We’re under the rule of a minority, selected for their wealth and willingness to support the wishes of the super-wealthy, and we’re not a democracy any more.
You know this is true. Conservatives have been a drag on progress for as long as I’ve been alive, there are so many policies (decriminalize weed, gay marriage, UBI, abortion rights, etc., etc., etc.) that have wide support in the electorate, yet somehow they always get quashed by our Elected Representatives who aren’t so much elected as bought, and who only represent a narrow slice of the republic. The filibuster is one of those tools of oppression that they use freely.
Unfortunately, other tools are voter suppression and gerrymandering, so the filibuster might be moot after a few more elections.
(via Mike the Mad Biologist)
But hasn’t it always been like this from the beginning? We’re just confused naked primates with anxiety issues, thinking that we’re oh-so-different from our cousins. Democracy is mostly an illusion.
The Democrats are once again opting not to remove the filibuster. It must be the Republican’s fault that they’re doing that, right?
They work hand in glove.
Now sniff the glove, America.
Susan Montgomery says
Who said this would be easy?
What PZ and MLK stated above is objectively true.
It is also old news. After all MLK has been dead for many decades.
Data from the Princeton study of 2014
“A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favour) is adopted only about 18% of the time,” they write, “while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favour) is adopted about 45% of the time.”
The tl;dr version. The USA is an oligarchy run by the 1% and they get what they want.
The citizens rarely get what they want.
I (and many others) have been saying for years that the U.S. is a highly class-structured society that refuses to admit it, and that a good number of the problems cannot be solved until that admission happens because that’s how you get the whole ‘temporarily embarrassed millionaires’ group of poor people who vote for things that only benefit rich people because they believe fervently that they will be one day.
I know I and others have mentioned this before, but in Canada, election district boundaries have been drawn up by a non-partisan committee staffed entirely by career civil servants for over a century now. It’s an explicit condition of employment with Elections Canada that you can’t take part in any partisan political activity while working there. The entire concept of allowing partisan officials to draw up the maps for the next election is just so obviously a problem… and in the U.S. the very fact that you’re still doing it is a demonstration of exactly why it’s a problem; the people doing it needed it to get in power to continue doing it!
When I was in grade school in the 70s, the apportionment of senators by state and even the electoral college were both presented as unique and clever features of US democracy. While they may be unique, they’re clearly dead weights that leave us behind other nations. and to a great extent a legacy of making compromises with slave states. Throw in the “strong presidency” for good measure and we are the world’s most fucked up “democracy” (or “republic” as the wingnuts love to insist; either way there is supposed to be the consent of the governed and a growing number of people aren’t feeling it). Divided government may act as damage control after the 2022 election, but it’s still a dumb idea overall. We’d be better off with a parliamentary system, just for one obvious alternative. US democracy was broken out of the gate and will probably never be fixed.
I wonder if that even explains much anymore. It explained the backlash to the New Deal and it explained Reaganism. Today, I think we are seeing more blatant tribalism. The backlash is to an increasingly diverse society rather than to delusional ideas about social spending. I read an article recently that explained Trump as not racism per se, but the perceived threat to one’s way of life. Fine, but that is only because the “way of life” is incompatible with changes that challenge class status and other cultural assumptions. So at its core, the explanation is still bigotry.
No. The struggle for democracy has been a perpetual one, in the USA and elsewhere, with advances and setbacks of all shapes and sizes, and the “Hasn’t in always been like this… democracy is mostly an illusion” crowd have always been, knowingly or not, on the anti-democratic side.
Graeber (an anthropologist) and Wengrow (an archaeologist) recently published a book, “The Dawn of Everything”, that very much disputes this.
I don’t have the training to evaluate the evidence they provide, or the conclusions they bring from it, but it does square with the little anthropology that I’ve read before.
Something that does set us apart is that we play a lot, and deliberately, with our social structures, or at least used to until a few millennia ago.
Representative democracy is not the only system possible.
