melt down into a hyper-unequal feudalistic disaster, but the right-wing morons who get screwed will never know they were fucked over.
I’m 69, so even when my middle-class standing dissolves via unaffordable health care, taxes and fees I won’t have to suffer for too many more years. In the end we’ll all die anyway. It’s a hell of a philosophy, but it’s all I have now.,
A hearty welcome, PZ! As someone with an American Indian father I welcome you to the reality that Indians have lived since the first Euro-thugs arrived on this continent. America Is A Lie. It always has been. The only difference now is that many white people are now being treated the same way the elites have always treated non-whites — as wage slaves, debt slaves, or just plain old property to be disposed of at the whim of their owners. And lest any of you reading this think that your skin color or European roots make you immune to this kind of treatment, ask yourself what happens if you default on those college loans that underwrote your useless degrees. File for bankruptcy? No can do. The GOP saw to that. You’re so screwed that having a stick up your ass 24/7 now seems normal. Why do you think there is an opioid crisis? Sure, over prescribing is a problem, but the truth few want to address is that reality is just too painful for many Americans. Who among you hasn’t had that first drink or toke at 6 p.m? Come on now, be honest. By the second glass of wine or bourbon all you can manage is to Netflix the night away.
At least the white people reading this can be comforted in the knowledge that your kith and kin aren’t seen as vermin to be hunted down like the wolves or crows and exterminated as an obstacle to ‘progress.’ Not yet anyway. Though that may still come. Look at who owns most of the guns. Look at the impressive prison infrastructure that is already in place in this country. ICE can stop anyone, anywhere and ask for your papers. They don’t need probable cause or a warrant. And, hey, we’re flexible! Italian? Spanish? Jewish? Arabic? Asian? You there — yeah, you with the olive skin and epicanthic folds, where were you born? Prove it! No birth certificate? Expired passport? Come along, we have some questions. ICE is a nascent Gestapo in waiting. Sure, it’s brown folk today (mostly Central American Indians, wouldn’t you know), but who knows what will be considered an cause to stop you in the future? All of us who are so casually posting our politics or beliefs or resistance activities online may come to regret that lack of foresight. Think Facebook is a just neutral platform for sharing vacay photos or friending other like minded souls? It’s all there, you can’t get rid of your online past. Just think of what the Nazis could have done with Facebook!
Joseph Reagle says
“Fix democracy first” https://equalcitizens.us/
Ronald Couch says
Actually Doctor Bob we haven’t been in a worse position (perhaps in 1860, but that was before my time). I’m 72 and during Vietnam there was hope and people like me were being helped through school with Pell Grants and work study and very low interest loans. My girlfriend was getting Social Security payments because her dad had died when she was a kid. All that has stopped we are determined to fuck over the next generation and to kill each other by ignoring climate change.
I vote democratic because I figure that this might drag out the end until I leave this toil of tears. WE ARE FUCKED.
In the 1960s people were deliberately breaking bad laws. Things WERE bad then.
That law against interracial marriage I mention earlier. How do you think it was overturned?
The Lovings broke it and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
It’s always been so. We’ve been spoonfed on American exceptionalism, but it was a lie from the beginning. The founding fathers were slave owners who wanted to be “free”. Huge amounts of land were at stake.
Democracy doesn’t work for the same structural reason libertarianism wouldn’t work: It assumes that people will play nice and be virtuous and treat others the way they wish to be treated, and are smart and make rational choices. None of which is true.
Rage. It’s never too late to rage.
gregorylynn, you just gave me a new motto. Stolen, and thanks!
well someone woke up in the 60’s. awareness state , turn on (drugs are not necessary) tune in, it has been like this my entire life, drop out, the interpretation of that has been by the right as go live in the street and live of “Us hard working people” bull shit. and by the ignorant to mean go do your thing, a great slogan completely subverted by advertising to sell self-absorbed consumption and wanton self interest for strictly commercial interests. and by the right wing to justify greed and the subversion of democracy.
democracy is not a passive form of government it is not letting the officials that are elected carry out their own ideas while we the governed go fishing. I think that is what those guys knew back in Philly they were all literate, land owners in a very patriarchal society so it was not a stretch for them to think that the people who were to be governed should be involved in governing themselves and they the electorate demanded a say.
a lot has changed since then, the population has swelled to enormous levels made up of mostly powerless people who left their home country for much the same reasons as the immigrants being arrested on the borders now are.
there has been in the past great Spiritual awakenings in the U.S. in this time with increasing disillusionment with conventional religion as well as growing religious warfare world wide I am hoping for a great awakening along the lines of a democratic resurgence, a realization that we are all in this together and if we do not work together to make real “the Will of the People” i fear we will fall back into the chaos of the will of some elite and live some kind of powerless peasant life as long as we are still needed or are not replaced by some technological solutions.
well come to the 60’s
Marissa van Eck says
Pardon me for putting it this way, but….WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?!
