On Our Dysfunctional Democracy

Mama Grizzly: The Alaskan Barbarian who rules the GOP


If anything is clear from the cacophonous noise that attends the mid-term elections, in which the public is inundated with carefully crafted political advertisements containing various degrees of fact and fiction – it is that our democracy is dysfunctional.   It is not enough just to have the right to vote, or even to exercise that right – if millions of voters are hopelessly confused on the critical issues by a barrage of disinformation, and are therefore as likely to vote against their interests as not. The So-called “Tea Party Patriots” are a striking case in point.

From a distance, they look like a real grass roots populist movement. But the truth is that they were organized by professional lobbyists shilling for the Republicans, who have skillfully manipulated their anger, confusion and deep seated racism to persuade them to vote against their best interests. To understand the bizarre character of this phenomenon, one need only compare the Tea Party rabble rousers to the protesters in France. Over there the working class understands clearly who the enemy is and they are aiming all of there efforts at them!

Since both movements are inspired by anger at the government, many Americans believe that they are same.  However the angry white workers in the Tea Party are fighting to put people in power that will do far worse to them than the Sarkozy government is trying to do to French workers that sparked the demonstrations.  For instance all the ruckus in France, which threatens to bring the nation’s business to a screeching halt, is about the fact that the Sarkozy government wants to raise the retirement age to 62!  The Tea Party Republicans want to force American workers – who already must work until sixty-five – to stay on the job until they are hobbling around at seventy!  Yet the polls show that senior citizens have contributed almost a hundred million dollars to political candidates, most of them Republicans.

The self-destructive ignorance of working class whites who support the Tea Party harkens back to slavery times in the ante-bellum south, when poor white workers went to war to defend chattel slavery.  Although it meant that they would never be able to bargain for a fair wage because they could be replaced with slave labor.  Looking at the situation from England as Civil War threatened the nation, Karl Marx wrote Abraham Lincoln and warned: “You cannot emancipate labor in the white skin while labor in the black skin remains in chains!”

Just as white workers fought to preserve a system that impoverished them in the 1860’s, the Tea Party Patriots are fighting to preserve a system that has brought the country to economic ruin and reduced them to a penurious existence.  Dr. Dubois was right when he argued with Marxist during the 1920’s that many white workers would identify with white millionaires before they would identify with black workers!  The Tea Party crowd supplies compelling evidence that his is argument is still true.

Of course, the white workers supporting Tea Party are on the right; yet whites on the left may prove an equal boon to the fortunes of the Tea Party Republican shills with their ideological obscurantism and dogmatic approach to issues. The white left is quick to point out that they are coming from a different place than right wing whites; which in reality is a distinction without a difference. They will both serve the interests of the Grand Obstructionists Party.

However many Afro-Americans and Hispanics are equally misguided.  Although they suffer the most in this crisis, their actions may contribute to the success of the Republican re-conquest of the Congress. As a result of their apathy, inspired by ignorance of the achievements of President Obama and the Democrats, they may decide to sit home and pout on election day. I have actually had some morons tell me they are going to do just that. It would be hard to find a sadder example of a people willfully shooting themselves in the head!

It seems that they have failed to learn the lessons of the recent past.  Many black voters sat home when David Dinkins came up for re-election and we got Rudy Giuliani; alas he is still with us, popping up everywhere like Banqou’s Ghost!  Dr. Cornell West advised people to vote for Ralph Nader, and Al Gore lost the election by far less that the margin of victory for Bush and we got Dirty Dick Cheney for eight years!!!  This resulted in a secret deal with the oil companies and the lack of regulation led to the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf  Of Mexico!  We also got a three trillion dollar war of choice.

This war of choice was in response to the attack of 9/11, which would never have happened if the cold warriors in the Bush Administration had not been so fixated on surrounding Russia with anti-missile missiles, which the most learned physicist have all assured us will not work, they failed to heed the multiple warnings they received about the impending attack.  When these jokers left office just two years ago they had wrecked the economy and we were in two protracted foreign wars.   Now they are about to retake control of the Congress, how could such an irrational thing happen?  Especially when we are facing the most critical election perhaps since the civil War!  America’s status in the world order of the future is being determined by the moves we are making now.

Tom Freidman, Foreign Affairs columnist for the New York Times, thinks in global terms and he sums up what is at stake for the future of our society if these reactionary, ignorant, right wing clowns in the Republican Party seize control of the Congress.  Citing a blue ribbon report on American readiness to compete with other nations for the great jobs of the future titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5” he is alarmed.  As storm watchers know, a Category 5 storm  portends disaster – Katrina was a category three!  Thus when we look at what the commission says it is clear that we as a nation are on the brink of  long term economic disaster.

Freidman tells us that commissioner Charles M. Vest, the former President of MIT, reiterates the report’s conclusions.  “In spite of the efforts of both those in government and the private sector,” he warns, “the outlook for America to compete for quality jobs has further deteriorated over the past five years.”  According to the commission report the US is sixth in global innovation based competitiveness; 40th in rate of change over he last decade; 11th among industrialized nations in the number of 25-30 years olds who have graduated from high school; 16th in the college completion rate; 22 in broadband internet access; 24th in life expectancy at birth; 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; 48th in the quality of K-12 math and science education and 29th in the number of mobile phones per 100 people. I must confess my surprise that cell phone distribution has now become one of the indices of an advanced economy; especially since text messaging is making inter-personal communication more and more difficult.

The report offers recommendations to deal with our protracted economic crisis, and President Obama has begun to implement them.  But it will cost money to bring America up to snuff.  If the Republicans take over the Congress they will starve the government of the resources we will need to address these critical problems in the public interest.  The GOP favors private interests over Public interests and nowhere is that clearer than in their attempt to make the 700 billion Bush tax cut to the rich and super rich permanent at a time when the country is facing massive deficits which they created in the first place.

The government is the only means we have to curtail the excesses of entrenched wealth – the class Franklin Roosevelt called “Economic royalists’ – that’s why they want to end all government regulation.  Clearly the Republican Party is committed to serving the interests of this class.  The working class dupes in the “Tea Party” – which former President Jimmy Carter correctly noted is financed by billionaires on Sunday – are lost in a fog of ignorance, panicked by fear, and working mightily against their own interests!

Added to the anger and ignorance of the misinformed whites is the anger, ignorance and cynicism of segments of the black and Hispanic communities who are threatening to sit out the election and not vote!  The African American malcontents are enraged because they say that President Obama has done nothing for black people – which is such an abominably ignorant attitude it invites contempt.  They appear to labor under the illusion that black folks elected President Obama – which is all the sadder because all they have to do is crunch the numbers to see that it ain’t so. Yet since everything he has done benefits black Americans as much, or more, as everyone else where’s the beef?

Considering the fact that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, victory will depend upon voter turnout.  As I write CBS NEWS is reporting a poll in whih only 59% of Democrats say they are planning to vote as opposed to over 80% of Republicans.   Thus this clueless crowd of blacks and Hispanics may well end up aiding the Republican re-conquest of Congress; which is like giving the hangman the rope to hang you with!

That is not the way our democracy is supposed to work; it is a perversion of the democratic ideal.  Such irrational behavior is irrefutable evidence that American democracy is dysfunctional. Two centuries ago Thomas Jefferson warned that a participatory Democracy could not work with an ignorant electorate, because an untutored mob armed with the ballot would elect and return the worse people to power.  The course of events in the present elections, two centuries later, prove that the premiere intellectual of the American enlightenment was also a prophet!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

October 31, 2010

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