This kind of “both sides are exactly the same” thinking simply infuriates me. As far as I know, 48 Senators (I don’t know for sure about Sinema, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt) are willing to do the right thing. For whatever reasons, Manchin and Sinema, Republicans in all but name, are holding up the train. I don’t care if every single actual Democrat in the Senate was possessed by the combined spirits of MLK Jr., Bernie Sanders, and Eugene fricking Debs — they simply don’t have the power to make 48 become the majority of a 100-member Senate. But no, Drew, for you they are “opting” not to remove the filibuster. What exactly do you think the actual Democrats in the Senate are supposed to do when they’re in the minority — hold Manchin’s grandkids hostage or something?
Yes. Yes, it absolutely is. Every single Republican is going to vote in favor of voter suppression. Every single genuine Democrat is going to vote against it. That is the message that we need to get out.
The only thing your “both sides are equally bad” -ism does is turn off young progressives from politics so they stay home, letting Republicans win and continue to suppress the vote. So kindly put a sock in it, ok? Sheesh.
I agree with @Drew 2. The Democrats are culpable. The whole point of a political party is to accrue power; if they can’t do that, they should be replaced. If Sinema and Manchin weren’t around, the Dem Party would find some other spoilers to ensure that, as Biden promised the billionaires, “nothing will fundamentally change.”
Why aren’t the Dems playing hardball with S&M. Why haven’t they lost their committee chairs? Why aren’t the Dem leaders going to AZ and WV and talking right to the people?
Biden – who was something like the 4th among the major candidates, WAY behind the leaders – was maneuvered into the nomination specifically (we were told) because of his ability to get things done and work with the other side. He’s not doing it, nor is he doing the myriad of other things (like decriminalize pot, cancel medical and school debt) that he could do with an executive order, and that would make the .
fyi, my state (MI) is rightly being held up for a recent successful anti-gerrymandering initiative. It’s true – and those activists worked hard and effectively for years. But they were also helped, at the ballot box, by the presence of another proposition, to legalize recreational pot in the state. The pot people came out in force and that also helped carry the antigerrymandering initiative.
The solutions are right there, but the Dems – at every level – are reluctant to use them.
But, then again, you don’t get palatial Martha’s Vineyard estates and NAPA vineyards from doing honest public service.
fuck I just lost what I started to say by some computer glitch!
so I will try again with a different tack.
Democracy is not a goal or a destination it is a process of governing ourselves.
It is an interpretation of a way to arrive at the consent of the governed, which all governments require to exist, in a none violent forceful way, or any appeal to none existent gods and very existent priests.
back in the beginning after the loose alliance that won independence they form a confederation by democratic processes (they agreed) which worked for a while but proved unworkable in practice so once again they convened and this time formed a constitution that embodied a process that they could agree to to arrive at the consent of the governed in an organized and a more effective way and .to manage the differing interests and the inevitable changes that were arising all the time.
We have been doing that to some degree ever since
Democracy is not finished many of the initial flaws in that original agreement the constitution have been modified but not all.
all governments govern by the consent of the governed in a democratic government that consent is voluntarily given it is provisional on that government following the will of the governed other forms get that consent by other means be it shear force of arms, hereditary deference none existent gods or their self important priests but none can survive without it.
In the end like all social constructs it requires an agreement and clearly history shows that we do not arrive at agreements always easy
Susan Montgomery says
@10. Yes. The conservatives don’t need to persuade or convince to maintain the status quo – just delay and obstruct.
Another thing — if the elites really did have as much power as some of you seem to think, there was no way that Trump would have gotten the GOP nomination in 2015. Or did you not notice that none of them could stand him? They waited to jump onto his bandwagon until they had absolutely no other choice — they just couldn’t stem the flood of idiot voters he had charmed.
The problem isn’t that the US is not democratic enough. The problem is that 30-50% of the people who actually vote are so very, very easy to mislead.
If you must have someone to blame, go ahead and blame Fox. Or Facebook. The elites are on the list, but not at the top IMO. And don’t blame the Democrats — it isn’t the fault of the soldiers on the front lines that they lack the ammunition to win the fight.
At least you’re making suggestions here. Unfortunately, Senators are pretty hard to push around.
There was a good article in the WashPo about how Manchin could have used his power position to bring in billions for the people of West Virginia. The other Dems would have been happy to do that if they could have gotten his vote, but he doesn’t seem interested in that.
If threats of committee chair losses would have worked, I’m sure they would have tried them. But would doing that really get their votes in this and future votes — or just push them to switch to becoming actual Republicans, so that EVERYONE loses their committee chairs?
