Want To Know What “The Precipice” Looks Like For American Democracy? We’re There… How’s The View?

The Supreme Court just refused to rule on political gerrymandering — EVER — in essence legalizing minority rule in America. Meanwhile — stunning tragedy occurs daily on our Southern border — by design. And also meanwhile, a Russian intelligence asset occupies the White House while his whole political party stands by — because they, too, are, it turns out, Russian intelligence assets.

Some of us have been screaming about the death of American Democracy for so long now, we’ve merged into the background noise. Even those of us who saw Trump’s craven criminality, his duplicity, his deceptions — and even his outright treachery — from the beginning are shocked by how much worse TrumpWorld has been.

Let’s nail that down — TrumpWorld has been exponentially worse than even the worst worst case scenario.

The thing we didn’t count on — the lurking iceberg, it turns out — hasn’t been Donald Trump’s treasonous relationship with Russia, it’s been the Republican Party’s deeply cynical play — to USE Trump’s relationship with Russia (and their own) as a means to force permanent minority rule down the country’s unwilling throat. Republicans can’t ever seem to get the “rapiness” out of their system.

We live inside a false narrative — that Donald Trump won an election. He didn’t. If anyone won in 2016, it was Russia. Take Russia completely out of the Trump equation and Trump doesn’t even survive the primary process. Betcha there’s evidence aplenty that Russian efforts and active measures also were employed against Trump’s republican foes. Russia owns us. Not entirely. Saudi Arabia also owns a piece of us now. As does the UAE… and Israel.

Our values, our institutions, our norms — lots of it is gone already. We’ve normalized lying and deception and fraud. A flagrantly criminal administration openly obstructs investigations into its own flagrant criminality — while the MSM watches, muttering to itself that it can’t be witnessing a crime — cause crimes don’t get witnessed.

So — the SCOTUS won’t stand up for American Democracy. The Republican Party certainly won’t do it (it’s counter-intuitive for them). And the Main Stream News Media won’t or can’t do it because they’re too addicted to “both sides do it” journalism, false narrative manufacturing and navel gazing to meet their Constitutional responsibility as the final check on power. The Democratic Party wants to do the right thing but has a historical tendency to dither.

That leaves US, fellow Americans. The survival of the greatest experiment in human self-government will fall to US. Here’s the joke. The overwhelming majority of us WANT this experiment to continue. We want it to be better. We want it to serve waaaaaaaay more people — both Americans and people who want to be Americans. And we want the experiment to reach, benefit, and draw in every American and every person who comes to America, seeking their fortune and future.

No one else can make that happen except us. The more of us that show up in 2020, the better our chances of continuing the experiment. That doesn’t mean chase white men around, begging for their vote. It means chasing the 50% who don’t vote — but need to.

That’s the challenge facing us. There IS a way out of this. It won’t be easy, won’t be fun, won’t be clean, won’t be without lots of bloodletting. But, we have no choice.

The alternative is republicanism, authoritarianism and — say it with me — “permanent minority rule”.

The majority needs to put their foot down hard.

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Integrity’s An All Or Nothing Proposition – You Either Have It Or You Don’t

In the movie Princess Bride, Wallace Sean’s Vizzini, confounded by their inability to outrun Cary Elwes’ Westley, repeats the word “inconceivable” with increasing consternation until, at one point, Mandy Patinkin’s Inago Montoya responds famously —

We have the exact same problem with the whole concept of INTEGRITY — never mind the word. A Democratic system of government relies on the integrity of its voting process. We think our voting system has “integrity”. That’s bullshit. There are several terrific citizen-journalist-investigators who’ve done deep, deep dives into the fact that our voting systems have pretty damned close to ZERO integrity (Jennifer Cohen and Mike Farb have been especially intrepid and indefatigable in their pursuit of the truth).

