Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Paradox of the American Democracy

With the final series of presidential primaries over last Tuesday I happily breathed a sigh of relief that at least that segment of this batshit crazy nightmare was over. Let's face it, American politics has rarely attracted the best and brightest but this last batch of Republican presidential contenders all seemed drawn from a story written by the horror master, H.P. Lovecraft. No, I haven't forgot that the apparent Republican victor in the nomination debacle is a strange combination of comedic narcissistic buffoon and raging megalomaniacal fascist. However, the main election event coming in November does present an interesting opportunity for the voting American public to show the world the strength or inherent weakness of our system.

While I am an enthusiastically supporting of Hillary Clinton let's face it, even though her experience and intelligence are definite strengths, she carries a boatload of both real and imagined problems with her character that are troubling for many. But this issue gets to the base delusion about American democracy these days, that somewhere there is a squeaky clean messiah-like politician who will swoop in and solve all our societal problems.

For the Republicans that messiah was Ronald Reagan, even though during his presidency he raised taxes several times, got full-blown amnesty for millions of illegal aliens, took the United States from the largest creditor nation to the most indebted, believed civilians shouldn't own assault weapons, and illegally sold arms to Iran. All that matters for Republicans is that the dreaded Soviet Union began to crack during his administration. Even to this day Republicans say his name with the same reverence they do Jesus Christ with their chief desire, to the point of deranged obsession, to have another candidate be his metaphorical Second Coming. It doesn't matter that Reagan did all the things listed above that would not only automatically disqualify any person trying to run as a Republican now but would force them to leave the party.

For the Democrats that messiah has yet to successfully appear, although at one time President Obama was hailed as that savior. Let me state unequivocally while I personally believe Barrack Obama is the best president humanly possible, although for some on the left his administration is a failure because he was unable or unwillingly to enact everything they wanted. For those lefties his “failure” is the result of incompetence or lack of political will. They carefully overlook the fact that during the mid-term elections their own failure to show up and vote resulted in the Republicans firmly taking control of Congress. There are even some who hold the insane view that Obama is a type of Manchurian candidate who all along has been in cahoots with the oppressive corporate and banker masters that control our government.

This election cycle Bernie Sanders was the messiah du jour causing many to believe he would lead all us lefties to the Utopian promised land. As you can probably guess, I have long since passed the stage of my life where I believe in messiahs or prophets and view any who does as naive fools. The failure of Sanders to win the nomination has convinced many of these people the campaign was “fixed” by the evil “Establishment” to the point they promise to cut their own, and everyone else's, throat in protest by voting for Trump. This is the same philosophy 1960's peaceniks like Sanders railed against after an army officer serving in Vietnam at the time said they would have to burn down a village in order to save it.

The critically important element of our democracy many in the Democratic and Republican parties either ignore or have forgotten is that in the hugely cumbersome thing call Real Life we rarely get everything we want. This is especially true in the horrific realm called politics, the fact that Americans are a heterogeneous batch of largely selfish malcontents makes reaching a consensus even more improbable. Sure, back when Caucasians were the undisputed majority of the population carrying with it both the economic and political power things were easier but that is not the case today.

For politicians to get anything done they are forced to do something called compromise. It's a nifty little tool although the results can be exceedingly ugly, unfair, and/or impractical in the long run. Unfortunately, far too many Americans have come to the conclusion that compromise means betraying their most sacred principles and that anyone who opposes this mindset are at best misguided heretics or more than likely supernatural evil incarnated into physical form. Political fighting is nothing new, in fact at times in our history its been far worse, but I tend to view its current manifestation in large part because the vast majority of our population feel entitled in some respect. Most of these groups have narrowly defined agendas that take no one and nothing else into consideration.

Up until this point I have tried to be nonpartisan, but in all honesty it is the Republicans who are the most intransigent and close-minded these days. Political and societal sins abound here in the United States but they are the ones guarding old prejudices while nursing both irrational fears and privileged classes who care nothing about the future of the country. You don't have to look hard for conservative Republican columnists that say outright the United States was made great because of Christian white people and that once they're the minority everything will go to shit, so we might as well either balkanize the country or just stop everything and wait for the Rapture.

