In short, this article is about realizing you’re living in a moment in history. The kind of moment that someone will be reading about 20 years from now, the kind of moment that captures the forewarned essence of books like 1984. When you wake up and realize the dystopian future of Robocop where a company rules the public sector and has purchased the government, the quality of living has plummeted and we have culturally become comfortable with cops killing at will has actually started to happen.
Since the election, I’ve gone through a lot of stages of ‘democratic grief’. Like grieving for any significant loss, there are always stages as you work through the grief. But these stages aren’t simply emotional traffic. They are also stages of coming to understand and see things a different way. In this article, I’d just like to give my view point on the things I’ve discovered and come to realize since the election about the American personality when it comes to being ruled, politics and an ingrained cultural identity that has become a national liability.
Cynicism and pessimism aren’t two traits I have, really, nor do I really appreciate them in others. I’m much more solution focused or acceptance focused. If things are bad, I don’t want to dwell on how bad they are I’m far more likely to either accept it and move on, or to consider solutions for improving the situation. That being said, the cynics that have all my life told me the American system of government doesn’t function have finally managed to crack through my cheery optimistic exterior and are currently throwing a ‘Told you so” party in my hopes and dreams.
I am absolutely astonished at what is happening in my government right now but more than that I am astonished by what is not happening. One of the things you’re lead to believe about the American government is that checks and balances exist to hold figures of authority accountable. An important but often overlooked aspect of those checks and balances is that they are entirely discretionary. They are used at will – it is within someone’s power, but they don’t have to do it. So with Republicans essentially controlling Washington now, the system of checks and balances has disappeared. In general, no Republican is going to push to charge or investigate another. Not while they’re in power, it weakens them as a party and they want to remain in control.
Why do I make this claim?
Because Jeff Sessions perjured himself before the Senate and hasn’t been charged or even forced to resign as the Attorney General. The current administration is actually riddled with examples of conflict of interest, deliberate false statements and corruption but this is one of the most recent and most poignant because the lack of action is so obvious. It’s no different than if you shoplifted right in front of a police officer and were not challenged or arrested.
These powers and these rules are entirely dependent upon the individual’s decision to act. They don’t have to, they face possible fallout during an election for refusing to act but that requires their voters to also use their discretionary power and act. And there – right there, is the awakening I had, at the end of this long and uncomfortable post-election period. No Republican voter cares what a Republican does in office. Are there some repercussions? Yes, from independents who may vote Republican or Democrat depending on the political tides. But committed party members? No. No amount of heinous activity from their elected officials will matter because to a committed Republican the worst Republican is better than the best Democrat. So when this party is in control – the system falls apart, and anyone who isn’t Republican has to simply endure whatever happens in the years before enough political momentum mounts to vote them out.
So this must mean the Democrats are the good guys, correct? Obviously if I have identified the Republicans as the ones that won’t hold themselves accountable and degrade the system then their opponents must be the good guys. That is incorrect. They are not, and as someone who has always voted democrat I say that knowing I will still vote democrat but confidently admitting the party has also failed the country no differently than the Republicans have. The different is Republicans threaten the country through legislation, Democrats have failed it through lack of representation.
The Democrats face a challenged now of essentially being transformed or simply replaced as a party(which has happened in American politics before) for refusing to conform to the new social order of the left. While there are still many participating Democrats that will support the party against Republicans – many voters are being driven away from the Democrats just as much as from the Republicans. Even if they feel the Republican party is in fact worse, they still see corruption and a lack of representation of their interests in the Democrats. So the failure of the party, that has not actually had any significant power in Washington since Obamas’s first two years in office, is to seize the voting assets it needs to compete politically. These assets are the left, but non-Democrat supporting, voters that identify as independent or democrat in a pinch.