Our inability to see this core problem — this complete lack of integrity in a system — shouts volumes about our inability to see a lack of integrity in other humans. Isn’t that the way con men work, after all? The first thing they sell you isn’t a product, it’s bullshit — that they have integrity and you, dear rube, can absolutely trust them.

Donald Trump is a fabulist who has never understood that such a thing as “Truth” even exists. To a sociopath like Trump, the truth is whatever he thinks it is in that moment — whatever he says “the truth” is. Its connection to reality is irrelevant. Anyone who stands beside Donald Trump — knowing (and how can you not) that he lies as easily as he breathes — not only accepts Donald Trump’s lack of integrity, but demonstrates that they, too, have none. How can you stand with a liar and still have integrity?

It’s impossible. You just can’t.

When America stops standing by its word — when we pinball around erratically with no moral compass — we demonstrate that we AS A COUNTRY no longer have integrity (with the caveat being that our integrity has been under assault — if not completely DOA — forever and ever). Should we be surprised when Iran prepares for war against a schizophrenic foe whose word means nothing? Should we be shocked when every country with an agenda understands that with enough money, you can get the American government to do your bidding — even if it runs counter to America’s best interests?

Our news media doesn’t grasp how THEIR integrity lies in tatters. They don’t grasp that the moment they shrugged off “Mexicans are rapists” and then (as if that wasn’t enough FFS!) “pussy-grabbing” — they busted a cap in their own integrity as the final check on power. Even as every norm of behavior, decency, logic and longstanding tradition sloughed off around them, CNN, MSNBC, The WaPo, the NYTimes — pretty much our entire MSM — continued to turn a blind eye in the name of access. If they dared confront a blatant liar with his lies, they worried, he might not talk to them. Correction: he might not lie to them.

We’re living in an age where Joseph Goebbels’ famous “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” has, ironically, become a kind of truth. It’s how things “are” now.

Can we even spell “integrity” anymore?

The ‘Good News’ Is The Bad News: We’re ALL Making It Up As We Go Along…

What “is”?

Maybe the better question is: “What ISN’T?”

What isn’t TRUE?

Every single one of us faces that question multiple times every single day.  We base the success of a day on how well we navigate that question.  “What should I wear today?  The weather forecast said rain but they’re wrong so often…?”  In our home lives and our business lives, we need to feel as connected as possible to what we think is so — the concrete of existence: what “is”.  That leaves our “spiritual lives”.  How do we approach the question of “is” in this less certain realm?

Some of us go for all the information we can handle.  I’m a string theory guy myself — at least I think I am; I may not grasp its mathematical nuances and complexities but there’s something satisfying about its core logic — as I understand it.  It’s not necessarily a given that the Universe works in a way we can easily comprehend.  I guess that “mystery” becomes “God” in other peoples’ minds.

And that cuts right to the chase: how do you explain the nuts & bolts of the universe?  Do you choose astrophysics or faith?  Do you trust math or do you trust wonder?

Even the astrophysicist will get to a place where her equation doesn’t quite balance.  Something is missing.  Dark matter perhaps?  The astrophysicist will suggest one or two theories based on what she does know and then, if she’s any good as an astrophysicist, she’ll say: “I don’t know.  Yet.”  It’s the “yet” that really matters.  As an answer to a question, it’s a blank space.

The other path — faith — couldn’t care less about science.  It’s got its own story to tell.  A story that looks a lot like reality but isn’t bound by it.  To explain the “I don’t know yet’s” it doesn’t worry about proof or evidence, it’s perfectly happy to accept MAGIC as an explanation: “Let there be light”.

The biggest mystery that faith tries to answer — it’s the draw, really, for most people: what happens after we die?  Aside from physical rot, science offers nothing; not a jot of hope.  Faith offers nothing but HOPE.  Faith offers an “Afterlife” where you get to live a better version of your current life, surrounded by all your loved ones in a lovely place that you’ll get to be in forever!  Sounds awesome!  Sounds phony, too.