Let me tell you something: the poor know this, have known it, for far longer. What was done to me, what’s happened to friends of mine, some of whom are dead or worse because of it…we all know. It’s an illusion. There is no justice, none, inherent anywhere. The only justice is what we make, and we make it and maintain it only with overwhelming force, which itself means even that justice is on shaky, contradictory ontological grounds. It can all disappear any moment. We have a turnkey fascist state; it’s not a matter of if but when, and if the premonitions I’m receiving are real, “when” is going to be early in the next decade at latest.
You really don’t understand how horrible it is out here, do you…
This cry in the wilderness comes as somewhat of a surprise to this reader. It reveals (perhaps) that you are not nearly enough of a skeptic, cynic, or misanthrope not to have known the dynamics you describe since early adulthood. That’s not condemnation, though; you have lots of company. Indeed, many of us are kept distracted and/or miseducated for a long time before starting awake one day from a sudden bolt of understanding. Suspect that adding your voice to the demonstration in the 1980s would not have changed anything about the big picture.
To #12 TheGyre:
You’re so absolutely fucking spot on. First the Indians, the blacks, the Mexicans and the immigrants, now they’re coming for us white folk who always thought we were immune. Persecution in the name of profit is indeed color blind.
And the anarchists claim another liberal.
To be honest, I also want to give it all up, say “yeah this is broken” just because it is broken. But I’m still stuck with the stupid nagging question of what’s better. No government with no hierarchy is just begging to get roped into some feudal slapstick government chosen by the most amoral and most ambitious. No temporarily totalitarian quick fix of rounding up the republicans and shooting every one of them then starting a new constitution feels moral enough to justify.
There is the Churchill quote, “democracy is the worst possible system, with the possible exception of all the others”. And citizens used to know all this stuff in ancient Athens, were aware of public spending, foreign affairs etc, and politicians were expected to do what they pledged. I guess times have changed. At least we still have little victories to drool over, like Reagan losing his mind (what little he had anyway) and people turning their backs on Thatchers funeral procession. Spoken like a true manic depressive on a good day.
Speaking as a baby boomer I think we believed in the inevitability of progress, that society was becoming more progressive, war becoming less likely (I mean, clearly, no one wanted another World War … did they?), concern for the environment increasing, economic conditions improving for everyone, religion heading for its inevitable death. This program didn’t suit neoconservatives, corporations, or religious leaders. They fought back, with the help of big media owners who shared their distaste for the liberalisation of the Age of Aquarius, and, with utter ruthlessness, took us back to the past. This curve of history has been most marked in America because of its peculiarities of politics, but has also been seen in Australia and England. Like you, PZ, I despair that there is anything that can be done about this.
Larry Lennhoff says
I’ve been listening to Vengence is Mine/Zero Sum a lot lately.
Closing lyrics (from memory)
Relax you Lords of Power
The rumors are not true
We have not come to burn the world
We’ve only come for you!
PZ Myers says
Don’t quote Churchill at me. He was a conservative authoritarian, too, and “democracy is the worst possible system, with the possible exception of all the others” is not applicable. It’s clear we don’t live in a democracy, we live in one of those other, worse systems.
The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs) says
That’s a laugh. Yes, I know that generalizations about age groups are not universal, but the Baby Boomers are the people who have been continually working to remove all the safeguards and destroy everything for decades, now. Your generation’s political choices were the ones which insisted that progress had to be limited, that trying to improve things was politically impossible, that wars of choice were perfectly okay, that we could kick the can down the road on global warming, increasing economic inequality, and religion being cemented into a hate machine to support the political right wing. It wasn’t just Republicans; Democratic Baby Boomers supported the Clintons and Obama, politicians who said that nothing could be done to stop the right wing so we should just surrender and sabotage the left — that was the real meaning of “incrementalism” and “the third way”. It was the Clintons who refused to take action on global warming in the 1990s because it might be bad for business, Clinton who finally pushed NAFTA through, Clinton who deregulated Wall Street and started giving the police access to military equipment, Obama who refused to prosecute Republicans for starting wars (possibly because he wanted to start his own, like Libya). “Centrism” is not really in the center, and never has been. It’s a way for fiscal right-wingers to pretend they can be reasonable while sabotaging anything the very rich don’t like.
Every destructive politician from Reagan onward got their support primarily from the Boomers, and it was the Boomers who, in 2016, first decided that the Democrats shouldn’t even make a show of resistance by choosing the execrable Clinton over the barely-adequate Sanders, and then decided they’d prefer Trump over Clinton anyway. (Well, why not? If you’re going to vote for evil anyway, why not push for the most evil you can? That was your generation’s last chance to screw us all over one last time, and the opportunity was taken proudly, almost gleefully.)
