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This Ain't No Democracy

By       Message Ken Sanders       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Let 's be honest, shall we? Despite what we delude ourselves into believing, and despite our self-righteous proclamations to the contrary, the United States is not a democracy. Not even close.

First and foremost, we are not, and never have been a pure or absolute democracy. Such a system of government would require that the supreme power be retained and exercised directly by you and me, "the people. " Clearly, you and I do not directly exercise anything resembling supreme power over our government. Rather, we purport to have a representative democracy, wherein "the people " indirectly retain and exercise their power. Hence, so the theory goes, we elect representatives to be our voices in the government, to stand for and defend what a majority of us value.

Put differently, and in a more strictly legal sense, our elected representatives are supposed to be our guardians, our trustees. They are lawfully vested with the power and responsibility for taking care of us, the people, and protecting our rights. They sit in a fiduciary relationship with us, meaning they are duty-bound to act primarily for our benefit and subordinate their personal interests to ours.

The existence of a fiduciary relationship between the people and their representative is the essence of representative democracy. If that fiduciary duty is breached, or simply ignored, then there is no representation and thus no democracy. In the U.S., our so-called representatives stopped honoring their fiduciary obligations long ago, if they ever honored them at all. Instead, we have the antithesis of a representative democracy: "representatives " who subordinate our rights and benefits to their own personal interests. If our titular representatives refuse to be the conduits for our indirect exercise of power, then the very premise of representative democracy falls apart.

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That premise has long since disintegrated, leaving us with the mere facade of a representative democracy. At this point, all we "the people " are doing is perpetuating the facade and contributing to our own delusion. Every election cycle it 's the same thing: They promise to be our voice in Washington. We vote them into office. They sell us down the Potomac. Repeat.

For some reason, despite its gross obviousness, we never seem to catch on to this simple fact: those who vie for our votes simply offer promises they have no intention of keeping. We fall for it every time. They 're like frat boys urging the drunk girl to give it up by promising to call her in the morning, only to brag the next day about how easy it was to make her a slut. So it is with our so-called representatives in Washington. They flatter and fool us only to leave us feeling angry and ashamed after we voted them into office. Hung over and ill, we vow never to let it happen again ... until next time, anyway.

The latest example of this perpetual screw we insist on calling a representative democracy comes in the form of President Bush 's recent Supreme Court follies. Ever the loyal soul, Bush nominated his personal attorney Harriet Miers to be the next Justice of the Supreme Court. While Ms. Miers was wholly unqualified for the position, the right wing of the Republican party opposed her nomination on a far more principled basis: they were unconvinced of her loyalty to the conservative cause. Additionally, despite the utter lack of evidence that she ever committed such a crime, the far-right was deeply worried about the possibility that Ms. Miers might actually have a mind of her own.

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Appalled at Bush 's nomination of such a liberal in conservative 's clothing, and regardless of his claims about knowing Ms. Miers ' heart, the far-right (led by Bill Kristol, Gary Bauer, Pat Robertson, et al.) revolted against their golden boy. In doing so they committed all of the sins for which they were so fond of condemning Democrats. They denied Ms. Miers an "up or down vote, " they stripped Ms. Miers ' religious beliefs of their former off-limits status, and they demanded that there be an abortion litmus test (a test which poor Harriet failed).

Stunned by the rancor of his own congregation, Bush the Loyal threw Harriet on the dung heap and without consulting with any of the Democratic leadership, quickly announced his new nominee: Samuel Alito. In nominating Judge Alito, Bush has made absolutely no bones about who 's interests he had in mind. By the same token, the Republican leadership is celebrating Bush 's rededication to serving those who had put him in office. For both Bush and the Republicans, Judge Alito 's nomination is not about what is best for the country. Rather, it is only about what is best for the Republican party. More accurately, the decision to nominate Judge Alito is about ensuring the future dominance of the Republican party.

The rest of us can go hang.

In fairness, it is not only Republicans who habitually breach their fiduciary duty to subordinate their personal interests to those of the majority of those they claim to represent. Democrats are just as duplicitous and craven as their Republican brethren. Take the Iraq invasion, for instance. Not wanting to appear unpatriotic and weak-kneed, and hoping to improve their reelection chances against Republican challengers, the Democrats rushed to grant Bush carte blanche to invade, occupy, and decimate Iraq. There were very few exceptions.

In doing so, Democrats were not interested in fulfilling their fiduciary obligations (particularly the part about subordinating their personal interests). They didn 't care whether the invasion was right or wrong, justified or not. They couldn 't be bothered with questions about whether the invasion would make the world more or less safe. They didn 't want to hear about the millions of Americans who opposed the war and who took to the streets in opposition. They made the calculated decision to try and out-Republican the Republicans - not because it was in the best interests of the country, because it was in the best interests of the Democrats, individually and collectively.

As a result, the Democrats could offer no one better than John Kerry as a presidential candidate in 2004. Kerry 's platform? The Iraq war was good in theory, but bad in execution. Translation: Democrats would have done a better job of killing Iraqis. That is the same song currently being sung by the so-called liberal hawks in Washington. "If only we had been in charge of the killing .... "

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There are, of course, situations which, at first blush, appear to be exceptions to the perpetual screw. The Democrats forcing the Senate into closed session over the Bush administration 's pre-invasion machinations is perhaps the most recent example. The case can be made, however, that the Democrats were less interested in doing right by the country than they were about exploiting the manifest chinks in the armor of Bush and the Republicans. In other words, the Democrats ' maneuver could just as easily be seen as a cynical attempt to improve their chances of regaining the Senate, if not the Presidency, in the next round of elections.

That some measure of truth about manipulated and fabricated pre-war intelligence might come out is merely secondary. Of primary importance is that we be impressed by the Democrats ' virility and machismo. That we think they are tough, but sensitive. That we want them to want us.

If the Democrats succeed in 2006 and 2008 and regain their position of dominance in Washington, it will be because they accomplished a few simple tasks: they got us drunk, told us we were pretty, and swore that it was more than just sex.

If the Democrats do succeed, we shouldn 't wait by the phone the next morning, wondering why they haven 't called. They 'll be too busy laughing at how easy we were.


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Ken Sanders is a lawyer and writer in Tucson, Arizona. His publishing credits include Op Ed News, Z Magazine, Democratic Underground, Dissident Voice, and Common Dreams. More of his writing can be found on his weblog at (more...)

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