Faith can’t offer postcard views of this after life. The can’t point to all the great ratings on Yelp.  No one, as yet, has sent back any sort of verifiable communications from The Undiscovered Country.  It’s a head-scratcher, isn’t it?  But, in fairness, it’s the biggest “I don’t know” we have.  Well, it’s the one with the most emotional baggage.  It’s the one where the answer — the REAL answer — we’re not going to like it.  So we invent a better one — one that assuages the terror of knowing that the very fact of “being” is all any of us has.  When that’s taken from us — the fact of our “being” — we’re done.

Our terror is justified.  But the part where we make up a kinder, gentler story to make us feel better — that’s bullshit. We’re making it up.  Doesn’t matter why.  We’re MAKING IT UP.

Let’s zoom in a little closer to quotidian life.  Set aside, for a moment, what’s true and what isn’t.  We humans live in complex, stratified societies built on a myriad of rules, laws and habits.  Some things we’ve done a certain way for so long that we assume it’s as permanent a thing as a mountain.  A weekend, for instance.

We all look forward to our weekends, right?  We need them.  Without them, we’d go bonkers.  We’d work ourselves to death.  Good thing we invented weekends to solve that problem.  Weekends are a human fiction.  They don’t exist in time.  They’re an invention — that we made up to frame time off from work.

Work, too, is something we made up.  We do it, most of us, to afford living.  We work to get the money we need to pay rent or mortgage and all our other financial obligations (it’s complicated and expensive living in a complex society).  We need more money!  Money, of course, is a made-up thing.  Humans invented money because bartering in a complex society is hard.  How many unstopped toilets should the plumber charge to get a pound of ground meat?

Humans invented Democracy as a way for people to govern themselves (in theory) — without a king or ruler.  American humans invented a Constitution to guide that self-governance. They made it all up.  Before they did — it “wasn’t”.  Ever since this country’s founders did invent Democracy though — it’s fallen on those who’ve followed to maintain this invention — making it better (by amending it) as needed.

Law, too, is a fiction.  It’s a vital fiction — but it’s a fiction we all agree to go along with.

At least, that’s the theory — that we’ll all go along with the same fiction — follow the same rules — and agree to be constrained by the same laws.  Constrained from doing harm to other people, that is.  Experience continues to teach and re-teach us: a certain percentage of human beings are outright rat bastards.  They can’t be trusted to maintain the fiction. They think or act like the fiction doesn’t apply to them.

They’re criminals.

Right now, as we stand here today, the United States of America is in the hands of criminals.  For real.  Criminals have seized control of our Ship Of State.  But not just criminals — traitors.  The very worst kind of criminal.  Donald Trump and the Republican Party have placed themselves squarely outside the rules (made-up as they are) that the rest of us live by.

That has to stop.

But how?  How do you stop someone operating outside the rules while you’re constrained by them?

The quickest way — We admit to ourselves that we’re living inside made-up rules.  We agree that we want to continue living under these rules.  If that’s so then we agree to reconsider the rules in the context of criminal behavior bent on destroying those rules. We don’t have to be led to our own political slaughter just cos the rules we invented say we have to.

That is utter bullshit. And all we have to do is “confess”: we’re making it all up as we go along.

A Democracy’s Bottom Line Must Be Its Principles – Not Money or Power

Let’s take it a step further: OUR Democracy’s bottom line must be its principles — not money or power.

Let’s frame it correctly though. OUR Democracy’s principles started off un-principled. We cut a deal with slavery.  We accommodated it and it cost us dearly.  We fought a Civil War because we compromised our principles.  We failed at Reconstruction because of it. We failed to even live up to the claim that we’d fixed the problem by amending the Constitution.  Slavery — and the compromises it caused — haunts this country every single day.

So — with that unfortunate caveat (and the additional caveat that we didn’t give women full rights and the vote at the start) — but with the knowledge that we are finally beginning to address slavery (and our institutional misogyny) with the gravity and purpose it deserves (reparations for slavery would be a good start) — our Democracy’s bottom line must be the Enlightenment-age principles that the founders aspired to — updated but not undermined.