I’ve been seeing more and more statements by Baby Boomers about how everything is screwed up now, and not a one of them admits any sort of generational culpability for the decades of decline which made this possible or the systematic dismantling of everything which would have protected us from what is happening now, all of which was approved by the Boomers. Spare us the whinging; if the modern world hadn’t been so hollowed-out by the right wing and right-of-center that the rich have turned to cannibalizing first world countries instead of merely attacking those too poor to resist (that’s what Brexit and Trump are about, ultimately), you wouldn’t have any concern — it’s only that the consequences of decades of letting right-of-center figures like the Clintons and Obama — “I’d be a Republican under Reagan” — tell you that any substantial form of resistance to the right-wing agenda was impossible are finally catching up to you guys, personally, that brings this sort of complaint out.
You point to Reagan as the last time you could believe in Rule of Law. To me his actions in the Iran-Contra scandal and the lack of serious repercussions for any one of the murderous traitors involved were what convinced me that the US had no interest in Rule of Law as a genuine principle…except when it comes to the poor and powerless. Presidents and CEOs of major companies are rewarded for treating the law as optional, even the laws that are crucial to a functioning democracy and a healthy society. Meanwhile poor people and minorities are expected to obey the law strictly, even those laws designed to damage them directly and disempower them (and in fact, as we have seen recently, they are even expected to meekly allow officers of the law to kill them even when the officer is in the process of committing a felony themselves).
As a child, we all played Monopoly. Democracy is a game of pretend played by rich people.
ikanreed, photoreceptor, doctorbob and no doubt others to come…
You seem to be missing the point. PZ is not saying democracy needs to be abandoned, he is saying that the current American political process needs to be changed because it actively undermines democratic principles. I’d also be wary of making sweeping claims about anarchism vs. liberalism when each of those terms covers a huge, sometimes contradictory, range of opinions.
I don’t think of Reagan losing his mind as a “little victory.” It’s just a sad thing that happened to an old man and had nothing to do with his criminal presidency. (Seriously, when people think of criminal presidents they usually think of Nixon, but the horrific impact of Nixon’s worst actions don’t even come close to Reagan’s.)
Now if one of the Iran-Contra conspirators had served an appropriate jail sentence, I would consider that a little victory (little because it should have been all of them). If Reagan had openly recanted his views on HIV treatment, that would be a little victory (little because he should have rejected those malicious views while he was still president, before his policies killed many thousands of gay Americans).
Reagan developing dementia does not give me any feeling of vindication, not even a little one.
Duckbilled Platypus says
I’m with Joseph Reagle, above. And I don’t even live there.
it’s only been recently that I looked into how the US democracy works, and I can’t help but think that it is deliberately obtuse, and a sleight of hand. It is a very unfair system. The core of the problem (issues like gerrymandering aside) for the presidential elections seems to be the elector voting. The number of electoral seats is not in step with the number of inhabitants per state. now, you can safely cross the electors out as a factor in the vote because they will always blindly vote for their own party’s nominee (even Trump hardly made them reconsider). Votes go to seats which go to presidents, which simply means a vote is heavier in one state than in another. You could be 1.2 or a 0.8 depending on where you are registered.
But to add insult to insult, the winner-takes-all model associated with the electoral seats is the real democracy killer. All the other votes are nullified, as if they never happened. This may go for up to one half of a state’s electorate – all people with not a single representation in any electoral seat of their state..It’s also next to impossible for new parties to break through, because they’d have to secure at least half of the votes in at least one state to ever make it to the electors. That’s an incredibly unlikely scenario, even in dire times. In fact it’s entirely possible to make up a large percentage of the electorate in every state and not have a single seat to show for it. Aside – your Senate actually also needs fixing. It’s even more disproportionate in representation than the electoral seats.
And so it is all locked in dual-partisan system with the choices Bad and Worse. And given that states historically lean one way or another, the entire US presidential election only really takes place in a few swing states. The rest of the US can sit by and watch idly. I find it hugely scary that the leadership of one of the most powerful nations, and thereby the future of this world, is decided by a very small number of people on this globe. Heck, I’d like a vote please, it’s affecting us too.
Suggestions: ditch the elector model entirely. Don’t vote for a president directly, vote for members of a party in the House of Representatives, probably respecting a minimum votes threshold. Party with most votes overall wins, but cannot form a government unless it has the majority of seats in the House. This may require forming a coalition. The ups: you can actually vote any decent candidate anywhere in the country into the House, and maybe they even end up in government. But better, there’s a likely chance of being represented in government.
Oh I know, I’m just copying the way it works in virtually any democracy outside the US. I know it doesn’t prevent us in the rest of the world from electing nutcases either, but I like to think that the system cushions the stupid a little better.
Now the tricky part, which is getting it done. I don’t know what forces are required to make such changes to the constitution, but I expect it requires benevolent participation of the House and the Senate, of which you’ll get none ever because they’re both ruled by Republicans and the broken system serves them very well. I do see a window of opportunity – if the Republican party indeed does get decimated in a few weeks from now, as well as in the next presidential election, the DNC may just have the road clear to pass the required constitutional changes through.
Will they now?
I don’t expect they dare to, because it essentially means sharing power in a politically more fragmented playfield, and this may very well go boom in their own faces. But I do think that the US won’t get another glaring opportunity like Trump to acquire the game-changing majority in both houses. So please, rally your DNC representatives behind the idea of historical change. There was never a better point to spearhead the next election with.
