Uncapitalized Thoughts on Democracy
Update: Aw, screw it. I’m tired of feeling cynical and (relatively) disenfranchised. This post suspended until further notice.
An email dialogue about democracy with a fellow media grunt who, after an argument about Barack Obama’s election chances, sent this article in a message entitled, "ain’t gonna be as easy as you think."
BK : so he kisses their ass, makes some conciliatory promises, maybe even taps hill. bottom line, we’re in a recession verging on depression, and nobody votes for the status quo in that situation, especially when the status quo is embodied in the least-charismatic presidential candidate since dukakis.
FMG : really, i think you’re being awfully reductionist about this…
BK : since when was reductionism necessarily wrong : ) everyone wants this shit to be complicated, so as to justify all the time and energy spent following and dissecting it, and in a larger sense maintain the illusion of our democracy being fundamentally healthy.
FMG : our democracy is fundamentally healthy…i mean comparatively. and the thing is voting for obama is going to come down to a gut reaction kind of thing, which frankly i don’t think the midwest can pull off. he’ll lose. you’ll see.
BK : i agree. an obese, asthmatic, sclerotic diabetic with a serious drug problem but good intentions is comparatively healthy, compared to someone with late-stage terminal cancer.
the midwest? fuck ‘em, and even if some democrats stay home it’s not like the republicans will come out for mccain. he’ll nail both coasts, come out ahead in the southwest and at least break even in the midwest, at which point you’ll buy me dinner.
FMG : i so disagree. our democracy works: "government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system."
this is largely our system, with a few notable exceptions. but lookit, it’s better than anything else floating around out there.
as to the midwest, an awfully big swatch of land and votes. and don’t underestimate the republican machine. as much as they hate mccain, they hate obama more. and you can be damn sure that with a dem congress they ain’t going to sit idly by and let obama take the white house.
BK : i think the scandinavian and western european democracies shame ours, even if they’re arguably inadequate to dealing with certain issues of scale. same with canada.
and outside of towns, small cities and small states, can you really argue that power is exercised directly by people in electing their agents? yes, we vote, but monied interests are far more influential.
i’m willing to entertain the notion that a predominantly non-voting electorate is a good thing, having separated genuinely interested people from the non, and — more importantly — that the restriction of power to an oligarchy whose influence is totally disconnected from the election cycle is a good thing. but it’s hard to call that democracy, so long as the word means what we always thought it did.
if the repub machine is smart, which it is, it’ll cede this election to obama and pounce in four years when people are shocked, shocked to discover that lead hasn’t yet turned into gold. hence mccain, who for halloween should wear horns like the sacrificial goat that he is.
p.s. i think we have generally excellent regulatory agencies, and vote Kucinich in 2012.
Note: For the record, I think Obama’s going to win and will vote for him, but am confounded — though not surprised — at the feelings of betrayal voiced by his supporters. Did anyone expect otherwise, except in a tactical sense — i.e., the appearance of idealism was his greatest asset; it was stupid to squander the Obama brand?
That said, his present compromises don’t seem any more or less real than his earlier idealism. There’s nothing less relevant in American presidential politics than the concept of "real."