There’s a reason why America became a beacon to the rest of the world.  Something happened here that never happened before.  A country was founded not on some dynastic claim but on a set of principles.

That’s the good news but it’s also the bad news.

Principles — as a foundation — are concrete.  But they cannot breathe the same air as Money or Power.  The instant principle gives in to either money or power — the principles die.  Money and Power are that toxic to Principles.

What’s happened here, in America, is: We allowed our already compromised principles to be further compromised. We are living at the mercy of people who claim principle while exercising nothing but power given to them by money.  There’s not a principle in sight.  Hell — there’s not a principle in the same hemisphere.

So — how do we fix this?  CAN we fix this?

I guess that’s our mission going forward — answer that question.  For starters we’re going to have to clean house.  We’re going to have to be brutally honest with ourselves — and why & how we got ourselves into this mess.  Then we’re going to have to be brutally honest about what we can forgive and what we can’t.  The “what we can’t” list is going to be long.  It better be if we really intend to fix this.

Maybe that’s what it will take — brutal honesty with ourselves (individually too; it’s no fair always putting brutal honesty on the shoulders of some abstract “they”).  We got slavery wrong, wrong, wrong.  We need to do everything we can to fix it.. Reparations… killing of the electoral college… Owning up to and sectioning off the deep beam of racism that runs through this country.

Let’s own up to the sexism and misogyny too.  We have to.  It’s a matter of principle, right?

Living by your principles ain’t cheap.  Be warned.  Doing things the right way vs the expedient way is, by its nature, more expensive — in money and in time.  While we may have fewer dollars in our pockets, we’ll be healthier (because regulations will have made our food, air, water safer) and happier (because when more people benefit from our system — even more people will benefit as a result — happiness grows exponentially).  It’s just a fact of Life — nothing is free.  Anything you think is free?  You haven’t seen the hook yet.

When you live by your principles though, you insist on paying what’s fair to get what’s fair. You treat all people equally because all people are equal — so say your principles.

If America can get its bottom line back to where it belongs — away from Republican greed and power-lust — to our Democratic Principles — if we “CAN” — we’ll walk away battered and bruised but a better, stronger, MORE PRINCIPLED Democracy.

I have hope.

Our Retail Politics Are Killing Democracy

In theory anyway, Democracy’s simple:  In self-government, the majority of the people get to call the shots.  It’s understood that the majority is made up of a multiplicity of views because it includes so much of the citizenry.

“What do the citizens want?”  That’s the first question.  But it needs to be accompanied by ‘But, what do the citizens KNOW — do they understand what they want in its proper context?’  A citizenry yearning for Unicorns and Jetpacks for all might be a little too hopeful for their own good.  We count on our elected representatives — we expect their perspective to be better than ours,  In order to do their jobs representing us, they simply need to know more of the nuts and bolts details about how we run things.

Can we assume they went into that line of work because they liked it — and thought themselves good at it?

Some people go into politics for genuinely altruistic reasons.  Yeah, sure — everyone wants to ‘make things better’.  The question’s always ‘for whom?’  Guys like Beto O’Rourke — you can hear it in their voices and see it in the way they practice politics: He’s in it because he actually cares — about people, about the commonweal — about the whole notion of what ‘America’ is supposed to be.

Ironically, Beto’s opponent Ted Cruz is the cynical opposite.  Ted thinks he’s smarter than the rest of us — and knows better.  He doesn’t know better what WE need — but he knows damned well what HE needs — and what those giving him money need.  Ted Cruz is ‘clearer’ than an Upper Thetan Scientologist on that.

American Retail Politics isn’t about doing what’s best for anyone.  It isn’t about believing in anything other than getting more votes (however you need to accomplish that end).  It is, by its nature, an exercise in anti-democratic cynicism.  And yet — every two years (on a national level), we demonstrate to the world how little we value actual Democracy and how much we value money.