And if all fails, revolt. There is too much at stake. Your neighbors would like to get some proper sleep.
John Morales says
Well, Vicar @29, all I can say is you’ve been mixing with the wrong kind of Boomers! But I agree you can’t generalise about cohorts, I only said Boomer to differentiate me from PZ who is a generation later, but who has reached the same conclusions. And no, I wouldn’t vote for any Republican, and would have had to dragged kicking and screaming to vote for a corporate Democrat as the “lesser of two evils”. I’m Australian (with a life-long interest in US politics), so I am translating from our system, but it is scary how close the parralels are.
Duckbilled Platypus says
I was aiming for a little earlier…
Haven’t read that book (I quit on Heinlein after one novel), but I agree there are parallels there. Trump basically is a televangelist.
Keep on working for a better world. Better both for you and for the world than surrendering to despair.
(Vicar proceeds to make numerous universal generalizations about Boomers. But oh, if only he had been a Boomer! None of the bad things would have happened and we’d now be living in a veritable paradise!)
Interestingly, if we look at who voted for Reagan in 1980those aged under 30 split their votes evenly between Reagan and Carter (with 11% voting for Anderson). It was older voters – including the oldest of the “Boomers”, but mostly pre-Boomer – who gave Reagan his overwhelming victory. But looking at other demographic dimensions, it was – surprise, surprise – men, and whites: women split evenly, African-Americans and to a lesser extent Hispanics, voted heavily for Carter. So if we’re to blame for what the majority of members of our demographic groups do, my guess is that The Vicar has some mea culpas owing for what happened in 1980. But then, if he had been giving his invaluable advice in 1980, perhaps he would have told us we shouldn’t be voting for the lesser evil, Carter, as that was still voting for evil.
I’ll second my longstanding recommendation that the most important immediate goal should be the change of “single winner, biggest plurality is winner” election system to a standard parliamentary system, i.e. party-list system for the federal congress. Use a single nationwide district for the House, and use each whole State as a district for the senate, and that’s only because the constitution makes it difficult to mess with the senate any more than that (e.g. it’s difficult to abolish the senate and electoral college).
I think we should remove legislative veto power of the presidential as well for much the same reasons.
Thank you PZ you help me when I think I am crazy watching the BS. You are correct it has been going on for a very long time. Sadly we are fed an illusion that too many are too poor or blinded not to see.
John Morales says
regarding rule of law…
“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.”
Necessary, but not sufficient.
Rule of Law is meant to be an abbreviation for a larger concept that people are being treated equally by a system of rules that are fair and impartial.
That is not what you seem to have in the US. There are people pushing the US style here in Oz. They must be blocked!
John Morales says
Well, yes. But still not sufficient, and problematically-phrased.
(You can be fair, or you can be impartial. Did you even ponder that quotation from France?)
In passing, China is proceeding, apparently successfully, with its technologically-mediated social scoring system.
(FWIW I’d rather be punished by going to the USA than by going to China. So, there’s that solace)
Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says
#40 that’s three threads I’ve now seen where they post the same simplistic feelings laden and utterly useless commentary. The comparison to dogs pissing on fences gets stronger.
Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says
You seem to have mistaken The Vicar for being attached to any cause other than petulance for its own sake and his own self-aggrandizement.
Easy mistake to make, but best avoided.
Several things need to happen to the US political system.
Preferential voting. It stops a vote for a minor party being useless.
An independent electoral commission, NOT each state running different voting systems as directed by the incumbent political party.
Presidential veto should be limited to “amendment” vetoes, where the president can send the bill back to the legislature with suggested amendments, but the president should only be allowed to do this once per bill and if the bill is passed again, with amendments or without, the president should have no power to veto the second time.
No presidential authority to pardon under any circumstances. I understand that the criminal justice system needs a circuit-breaker for miscarriages of justice, but Presidential whim is a terrible method.
A ban on all political donations.
A powerful and independent corruption watchdog.
Voting to take place on a regular weekend day.
All electronic voting machines to have a backup paper trail which must be audited by random sampling within 1 week of any election and by complete audit within 1 month.
Of course, none of these things will be implemented in the foreseeable future.
John Morales says
I like your effort, but, this item: rich people would reach more people, poor people going into politics couldn’t be helped.
Then, there are second-level problems among your enumeration, for example:
Even I, an outsider, know there’s no such thing as “Presidential whim”; I take it you refer to executive power. Were it not to exist, there would be executive impotence.
(Sultans and Viziers; Oh my!)
John Morales says
PS, ever consider the idea of compulsory voting?
Kinda ameliorates the issue of special-interest enthusiastic voting (Evangelicals, anyone?)
(Don’t actually have to vote validly, only tick your name off a list. And the fine is token)
(And obs, disenfranchisement (e.g. immigrants and felons) counts, as does gerrymandering, thank you O USA. Looks like it’s complicated)
John Morales says
[since it’s quiet]
Looks like the business interests got their cut (Cohn), industrial-military complex ditto, but Pence is still around and expectant.
