Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How the Democrats Killed Democracy

With the death of the political left in the United States, the death of democracy became inevitable. Democracy, after all,  is not just a liberal idea, but a radically liberal one; it cannot  endure absent a viable political left.

Twenty-five centuries ago, governments were by dynastic monarchies, shamanistic religious dictatorships or warlords.  The Athenians came up with the radical liberal notion of government of, by and for its citizens. Even this revolutionary improvement on previous systems was not without  flaw.  When  Rome succeeded Greece as the dominant power in the civilized world, it replaced direct democracy with another radical liberal concept: representative democracy.

Guided by the Enlightenment philosophers they so admired, the founders of the American democracy sought to establish a republic in which the spectrum of political thought could endure not just as a system of checks and balances upon themselves, but also one which inherently militated against the excesses of power that could plunge it into anarchy, oligarchy, monarchy or military dictatorship. It was a system that borrowed much from Rousseau's Social Contract, which itself can only function under a rule of law.

The two-party system that evolved within the republic of the founding fathers mandated a left, a right and a center of fluctuating but roughly equal strength.  The balance of power would always lie with the center, but balance could exist only if both left and right remained viable.

But the Democratic party deserted its base on the left and the base failed to reassemble around a new political organization. (The fatal weakness of a two-party democracy.) Today, the dwindling handful of liberal Democrats holding public office are not merely powerless within their party; they are treated with contempt by their party and its man in the White House.

The man in the White house wears a different party label than his predecessor, but his presidency is merely a continuation of most of the worst of the far right policies of the Bush II administration.

When the Republican House of Representatives has finished with Dr. Kidglove and the Timidocrats of the Senate two years hence, perhaps even the American electorate will realize that the democratic republic of the Founding Fathers is no more, its Constitution reduced to the status of, say, the Oath of the Tennis Court.

The democratic rule of law  began with the Athenian shift from law as something "imposed" --thesmoi -- to something rooted in the people's social traditions and ideals -- nomoi . It came to us through the Enlightenment via the Magna Carta and our mother country's system of common law.  Talk about radical liberal documents! The Magna Carta, as Winston Churchill put it, gave us "a law which is above the King and which even he must not break."

In the United States, the framers passed on to us the idea of a "Supreme Law of the Land," which was above everyone -- President, Chief Justice, member of Congress. It brought us, directly from the Magna Carta, the supreme laws of habeas corpus, posse comitatus and, enshrined in the Fifth Amendment, due process.

But the Democrats of Congress, most of whom had long since abandoned the liberal principles of government in which our republic was born, ceded to George W. Bush powers that even the King of England doesn't have: superiority over the law itself.  Now the president could order warrantless surveillance  of citizens; detention without charge or trial (due process), and criminal torture of detainees.  He could boast about it in print without fear of being brought to justice.  His successor could take his imperial presidency to new extremes and arrogate to himself the right to order the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens.

Dr. Kidglove has, in the name of "compromise," extended many other violations of the Social Contract in both domestic and foreign affairs.  He will permit continuation of tax policies that favor the very rich over the other 98 per cent of the citizenry.  He will allow further corruption of an already bad "health care reform" law.  He will preside over the devastation of Social Security, further empowerment of huge corporations and the elimination of only those "earmarks" that help people rather than business, supposedly to reduce the government's fiscal deficit.  He will continue to fight the illegal wars that caused the deficit and will ask for more and more funds to fight them and more and more American toops to bleed and die in them.

He will do all of these things, and more, because there is no political left in the United States to contest him.

There is no democracy here.

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