I'm not leaving out the Democrats for criticism. Sanders supporters would be happy to learn that I also feel that the party establishment has become way to comfortable with many of the forces that hold back the country. While not an excuse, this is a side effect of having a working democracy. Democratic politicians have to keep their constituents happy and that often means voting for defense projects no one in the Pentagon wants and protecting corporations that have no real loyalty to the United States. Leaving all the talk about the real evils of unlimited corporate money in campaign alone for the moment, no sane Democratic congress person or senator is going to vote to defund a project that brings high paying jobs to their district or state, nor willingly increase taxes on a business that will move to a new location soon after that happens.

Overly naive and idealistic progressives love to throw around the statement that the “lesser of two evils is still evil” when it comes to political choices The only thing greater than the sour stomach that sentiment gives me is the resulting headache in having to deal with such a person who is so monumentally deluded. Adults are supposed to understand the degree of watery crap mixed in with the operation of normal human affairs.

I'd love to live in the fictional United Federation of Planets made famous in the Star Trek series where Earth is an enlighten Utopia and all choices are black and white. But we don't, in the real world sometimes you have to let a corrupt banker and his buddies continue their unethical practices because they have the national economy by the balls. Furthermore to use another example, as much as progressives decry the use of unmanned attack drones, sometimes innocent kids are going to die because a couple of mud houses over terrorists are busy planning to attack on equally innocent people in another country. The whole geopolitical structure as it stands seriously sucks, but just let information leak out that Americans died in direct result of some idealistic fool holding back on the drones because he, or she, was worried about collateral damage.

In the long run political messiahs are mirages that quickly evaporate once the supposed savior enters office. Once faced with the realities and limitations of both public office and power in general, intelligent politicians realize that ridged ideology has to give way to compromise and common sense. For majority of Republicans that would mean the abandonment of their “conservative movement” that has become so static and out-of-date that it has become unworkable. Sometimes taxes have to be raised along with prohibiting the worst aspects of their vaulted free market capitalism to name a couple of examples. For some Democrats though, they need to learn that disagreements in policy does not make them just as evil as members of the other party. Furthermore, political revolutions are nice, on the rare occasions when they actually work like the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 60's. But more often than not they usual collapse in exhaustion because their goals are unattainable in the short term.

Real and sustainable change comes step by slow step with rational individuals working to overcome impossibly complex rules and traditions that in many cases were instituted to protect privileged classes. Here is where the choice Americans will face in November will come into play. One candidate does nothing but play to primitive and instinctual fears of the population. When you boil his words down only one segment of the country is really American, everyone else is some form of subhuman only worthy of ridicule and exploitation.

The other candidate, while not perfect, understands everyone deserves a chance to make the most of themselves and would do everything in her power to level the playing field, not upend it in an attempt to right all wrongs everywhere immediately. Her method is as frustrating as it is slow, but that is the nature of imperfect but democratic governments. Personally, I feel we would all be better served if we stopped looking for the fabled squeaky clean political messiah that like Moses will lead us to the promised land. Our true strength as a democracy lies with a voting population that elects rational individuals to state and congressional offices that can oppose an authoritarian leader bent on resisting change or aid the one that wants to implement much needed reforms. Because in the end, the real power in this country rests with the people, if only they would wake up and use it wisely.


Pixel Peeper said...

Thanks for a very reasoned and realistic explanation of how things are. I've gone back and forth between mistrusting and supporting Hillary Clinton. And I agree, she's not perfect - but as you said, nobody is. Politics is a dirty business, and she is the smartest and most qualified to deal with all the shit.

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: I was actually worried this post didn't make any sense. I will say this, if Hillary does win, she has one term to make some real reforms. If her administration gets bogged down is self-inflected scandals she will be voted out in 2020. But right now, Trump is my overriding fear.

Unknown said...

I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet.

I have the luxury of living in Texas, a state where a Democrat has not won a race for statewide office since I was 2 years old. The Republican candidate will win in November.

My voting Green would not change that.

In addition, I am turned off greatly by the idea of someone shouting, "Sure, our candidate sucks, but no time to think about that now! Look at what the other side is sending over!"

So I don't know. It's a long time between now and November, and maybe the billions of dollars of negative ads might be enough to send me into the major party camp, but... I sort of hope not.

sage said...

It is weird the way the Republican Party uses Reagan as the standard by which to measure their would-be messiahs...