One of the most contentious parts of ‘early 21st century American politics’ is the slow abandonment of capitalism and the rise of American socialism. The Republican party generally supports business interests and eases burdens on the wealthy, with a ‘DIY’ approach to anyone below a certain income bracket. Tethered to the radical right, they lean on issues of nationalism which resonates highly with religious radicals and paranoid bigots and in this way play on people’s biases to get poor voters to fill in the gap the minority of wealthy voters can’t fill. In fact one of the best ways for Republicans to appeal to voters whose interests they actually threaten, is through a kind of economic darwinism. Convincing a struggling college student that the guy making minimum wage at Five Guy’s is inferior to him and his struggle to earn a higher minimum wage is just this stupid peasant not wanting to make his burger and make him feel better about his own pitiful struggle facing ten years of paying back a student loan in a job market that will require him to work 12 hours a day, but only after providing a year of unpaid labor in internships so he has the ‘experience’ required.
The Democrats, however, have not embraced the current opposite to this – Socialism. In fact the Democrat party though having evolved tremendously on social issues such as equal pay for women and their reproductive rights, social liberty for people of color, the LGBT community and immigrants it has failed to evolve in one extremely important area. Economics. Though Democrats do generally support many economically important issues such as raising the minimum wage, tackling the costs of education and providing affordable health care for instance. This is not the entire spectrum of economic struggle in this country – while the Democrats have simply evolved to want more economic flexibility for the low income earners, left voters have evolved much further and much faster and they want an abandonment of money and those with it having majority interest in government.
They want money in politics gone – they don’t want to have to choose between two Representatives that are both being paid by big business interests. They don’t just want to have their current student debts addressed – they want their kids to be able to get a college degree from the government in a system of education no different than virtually every other first world nation provides. They want political representatives that represent voters and not businesses.
To be honest, I support all of this too. I believe capitalism is the enemy of mankind – as a system of endentured servitude in which the wealthy prosper and depend on a majority population of the struggling or poor to support their excessive life styles. If capitalism really was about ‘earning for yourself’, you wouldn’t be able to inherit money, and no one would get special treatment developmentally. Every kid would go to the same kind of schools, every area of every city would receive the same attention to improve quality of living for it’s residents. Capitalism is about entitlement, and the value of something is determined by what it provides financially – even human life.
That being said I do not embrace the activity of the radical left in the last election. I think it was politically irresponsible. I think people are suffering now, specifically immigrants and Muslims but also a number of other groups such as gay youth, the transgendered community, the Jewish community and more. That suffering wouldn’t be happening under Hillary Clinton and the mythology about her evil character is the only loose hope the radical left hangs on to to justify not being complicit in the terrible things going on currently.
As I said in the beginning, though, I don’t like cynicism or pessimism… in a way, I feel almost fortunate that things went as they did. It revealed to me the flaws of the Democrat party that must be addressed if it ever hopes to succeed again. Yet it also revealed to me the terrifying truth about how our political system functions – that all of these mechanisms of political justice I’ve always put my faith in actually do not have to work. That when voter locks hand with party that is the end of voter supported accountability of the party.
What is the real threat to the future of America is not just the Republicans – they are not the monster in the closet that got loose. Both Republicans and Democrats in Washington have failed. Republicans have failed ethically and morally while Democrats have failed to properly represent the opposition to the right. The message from those who feel unrepresented is – in a two party system when we are absolutely opposed to one we need another to represent us and if you don’t we won’t participate.
If Democrats don’t hear that soon, then the consistent political failure since Obama was elected will continue and the Democrats may find themselves the most recent political party to be replaced or transformed. The Republicans will continue failing this country through their political avarice and the Democrats will continue to fail by refusing to represent an available voting block.
As a voter I believe it is essential to minimize the power of the Republicans and re-arm a portion of Washington to exercise the system of checks and balances that have been abandoned. I believe change should happen within – not through irresponsible political protest, putting people at risk. Yet I also know is the Democrats do not flex and begin to adhere to a non-establishment approach to their party that they are going to continue to suffer in elections and that also puts people at risk.
In the end, the one thing we who do not believe in the absolute right of government or wealth and seek liberty and representation for everyone may be able to hope for is that this ugly period of American politics will help the country make a broad, new evolution finally releasing it from decades of a paralyzing cultural identity and opening the door to becoming competitive in the modern world.