This Kavanaugh thingy seems to me to be indicative. Its outcome is hardly in doubt, but I suspect it won’t be enough for the Dominionists.
(Yeah, thematic linkage to previous posts. Interesting times gang :) )
“I like your effort [a ban on all political donations], but, this item: rich people would reach more people, poor people going into politics couldn’t be helped.”
Many countries, including Australia, give public funding to political parties based on the size of their vote. After the 2016 federal election, the AEC paid out $62.8 million to political parties. Which means anyone can get commonwealth funding to run the necessary administration and campaigning. There is a barrier to fringe parties as you need at least 4% of the primary vote to qualify for funding. Personally, I would lower this threshold to around 2% of the primary vote to allow newer parties a chance to boot up.
This should work pretty well if we include what I consider to be the necessary step of banning people donating to their own political party (for example, Malcolm Turnbull donated $1.75 million of his own money to the Liberal Party in 2016, tax-deductibly of course; Clive Palmer wouldn’t even have a political history if it wasn’t for his access to immense wealth to channel into his party, controversially including the wealth of shareholders who lost money in his nickel mine only too find when the administrators came in that a lot of that money had been diverted to Palmer’s party).
I would also accept some private donation in the form of party memberships provided (1) there is a maximum donation affordable to most Australians (say $100-200) and no “platinum” levels to give rich people more access to policymakers, and (2) all memberships must be limited to national resident adults so that corporations and wealthy people can’t just buy 1,000 memberships.
I understand where you’re coming from, but I think any steps to diminish the distorting power of wealth are only going to help poorer people have political influence. To me it’s like the tax on cigarettes which the right-wing scumbags in the Australian media are calling “a tax on poor people” because smoking is more common in lower socio-economic groups. Yes, poor people are paying more of their income on this tax than rich people…but getting rid of tobacco taxes is emphatically NOT intended to make poor people’s lives better, it’s intended to make tobacco companies richer.
John Morales says
Um. Are you disputing me? I feel like you are, yet…
Anyway. This is an aside.
Here in Oz, legal tobacco is well over a thousand dollars per kilogram (more like A$1400 upwards).
So… smokers (predominantly lower working class) fill the coffers of government with this punitive tax, miss out on good health insurance due to their lifestyle, even die younger so cost less to the reverse tax system.
(All good, apparently. Also, road speed limits go down, but that’s not as obvious)
We do have a half-decent health system, despite the Libs.
I was in the thick of the fight in ’87 and ’88. We knew then the President was a treasonous war criminal starving children to death to hide his crimes.
We organized and demonstrated in DC.
We sat in one of those sweaty, stifling 1940’s offices on K street while a congressional staffer told us that if we didn’t bring cash, we were wasting our time.
We watched a decorated ‘Nam vet be physically thrown down the steps of the VA building by security.
We staged demonstrations that closed the border in El Paso.
We risked our freedom and our lives, faced down FBI, CIA, Border Patrol, Mexican and Honduran military to try and feed the kids our country was murdering.
We screamed at the top of our lungs for the rest of you to FUCKING PAY ATTENTION.
This situation has been thirty years in the making, and it’s not the Republican’s fault in any way, shape or form.
It’s the fault of every American who is NOT a Republican, and who has been ignoring the thousands and thousands of your fellow citizens who’ve been yelling at you that the Rule of Law had failed and it was time to act.
Now? Now it’s too late. It’s 133 bce and they’ve just clubbed down the first Gracchi brother. We know the script from here.
At the end of the day it’s all about who’s better at playing politics, and unfortunately the democrats suck at it.
They have failed, for decades, to effectively campaign at the state and local level, resulting in many state governorships and legislatures being packed with republicans.
Barack Obama was so concerned about his legacy, and appearing above the usual Washington in-fighting, that he consistently bowed and scraped to the congressional republicans. He was obsessed with compromise that was never going to happen, and the republicans took him for a ride for two terms. Even the ACA was a weak, flawed, compromise of a law without the public option and some of the more progressive elements that were originally part of it. Obama, and his congressional democrats, never fought for anything. Not to any significant degree. They sat there and took it, trying to “compromise” as they gave up any leverage they had.
Then, with the republican presidential field a gigantic, fractured mess constantly trying to eat itself, they nominate Hilary Clinton. She was a weak candidate. She was always a weak candidate. Her only claim to fame when she tried (and failed) to run against Barack Obama was “I’m like Obama, but a bit more hawkish and to the right.” It failed to resonate then, and it failed to resonate in 2016. But she was owed it, for some reason, and the dems were so sure of their “firewall’ states that they ignored her baggage and actively screwed over anyone who wanted to primary her. They ran a super-establishment, super status-quo candidate against a populist, and they got completely embarrassed in the end.
