Fading Democracy

Mariner appreciates that his readers tolerate his rambling across myriad subjects, his flaunting of philosophical irritations, and generally being the Luddite that he is. But this is a serious observation that must be dealt with within the first half of this century or democracy, by its literal definition, will no longer exist.

Succinctly, it is about money running our democracy. More abstractly, totalitarianism already has eroded the concept of one person, one vote. Authoritarianism (Trump stuff) has the headlines today but totalitarianism does not grab headlines because totalitarianism is accepted as de rigeuer. Simply said, “so what?”

To refresh the terms authoritarian versus totalitarianism, authoritarian means some form of self-aggrandizing dictatorship. Totalitarianism means that a central authority, usually a controlled set of institutions, determines what the people will believe and will be accountable for. A variation that may apply to the United States in particular is ‘plutocracy’, governed by the wealthy.

Let’s start with what detectives would call fingerprints. Every day, including weekends, mariner receives at least a dozen emails from political campaign committees and Political Action Committees. They are comedic on the surface, claiming ‘Trump cried when he saw this” or “Rachael was horrified when this happened” or ‘We need your opinion in this poll”. In truth, in every case the real purpose is to ask for money. The campaigners have the audacity to ask mariner for money to support someone who isn’t running in his federal, state or local district. Who is mariner to tell a voter in Arizona who to vote for? Remember for this post that money talks – in fact, a vote more likely is made of money than voter ballots.

Now consider that the detectives are after ‘The Mob’. The mob is the wholesale political money source provided by elite billionaires like the Koch Brothers who, by the will of dollars alone, can shape the political culture of an entire region of the United States. Foreign billionaires participate as well.

Finally, but not as simple as it sounds, there are the corporate sharks. They, too, push money into the election process for their own reasons. All this money does several things:

֎ Deep pocket PACs can flood local advertising markets, underwrite excessive junk election mail and pay for local on-the-ground campaign staff. This activity is overwhelming to a locally based candidate who has neither the funding nor the staff to competitively underwrite local district campaigning against a candidate backed by national PACs. To make the issue clear, having a national PAC tell local voters who they should vote for locally is very, very totalitarianistic. (is that a word?)

֎ Deep pocket PACs also underwrite far right or far left organizations not bound by local reality. Their messages range from scary, anti-American ‘truths’ (Tucker Carlson) to deliberate misrepresentation of operations (Zuckerberg) to political events (Sean Hannity and Joy Behar) to leftist battle talk by Bill Maher – not to mention Proud Boys and QAnon. Very little of this financed information has factual backup and in terms of local culture and issues, is irrelevant.

֎ Beyond elections, big money easily influences votes by legislators. A few favors to a politician or two can stop a vote that may not be desired by the contributor. One need think only as far as fossil fuel (think Manchin), redistricting, citizen privacy and obviously, taxing the very billionaires disrupting the democratic process.

֎ Corporate sharks can interfere even with neighborhood politics. One example is the building of major public roads only through poor neighborhoods promoted by collusion between homeowner associations and construction corporations – enough to tilt any local legislator. As suggested earlier, “so what?” Totalitarianism is de rigeuer. Where one lives defines voting power; one person, one vote does not exist.

In the past Presidential election, mariner heard the same attitude in greatly different situations: A young female Trumper, when told of Trump’s gross misbehavior, said “I don’t care”. On the other hand, a young black woman was asked if she was going to vote. “Why?” She said. “What difference does it make?” Totalitarianism lives. Who needs one person, one vote?

A skeptic may scoff, “So what? This is hardball politics. Grow some calluses!”

With a tear in his eye, mariner turns away. Democracy is based on the primary, mandatory, not to be compromised idea that for every one person, that person has a say in government. One person, one vote is the first, ultimate, one unmodifiable principle that makes democracy work. Democratic power begins with the vote, not with muscled intrusions.

Or mariner can adjust his principles: A hog must live in the sty it’s in – regardless of conditions. The implication here is that democracy may be going the way of other political theories that no longer can handle the size of government, economics and a nonexistent horizon, a perpetual existentialism not rooted in the five senses, truth no longer is hands on. Farewell, Roman Church; farewell plains Indian socialism; farewell, Queen Elizabeth; farewell Neolithic tribes; farewell Anabaptist communism; farewell democracy.

Ancient Mariner

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