As for going to AZ and WV, I’m sure Sinema will get primaried in the next election when the time comes. As for WV, good luck with any Dem who isn’t Manchin getting elected — your fantasy world sounds like a nice place.
Both are problems. E.g., the population of Wyoming is not much greater than Fresno, CA (the state’s 5th largest city) but gets two senators. Puerto Rico is larger than many states but has no congressional representation or votes for president. The electoral vote is increasingly at odds with the popular vote. The House of Representatives is somewhat closer to the popular vote, but small states all get one, and gerrymandering also makes the outcome diverge from the vote. Finally, a supermajority is need in the Senate to do nearly anything because of the filibuster (which isn’t even in the constitution).
So there are problems and there are problems, but please don’t try to convince me me the US is democratic enough. While some of these issues could be spun as avoiding tyranny of the majority, in practice the result is tyranny of the minority. It’s a rigged playing field that remains rigged because it benefits those in power, and not for some philosophical reason.
I agree with everything you say up until your last sentence. All of the things you list are indeed problems, including minority rule. But blaming it all on “those in power” is an oversimplification, unless you are including James Madison and the other framers in that group.
The playing field “remains rigged” as you say for a myriad of reasons, including things like 18th century Virginia vs. New England politics that seem a lot less relevant nowadays, or the fact that the framers thought they were being so very clever when they made their Constitution extremely difficult to change, or the accidental filibuster loophole that got exploited. After all, there are plenty of “those in power” on both sides of the political divide, and I’m sure they’re just as bitterly divided on many issues as the rest of us are. They’re united in disliking rapid change, but that’s probably something they share with the majority. A few of them even don’t mind seeing their taxes go up.
Blaming all our problems on “the elites” seems just as lazy as any other stereotyping. Be specific. Do you mean the Exxon board of directors, or George Soros? There’s a range.
brucegee1962@16 I simply meant that there is no incentive for those it benefits to change it, and those it benefits tend to be those in office. Granted, it’s not a perfect correlation. I wasn’t really making a leap from that to “elites.” My thinking is more like in any game, you can argue till you’re blue in the face that some rule is unfair or nonsensical, but the beneficiaries are usually going to fight hard to keep it.
To get rid of the filibuster, you need effective politicians like FDR or Lyndon Johnson. Both were “problematic” but they could get stuff through congress if they wanted.
Joe Biden is encased in amber, Pelosi just wants to keep trading with stocks and I have no idea what Hillary Clinton wants beyond another shot at the White House.
I have read about Buchanan, and how he sat on his ass while the union unraveled. Herbert Hoover did not stop the wossname act that triggered the great depression and brought Adolph to power.
This time around, the rest of the world are not as dependent on USA, so for instance EU can sit and watch USA become a failed state without getting dragged down. I doubt that is any comfort for Americans.
well it might be time that the US to be dragged off of the pedestal of world top leader and join the community of nations and people as one off many and not the boss. No nation volunteer to do that willingly.
KG @ 8 and F.O @9.
I’m not American so I was just looking at this anthropologically. Its like humans don’t seem well suited to running very large groups and tend to end up in some form of power structure where a few dominant individuals run things and the majority are under their thumb, either officially (monarchy) or de-facto (the US). That’s why I don’t really care for chimpanzees, they are way too familiar to be likeable and as a species, we seem to want to run things the same way they do.
I do take my right to vote very seriously, but some days, it feels a bit hopeless, given that my city once voted in a drunk, wife-abusing, crackhead and then we voted in his brother to run the damn province…
I’ve never set foot in the US. I’m an Italo-Australian living in Sweden.
Chimpanzees aren’t the only close relative we have.
Bonobos are just as close and I’d invite you check their social arrangements. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo#Social_behavior
You will be surprised that the necessity of this arrangement is often an idea touted by those who end up at the top.
Reality is a bit more complicated than that, and there seem to be archaeological evidence to dispute this idea, with plenty of neolithic societies that were non-hierarchical but are becoming recognized as such only recently.
Further, the Zapatistas run a non-hierarchical society of 300 000, and Rojava is trying to do the same in a population of 2 000 000.