The two party system is screwed. Both parties need to go ahead and fracture for the good of the country. Then, maybe we can get some actual, fair, representation. Until then though, the dems need to start playing some serious hardball, and fighting dirty, or they’re going to keep getting outplayed at every turn.
call me mark says
rcs619: such a weak candidate that she polled 3 million more votes than Trump.
Yes, by having more people vote for her than for any other candidate. So embarrassing.
In a population that is not rife with white people who would do anything to usher in a racist and xenophobic regime, Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump would be cakewalk for Clinton. But sure, let’s ignore the white supremacist elephant in the room.
Matthew Ostergren says
We’ll not even mention the horrors the United States has released upon the rest of the world. Installing fascist and military dictatorships around the world, genociding indigenous peoples, putting people into black site indefinite detention torture prisons, and couping democratically elected governments on the regular. The United States has always been shit, and hopefully the veneer is wearing off/
I have always thought there is no greater discrepancy between how (most) americans perceive their country (shining city on the hill, american exceptionalism etc ) and reality. I think among “western” democracies it is the only country with institutionalized corruption (called campaign financing) not to mention a system that has brought to power two presidents within the past 18 years that were not elected by a majority. No surprise that organizations which have developed methods to rank countries by how democratic they are seldom list the US among the top 20 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index).
What to do ? As Bluto Blutarsky put it so aptly: My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.
PZ Myers says
#39, KG: I was one of those who voted for Anderson! It was an unusual situation, though: that was the year the networks all declared the winner before the polls closed on the West coast, making voting feel like an exercise in futility for us in Oregon. I voted anyway, and voted Anderson as a protest against the Democratic establishment (it was a gang of klutzes even then). If I’d actually thought there was a chance of stopping Reagan, I would definitely have voted for Carter.
Getting more votes doesn’t matter in a presidential race. You need to get the electoral votes. She thought she could rely on a handful of “firewall” states, ignore most of the rest, and cruise to a win. The firewall didn’t work, and she lost to a literal clown.
Democrats cannot just hole up their cities and expect to win anything at a national level. It’s just not how it works. That’s where they’ve failed too, they lost the middle of the country and they never really fought to take it back. In return, those people feel left behind (they are) and screwed over (they are), so they vote to the people who pander to their fears and their concerns. Repeat over multiple generations and yeah, the dems aren’t winning back West Virginia any time soon. Republicans just wanted it more. They fought at the state and local level (often dirty, but still), and the state/local level is where you solidify the base that votes on the national level.
Style-points don’t matter in a presidential race. Those 3 million more votes aren’t doing her or her party any good. It’s not letting them pick two supreme court justices (and honestly, a good chance at a third). The system was specifically designed to prevent raw numbers of votes from overwhelming the minority’s political power, and as flawed as that can be, that’s how you gotta campaign. Democrats holing up in urban centers over the decades has made things much more difficult on them politically. Our system isn’t so much about total votes as it is geographic area.
Republicans know that they’re going to lose in the end though, when Texas flips purple, so that’s part of the reason they’ve gotten so desperate. They can see trends just like everyone else. They are slowly, and inevitably losing the demographic battle, and they’re trying to do as much as they can until then.
John Morales says
Ah, yes. “Representative” democracy, but (at least) two removes from direct democracy.
And, votes which are bought. Openly so.
(How’s that working out for ya?)
Um, that’s the very point which perverts (if not vitiates) the very concept of democracy. Shouldn’t they make some sort of difference?
(What if it were 30 million votes, instead?
And here’s the nub. Though your system evidently perverts the very concept of democracy, but it is what it is and so it is to be treated as an immutable fact.
(You know, when I argue something, I can go meta. When I vote, not-so-much)
This is in my consciousness whenever I hear anything about the USA practicing or promoting democracy. In some weird, indirect sense, I suppose it can be said to do so. In reality…
(Also, credibility, it has none. Be as much in denial as you must be about that, but that whichis undeniable is not to be denied)
John Morales says
As an addendum, I note I feel that the much-lauded “checks and balances” in the system are doing their job, best as they can.
(It would be so much worse otherwise!)
@48 “Presidential veto should be limited to “amendment” vetoes, where the president can send the bill back to the legislature with suggested amendments, but the president should only be allowed to do this once per bill and if the bill is passed again, with amendments or without, the president should have no power to veto the second time.”
Are you freaking batshit… Part of the problem is that, no matter how sane the core legislation, by the time it even “hits” the desk of a president it has had some many horrible things tacked on to it that, in many cases, it would be unconscionable, or nearly as treasonous to the country as anything Trump has done, to not keep vetoing the thing. The last thing we need is to hand more power over to the freaking people that blocked everything Obama actually tried to do, and turned everything he did manage to do into a train wreck, by tacking on nightmarish lists of garbage. I mean, seriously, why the F would a farm bill hide anything unrelated to farming ever, for example. Yet, the whole game has become one, regardless of how bad the president is, who should have gotten elected instead, etc., a freaking game of adlibs, where everyone in both houses, and the president, all get to, infinitely, tack things on, seemingly to outdo each other in how insane the addendums are. Letting the the president tell them to fuck off only one time would just mean they tack on the most horrible, and insane things, the second pass, where, thanks to your suggesting, the president wouldn’t be able to tell them, “Hell no!!”