Our media loves the horse race.  They ADORE it.  They see it through the most narrow Horse Race-y lens.  A zero-sum game where one group of Americans wins while another loses.  Then they wonder — after crowing about winners and losers — whey Americans are perpetually at each others’ throats.  Elections don’t take place in vacuums.  This one certainly isn’t.

Yet the News Media wants to tell THIS story as if it’s happening in a world where the President of the United States — and his political party — aren’t TRAITORS.  When indictments drop — whenever they drop — the News Media will act as if the crime started to be committed AT THAT MOMENT.

No — all the time the News Media behaved as if this was Normal World, a CRIME was being committed — right in front of them.  They even asked some of the perps questions — and got lied to.  The TRUTH didn’t matter, the ‘correct answer’ did.

It’s the ‘correct answer’ that drives Retail Politics.  It ain’t about what anyone believes.  It’s about the getting and keeping of power.

That’s NOT how Democracy works.

We are living inside PROOF that THIS — what we’re living in — is how Democracy dies.

Hey, America — Next Time, Let’s Take Better Care of Our Democracy, Okay?

There’s a Joni Mitchell song — pretty well known — with a lyric that goes something like this —

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Democracy is Paradise.  Except we’re about to watch Democracy get knocked down for a lot less than a pink  hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot.  All we’ll get out of our deal is a bankrupt whorehouse where even the STD’s have STD’s.

By the time most Americans realize their Democracy is gone, it’ll be just about to disappear from their rear view mirror.  “What was that thing we drove past a while ago?  No memory except that it was big or something.  Special maybe — can’t remember any more.”

It’s perverse that the  Poster Kid for Democracy never really was that IN to Democracy.  Too much of a commitment.  Too much like hard work.  Too much responsibility.  It’s worse than having a pet, fer Chrissakes.  The only GOOD thing you can say about Democracy is that it won’t poop in the house.  It might DIE in the House but it won’t poop there.

Americans have always treated voting like it was root canal surgery.  That’s heart-breaking considering how hard some people have struggled to get here to vote AS AMERICANS, how willing others were to die — just to have a chance to live the lives Americans take for granted.  Like their Democracy.

It’s not just voting though.  It’s Civic Education.  Civic Pride.  Civic Sacrifice.

The first two are easy.  Even lazy ‘patriots’ can pull those off.  They can pick up a book.  Read some of our founding documents — not just the ‘easy ones’ (Declaration of Independence) but the more challenging ones too — Federalist Papers anyone?  Prospective Voters also can get educated by diving deeper into issues.  What are they really about?  What’s really at stake for who — and why (almost always the MOST important question — WHY?)

Civic Pride’s even easier.  Feeling good about The Greatest Country On The Planet should be easy.  But feeling good comes with a bit of responsibility.  It IS important what you’re feeling good ‘about’.  If you’re feeling good because America’s values are a Beacon To The World, that’s awesome.  If you’re feeling good because you’re waving a flag and you’ll happily shove the business end of your flagpole up the backside of any leftist who’d dare to burn a flag — well, you might be feeling good for the wrong reasons.

That brings us to the Problem Child in the bunch:  Civic Sacrifice.  The thing Americans hate the most.  Because it’s ‘sacrifice’.  Done ‘civilly’ — meaning ‘for the greater good’ and not ‘just for self’.  It’s not that Americans aren’t generous.

Americans are unfailingly generous.  But they have a weird animus toward their government — OUR government.  Some Americans see the government as a lethal assassin style Boogie Man capable of penetrating their brains, poisoning their garden furniture and turning their own bridgework into a spy satellite.  I hope like hell that no one so afflicted read any of that — I don’t want their going off the deep end on my conscience.

This isn’t all Americans — of course it isn’t.  It’s a wacky sub-set of Americans.

