Failed Democracy and the Demand for Justice

I just now finished watching the HBO movie Recount. It awoke some old anger.

In 2000, I was in my mid-20s and not yet fully cynical. Maybe I was naive at the time, but I assumed that American democracy was a real thing. I had been apolitical up to that point in my life. The 2000 election was the first time I voted.

I should add that my anger had nothing to do with Gore losing, as I didn’t vote for Gore. Instead, I voted for Nader because he was the first politician I ever felt wasn’t lying to me (and don’t get me started with the bullshit scapegoating of Nader). Some of my anger in response to the movie was how easy it let Gore off the hook for his having given up the fight. Bush didn’t win. Rather, Gore conceded. He put ‘nation’ before party. But whose nation was it that trumped democracy? It obviously wasn’t the nation of “We the People”.

I couldn’t care less about Gore. What I cared about then and what I care about now is democracy. The movie barely touched upon the issue of the voter purge, one of the greatest civil rights infringements in modern American history. Democracy failed or rather we failed democracy. I still remain unconvinced that our country has recovered from that failure or ever will recover. Democracy is more easily destroyed than rebuilt.

But maybe that is a good thing. There is power in losing hope. It is only when we lose hope in the system that we can seek a justice that is greater than the system, that we can seek a new and better system. Our democracy was already broken or else the 2000 fiasco never could have happened. The recent Princeton study adds further proof that we no longer live in a democracy, assuming we ever did. If we can collectively acknowledge this, then and only then we could move toward creating an actual democracy.

It is only in losing false hope that we can gain a something more genuine. We don’t need hope. What we need is a righteous demand for justice. Democracy won’t be given to us. We the people must take it. Democracy isn’t the power of the vote. Etymologically and fundamentally, democracy is power of the people.

That realization should be taken very seriously. Power is something that only exists in its being used. Imagine if we were to take back our power from politicians and from Washington. Imagine if we let outrage move us to action. Anything would be possible, even democracy.

Ideologically Confused Partisans

I sometimes feel like I’m living in Bizarro America.

Al Gore is a veteran and a successful businessman. He is of Scots-Irish descent from the Upper South where he spent summers working on the family farm in Tennessee where they grew tobacco and raised cattle. Al Gore is boring, if anything, in his being a generally upstanding citizen. He is smart and accomplished. He has lived the American Dream, if you’re into that kind of thing.

George W. Bush is a draft-dodger and a failed businessman, not to mention an alcoholic. He was born in New England to a political family of old wealth, but he pretended to be a good ol’ boy Southerner and a rancher. Even Bush’s Christianity always seemed like pretense. Everything about Bush seemed like pretense, even simple things like putting on a flight suit and declaring ‘Mission Accomplished!’.

Al Gore was an example of what conservatives idealize as a moral citizen, but they attacked him. Instead, conservatives supported George W. Bush who demonstrates the worst attributes of the ruling elite.

Now, conservatives claim Bush jr never was a real conservative. The last real conservative to be president, they claim, was Ronald Reagan.

However, Reagan was the president who chose to use deficit spending which created the permanent debt that later on both Bush presidents grew even larger. Also, Reagan was a part of the Hollywood elite, a union leader, passed the most liberal pro-choice abortion bill prior to Roe v. Wade, and was the first president to invite an openly gay couple to sleep over at the White House. Reagan’s sunny optimism and idealism was a straightforward expression of his liberal-mindedness. He was a former progressive who simply turned his progressivism toward realpolitik and became a neocon. There was nothing particularly conservative about him.

Before Reagan, Jimmy Carter was a Deep Southern Evangelical. He was an actual compassionate conservative, what Bush jr was always pretending to be. He was an old fashioned conservative of a conservationist bent, a type of conservative that used to be more common. It was Carter who was the first Evangelical president and he took his religion more seriously than any other recent president. His so-called malaise speech was all about America’s moral fiber and everything he said about America has turned out to be true.

Despite many perceived successes, Reagan was responsible for the permanent debt which is one of the greatest failings of any president in all of US history. Despite many perceived failings, Carter’s one great achievement was passing an EPA regulation to decrease lead in gasoline which is directly and positively correlated to the largest decrease in violent crime in US history and hence one of the greatest achievements of any president in all of US history.

I just don’t get what is conservative about Bush jr or Reagan nor what is praiseworthy about such ideology, whatever one wishes to call it. It’s equally confusing trying to figure out what liberalism means in all of this. The most liberal president in recent history may have been Reagan who supposedly hated liberalism. Obama is probably more of a conservative than Reagan. Conservative or liberal, there is plenty of cynical and confused, maybe even deceptive, rhetoric to spread equally around.