You couldn’t, imo, come up with a worse idea if you where intentionally trying to help the Republicans break the system even more.
The rest of your ideas are far more sensible, though.. I think presidential pardons should stay, but be based on a clear reason, and backed by the houses, or something, to curtail the whole, “I just did this on a whim!”, thing, but I can see legitimate cases where its, sadly, politically problematic to go through “normal channels” to try to pardon someone, and there is a legitimate need to do so. The biggest issue, frankly, is that their is no grounds to appeal, or otherwise undo, such a pardon, once given, which is why its abusable in the first place.
And most of all, I finally realized that the Rule of Law was a lie when I realized, through all of this, that every petty barfly and magat-hat wearing tosser not only doesn’t care, but will gleefully join in on the lies in order to fuck with the left.
The other day I was yelling at some sentient shit-pile on Twitter who was claiming that the mayor of San Juan starved her own people. This guy knew that was bullshit. They all know it’s all bullshit. They ain’t STUPID, despite what our arrogance on the Left has told us. They aren’t stupid. They’re IMMORAL.
Decades of left-wing politics, from the very top (Nixon pardon, Obama refusal to prosecute); middle (endless paeans to “raching across the aisle”, “all the people in the state are my constituents”, policy); and even bottom (the running joke of sitting uncomfortably while your racist uncle fumes at Thanksgiving, avoidance of confrontation) – have all taught the Right that NOTHING will happen to them, no matter what they do. Either they win, and get their sadistic little fantasies, or we win, and bend over backwards for them.
So now every last god damn one of them abides by no other ideal than self-gratification at the expense of everyone and everything else.
They are lawless. And they will remain lawless, until the law is laid down upon them. The most primal duty of society is to ENFORCE the social contract. Otherwise the social contract disintegrates and we are all doomed.
This didn’t just happen. This was a strategy firmulated and implemented over the past 40+ years. Not by Republican politicians or the RNC, but by this shadowy world of right-wing operatives and their billionaire funders. The recent article by David Brock gives us a peek into this world where judges, media figures, and other future-appointees are groomed and literally conspire to implement their extremist right agenda. Lee Atwater who perfected the divide-and-conquer strategy of dog whistle racism used to work with Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. In many cases, these are exactly the same people, angered by Nixon’s impeachment, buoyed by Reagan’s victory, who built the propaganda media empires (Roger Ailes et al), targeted small states (you get two Senators in each one you grab), targeted state legislatures, judges, state elections, on and on. There is no equivalent to this on the left. The left just blames its own for not winning without first understanding what we’re up against. That is why it continues. For example, PZ would rail against Obama for, as one man, failing to counter this decades long strategic assault on our country. That is why we fail.
John Morales says
LykeX endorsing rpjohnston:
Religious thinking, not analytic.
They’re differently moral, but they don’t lack morality. Tribalism is a thing, a morality even.
(Not even Trump lacks morality, primitive and self-servingly arbitrary as it may be)
FYI, PZ railed against Obama even as he was nominated. Not entirely impressed. I remember.
So, not just after the fact, but even before and during, contrary to your possible insinuation.
(Do I need to clickety-click to sustain this claim?)
¹ this abuse of the subjunctive always grates with me. Did PZ so rail, or is is only that he might under some unspecified circumstances?
My “insinuation” is that blaming any Democratic candidate or elected official, especially one who is actually successful in this environment, is misplaced.
Has a right-wing propagandist ever blamed George W. Bush, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, etc. for any problems in the country? No, because they won.
The left in America may have “bombs” (counter-propaganda messages), but we don’t have a “delivery system” and we don’t have a strategy. Obama is one of the few Democrats out there who has some capacity for strategic thought. He has made it his mission to work on the gerrymandering problem before 2020. But, keep in mind, this is still only countering a right-wing strategy, effectively implemented over many decades. It has to be done, but still not looking forward far enough.
@68: Obama wasn’t just “one man” he was the god damn President of the United States. And while even with that, he wouldn’t have been able to deliver us from right-wing insanity, there were some major things that were well within his power to do that might have set our country on a very different course:
He could have held the war criminals in the Bush Administration to justice, as well as the thieves who nearly drove us into a Second Great Depression. Instead he let them off scot-free, showing the Right once again, that Democrats are too weak, to afraid of hurting people, to enforce laws even in the face of genocide and ruin. There would never be any accountability for what they do.
Obama, and Congressional Democrats, could have created a real, grown-up healthcare system like the rest f the civilized world has. After nearly a decade of Republican bugfuckery, we handed the Democrats control of two branches of government and a mandate – a word that actually applied in this case – to show what they could do. Their answer? Resurrect the half-assed Republican, Heritage Institute plan from the 90’s, which was originally conceived as nothing more than a political ploy to spoil HRC’s healthcare reform bid; spend a year letting Republicans hack it up like a B-movie horror flick, and then fecklessly get stabbed in on the back on the vote anyway. They could have shown us what Democratic leadership looked like. Instead they just got Daddy GOP to spank us with his had instead of his belt. No wonder that everyone shrugged and stayed home the next several elections.