This wacky subset has fallen in love with a Mythic Figure (Americans — imagine!) — the Intrepid Frontiersman.  They think that’s them — the guy carving A Great Nation out of a Vast Wilderness.  Actually, that ‘Wilderness’ was someone else’s home but never mind.  Even their Mythic Figure is a shit.

THIS, strangely, has become, for many, the Proto-Patriot.  The Guy They Emulate for his ‘independence’ and ‘freedom lovin’.  And this guy?  He fears the government.  He loathes it because all it wants to do in his fever swamp of a mind is take away his Freedoms.  Well… actually, he’s only afraid they’ll take away his gun.

And,, perversely, that’s what motivates and motivated this guy.  It motivated him so much — his fear that a make-believe government would march — storm-trooper like of course — into his house to take his guns — that he made it his life’s work to re-imagine the Constitution as nothing BUT a justification for gun ownership (the fact that the Constitution says exactly the opposite be damned).  Well Regulated Militia, anyone?

The Gun Lobby — along with the Evangelicals who wanted to move heaven earth and our Whole Democracy to make abortion (and probably birth control itself) illegal.  They have hijacked our Democracy — by semi-legal means.  Ironically, what motivated them more than anything was demographics.  They saw what the numbers said:  There’s going to be less and less of THEM and more and more of THE OTHER.  Brown people, black people, people with foreign-sounding names and strange cultures and even stranger foods.

That scares some White People almost literally to death.

This Nativism does not go well with Democracy.  They are mutually exclusive propositions in fact.  Can’t share the same living space without killing each other.  This creates a Culture of Mistrust for Democracy.  Trusting other people?  Hell no.  Trusting your own kind?  Sure — worth a shot (you already know to get them before they get you).

These bastards somehow won the Culture War.  They must have — our Elite MSM keeps telling us that it’s THEIR disappointment at Life that’s driving everything.

The rest of us never even knew a Culture War was happening.  We were too busy living.  Too busy enjoying the benefits that knuckle-scraping Culture Warriors are at war against.  A big piece of that Culture War was aimed at Democracy.  Too many diverse people watering down the voting pool?  No way, Jose (to borrow an expression).

Americans need to cut the shit about what it IS to be an American.

Being an American — It was special my whole life.  I refuse to let Donald Trump and his band of GOPirates make being an American less special because they’re taking racism & bigotry & misogyny & corruption  to new and ‘exciting’ places.

First — we need to make Election Day A HOLIDAY.  It’s a Day Off Work to CELEBRATE the most Fundamental Right of BEING an AMERICAN — getting to VOTE.  We should rhapsodize about voting.  We should make it automatic that on your 18th birthday, like EVERY AMERICAN, YOU get registered to vote.

Then — We should do what Australia does.  They mandate that, on Election Day, you MUST go to your polling place.  Once there, you do not have to vote.  Once you sign in, you can leave immediately if that’s your wont.  Or you can vote whatever way you like.  You just have to show up.

Americans JUST HAVE TO SHOW UP.

It would be an awesome beginning.  Voting — as a muscle memory exercise — becomes easier to remember to do than NOT voting.

Weird, huh?

Then there’s the relationship between Americans and paying taxes.  Americans despise the idea of paying taxes because 1) it conflicts with their self-image as Frontier Guy and 2) Americans never see what they’re getting for those dollars taken from them and given to the government.  Americans perceive that they get nothing for the money — except less money in THEIR pocket.  If Americans could see the ‘benefits’ to paying taxes the way they see the benefit to paying more for a better cell phone or unlimited data — they’d pay it and maybe even shut up.

Not having to ever FIGHT to have the right to vote — or any of the other rights that belong to you because you are American — has made American Civic-Mindedness flabby and soft.  In these here times, it needs to be rock hard.  Six packs and pecs and bi-ceps all ripped to the max.  It takes had work and sacrifice to get your body in shape.

Democracy works exactly the same way.  With more sweat.