Thursday, March 31, 2011

Democratic Allegiance

With Ohio following through yesterday on the semi-recent Wisconsin meme a la public unions, it was interesting to see how people reacted. Although this legislation in Ohio is arguably just as important as what had been brewing further into the Midwest, it didn't seem to garner as much attention - or at least not nationally. But there were certainly people here (Columbus, OH) who were very outraged, but even then most of them were members of the public unions, and they seemed to be drowned out by indifference for the large part.

I suppose what I find most interesting about the reactions amongst the law's detractors is their over-insistence to, instead of acknowledging their lack of leverage, look at the situation and conclude that democracy is being abused somehow. We don't have to go back too far to realize we have a tendency to think the system is "broken" when we're on the down-slope (even if, in some cases, our understanding of how that system works is evidently pretty poor). Hence the interesting dichotomy that unfolds. Everything the antagonist does (from your perspective) becomes the embodiment of the modern perversion of "democracy", while every speech, rally, or get-together on your side is confluence of the American voice - a virtual tour de force of "democracy."

So...I find it pretty odd, although fairly ubiquitous, that people kind of ride this mental seesaw from election to election. You point to the push from a governor to curb union "rights" and say that democracy is being bastardized. Well, how exactly did he get into office? On the other hand you point to all the people who show up at rallies X, Y, and Z and say, "This is democracy in action!" Really? I'm pretty sure the last election was "democracy in action" too - how did that fare for you? You know what else was democracy in action? By my count - at least six years of "democratic" sovereignty from a neo-conservative leaning country.

Cognitive dissonance is the milestone in American political discourse...

The cold hard truth is that many of these people are both devoted to their political agenda and, laterally, democracy. This creates a mental schism which would be painfully obvious in any political landscape but our own. We've associated both our own ideals with the good and democracy with the good so that when our ideals have not reached fruition it's not just a political failure, but a failure of democracy itself - or, I should say, more specifically a "lack" of democracy. Of course, while cheerleaders for Team Red and Team Blue may be able to juggle this odd inconsistency for decades upon decades, it doesn't take much thoughtful discernment to realize the disconnect.

Democracy fails. It fails with every single election at every single nature. If we were all in agreement, there would be no need for such a thing. But, as we aren't, this necessitates (so we're told) the choosing of a specific course amongst multiple rivalrous ideas. Democracy is merely a method of separating political success from political loss - it in and of itself is not some mystical machine that makes whatever it touches magically benevolent as if by some inanimate sanction. While democracy comes in many different flavors, it's generally just a way to mechanize upon populist sentiment, whether that be for establishing single-payer healthcare or instituting slavery. It may be better than the next best thing, but it has very serious pitfalls - which is why many who have directly contributed to it have tried to lay roadblocks to impede the mob as it were.

But this important democratic caveat many people don't take into consideration (particularly on the left). Their faith in democracy in and of itself stands almost as a testament to egalitarian nationalism - the leverage of the common man over the powerful (and sometimes powerless) minority. But, when the wheels of the beast begin to move in reverse, it's as if we're suddenly operating in a vacuum - completely devoid of democracy at all. The proles become enraged in the perceived absence of the system that's being used against them. They pray (publicly) to soothe and lull the damaging hands of democracy back into their protective state; much like the beaten wife who convinces herself to forget in the hope of returned normalcy.

Democracy may be the best tool we have for the purpose of government, but a panacea of benevolence it is not. It's, as often put in libertarian circles, the "gun in the room" that most of us fail to see. To make matters more complicated, we've decided to give someone in the room among us a monopoly on that gun - and democracy is just a method of deciding who holds that monopoly at any given time. It may be the best way to decide who gets to hold the gun if we're only going to let one person have it, but it definitely doesn't keep you from getting shot; particularly when you're in the minority.

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