Most of all, the one that enrages me those most. We’ve heard about how Obama wanted to go to the public with a “bipartisan” report on Russia’s attack on our election, but McConnell quashed it. He quashed it by saying that Republicans wouldn’t sign on and Democrats would have to go it alone. Does you…anyone…FUCKING understand what kind of devastatingly stupid move that should have been on McConnell’s part? here was the President, preparing to release a solemn report on an enemy’s attack on the very core of our sovereignty, our elections. And he wouldn’t sign on Obama let it die. Any other half-competent political entity in the history of THE WORLD would have shat themselves i glee at the coup they’d just been handed. Imagine the President, speaking from the Oval Office, gravely telling the nation that we had suffered one of the most grievous attacks on our soul in the history of the nation, that the perpetrators were known…and that the Republican Party had refused to stand for our country. That they had attempted to protect our enemy and obscure the attack. That could have been the end of the GOP right then and there. They had thrown a live grenade at their own feet.
But instead Obama just said “okay…” and slunk off. And McConnell, shrewd McConnell, the guy who Merrick Garland’d us, he doesn’t make idiotic political moves like that. He tossed a grenade at his own feet knowing that Obama would dive onto it to save him, and he was right. He read Obama like a book and played him like a puppet. And as much as that extends to most other Democrats I still don’t think that any other Democrat than Obama would have done that – if anyone else was President, McConnell would have signed that report in an instant.
So yeah, there were some very big things that Obama personally could have done that would have likely averted Donald Trump, at the least; and suppressed overt rightwing hooliganism.
@69. Sure. It’s all “moral”, depending on how you slice it. Aztec blood sacrifices, racial cleansing, absolute authority in God’s representatives, the just-world fallacy that the Right subscribes to; they’re all moral systems. And of course the idea of morality itself doesn’t even rise to triviality in a universe of amoral chemical reactions. It’s all human values, imposed upon our narrow view of the cosmos. But that’s just it. You impose your values in order for anything in reality to have meaning. And that, by definition, excludes some things. Those things…are immoral. The Right condemns me according to their moral system. Ancient Aztecs would condemn me. But I want mine to win, for the obvious reasons.
@John Morales #45 sorry, pithy wording is not mmy strong suit. These comment areas are not great for long versions. I agree with you.
The aim is to encompass all people to regulate their behaviour. The boundaries aimed at minimally curbing behaviour that will lead to people being oppressed or harmed. The rules are partial in as much as they identify high power and low power and at a minimum prevent accelerated gain of power by those that have it. It should also favour the powerless to give them a leg up. Impartial has the problem that it doesn’t recognize that. Systems not incidents is the focus.
That means the system should not be defined by the powerful in general. So how do you prevent that?
@rpjohnston Perfect. Your rant is exactly what I’m talking about. Democrats have had power in Washington for 72 days in the past 20 years. They got that power because Obama and his campaign were strategic and knew how to count. They put together the nomination win by being smart and targeting a bunch of small primaries they could win and add up to a victory. Still, margins in Congress were razor thin. They didn’t have the votes to get a single payer or even a public option. But they got healthcare for 20 million people. Then, they lost the midterms, in part because Democrats don’t understand that the President doesn’t have much power without a Congress. Voters stayed home. There is a lot of talk on this thread about how to change the rules to favor where Democrats are now. What people fail to understand is that Republican operatives understood the rules before, but ran a strategy that used those rules to their advantage. For example, turning all the low-population states red — didn’t have to go that way the past 40 years, Many of these states had Democratic Senators in the 60s and 70s. They started with something as simple and inexpensive as AM radio. Again, this wasn’t the RNC, but this world of Republican operatives. We take it for granted now that AM radio is dominated by right-wing talkers. It wasn’t that way when I was growing up. It’s math. We’re supposed to be good at math. It takes many fewer votes to win a Senate seat in Wyoming than California. If we change the rules, it won’t be long before we get outsmarted again. Remember the recent campaign for DNC Chair? All the arguments were about the policy positions of the candidates, when the qualities we need in that position is campaign strategy, numbers, and targeting. Leftists in the US love to sit around and debate policy, but they have no power to implement the policies because they don’t have the infrastructure to persuade voters, change ideologies, and win elections. They don’t understand that the candidate you get elected to a rural school board will be your next candidate for state legislature, will be your next candidate for Congress. Republicans control 25 states, both houses and governors. For Democrats, it’s 5. Our weird obsession with that one person in the White House is missing the big picture.
@rpjohnston Oh, and McConnell didn’t “play” Obama — the Republicans won control of the Senate in 2014. Elections matter, and when it comes to Supreme Court nominees, control of the Senate matters (as we’re witnessing again now).