I was writing something on the topic of "The Will of the People", when I paused to listen to the President’s Thursday September 13th speech, in which he mentioned:
1. an “enduring relationship” with Iraq’s government,
2. that he was grateful for the contribution of troops from “36 nations,”
3. and that he follows the advice of his generals.
1. An enduring relationship with a non-existing government that recently took a month’s vacation?
2. Troops from 36 nations? Was he counting the hometowns of his troops, from places like Harlem and Minneapolis and Kansas City?
3. Advice of his generals? Did he mean the list of four stars he fired who didn’t agree with his disastrous agenda?
Or is Bush, unlike Bill Clinton, inhaling something?
1. Retired Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, in his new book says, “The Iraq war is largely about oil.” Really? When did he discover that?
2. There are as many private and unbelievably expensive contractors in Iraq as there are servicemen and women. And half of them, international mercenaries, are armed to the teeth, as are the bully boys of Blackwater, a far-right organization which has contributed funds to Republican coffers. This is news?
Bush/Cheney and their neocon cohorts have simply never appreciated the concept of the will of the people; an example of which was loudly expressed in the November elections, a statement which they continue to ignore. It was a mandate which the wimpish Democrats, who can‘t get their act together, have failed to exploit to the satisfaction of their antiwar constituents. Unfortunately, the neocons and an incompetent Bush are the only ones with vision; albeit in the neocons case, cynically ideological; and in Bush’s case, messianic and dangerously hallucinatory.
So the will of the people in most matters, as usual, is too often discounted, especially by the far right who have long had a concept that is basically incompatible with the public will.
In our society conservative thinkers tend to frown on the possibility of unregulated voters having too much to say, and have a way of demonizing them by suggesting they may be too uninformed to understand anything nuanced, for instance the need for unregulated capitalism. Too uninformed to understand the conservative fairy tale of how the rising fortunes of corporations will always brim and trickle down to provide the societal paradise of Joe Six-Pack’s American Dream, which it did for awhile in the post-war era of this country.
A time, for instance, in 1952, when General Motors CEO Charles Wilson said: “What is good for General Motors is good for America…“ and added: “What is good for America is good for General Motors.“ The latter statement being important in explaining a fairly positive relationship between worker and corporation. A time when CEOs were paid basically according to merit, and workers might increase their relative wealth according to merit, as well, and move into the middle class. But no more.
Americans have lost most collective bargaining, have lost their collective voice, are working harder for less, are losing pensions and health coverage, and are afraid of losing their jobs. Social intervention in America, something most developed countries take for granted, like universal health care, is a threat to conservative ideologues; and Social Security and Medicare have always been menaced by conservatives who voted against these initiatives from their inception. At the same time there has been plenty of intervention in favor of big business, with secretive energy policies, subsidies and lower taxes, and rescuing corporations from failure when they operate recklessly; as demonstrated by the unregulated subprime mortgage industry which is devaluing the dollar and pulling our economy into the toilet.
Our voices have been drowned out by overpowering corporate influence which has corrupted our political process. There are many special interests: labor, teachers, nurses, fire and police, and so on; but these interests amount to scraps in comparison to the bursting bellies of corporate lobbies, and the lobbies of foreign governments. Democracy is not working for us. Pardon–our Republic, so espoused by conservatives, is not working. To explain:
It has been frequently pointed out by conservatives that nowhere in our Constitution and Bill Of Rights can the word democracy be found, and that its absence was deliberate, not accidental. Republican Ron Paul in his “Texas Straight Talk” reminds us of the Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to the flag, and to the Republic for which it stands.” (Not the Democracy). And we are further reminded by conservatives: The Constitution and The Bill of Rights protects the individual against the will of the mob (us), meaning a man or woman may dissent against an unregulated majority without fear of persecution.
Excellent. But I will remind them, it is also supposed to protect us from an overzealous and dangerously unregulated administration, such as the Bush/Cheney bunch who have resorted to various forms of deceit and intimidation to elbow their way into a disastrous Iraqi war. An administration that has resorted to torture, wire tapping, and a retreat from habeas corpus, and has given a substantial part of our country’s wealth to business friends in the form of no-bid military contracts. These were actions in which we had no voice, a voice lost because of subservient legislative bodies, including the Democrats who signed on to this war, who were supposed to serve and represent our best interests, and did not.
The idea of democracy in its rawest form can be quite messy, I know, considering the interest-group conflicts and the demands of the electorate, that inevitably arise. And for some, starting with Plato, it can seem very risky.
The snooty old Greek philosopher in his Utopia saw his idea of a Republic from an elitist point of view in which he analyzed various forms of government, from monarchy to oligarchy to democracy, all of which he found quite wanting. Right, including democracy, finding it prone to tyranny and demagogy: on the one hand — the rule of the mob, and on the other — political demagogues pandering to the fears and prejudices of the people; resulting, through outright lying or lying by omission, in the manipulation of the passions of the people and gaining political domination. (Well, the latter sounds a lot like our Rove-directed administration; no?) Anyway, to avoid the risk of unleashing the dangerous power of the great unwashed, Plato favored an elitist group choosing other elites. Natch.
Our Founding Fathers, more than a few of them intellectually gifted enough to create our Constitution, were a somewhat elitist group of slave-owning, slave-screwing, landowners who resisted suffrage for women, and who were equally wary of their 18th century Joe Six-Pack and what they considered to be his threatening lack of wisdom. (Meaning: keep the non-rich in their place). Consequently they carefully differentiated between Republic and Democracy and chose the former. They, like the Greeks and Romans, believed that men — both mob and rulers — achieved freedom and security only in a government of laws, not men; that the worst instincts of the people would be realized without the checks and balances of a republic. Therefore, the Legislative, the Executive, the Judicial. (And who can argue with that? Unless you can‘t trust the Judicial). And it follows: never design a system that is solely constructed of one man, one vote. Therefore, the Electoral College.
Alexander Hamilton said: “We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.” (Italics mine.) Notice how Hamilton seems to give equal weight to both italicized words, illustrating his fear of the rabble and perhaps suggesting the latter would inevitably lead to the former.
Well, back then, all of that was just dandy for the minority rich, as well as it is for the same moneyed bunch today. But over time, with an expanded population pressing the democracy envelope, the line between Republic and Democracy becomes, as interpreted, blurred.
Apart from the Pledge, how often do you hear ourselves referred to as a Republic? We talk of our democratic way of life, not our republican way of life, even if it’s inaccurate. (And hey, isn’t Bush trying to sell it the world over?) And no reasonable American would doubt the need for the current checks and balances; we wouldn’t survive with out them.
But to insert a minor alteration in perspective from a man who believed in the Republic, and who set his hand to writing the Declaration Of Independence, I submit several statements by Thomas Jefferson:
“This….is a country where the will of the majority is the law, and ought to be the law.” 1786
“I subscribe to the principal, that the will of the majority honestly expressed should give law.” 1793
“The will of the people….is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect it’s free expression should be our first object.” 1801
“It is the multitude which possess force, and wisdom must yield to that.” 1816
The multitude, that’s us. Scary, huh?
And a bit more fuel to the fire: Texas A&M Political Science professor, George C. Edwards, has said (ironically), that the Electoral College originally assumed that electors would be faithful agents of the people who were men of superior discernment, virtue and information and who acted “according to their own will.” He then quotes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley in 1877, who said, “Electors were mere instruments of party — party puppets — who are to carry out a function that an automaton without volition or intelligence might well perform.” And further quotes Kansas Senator John J. Ingalls, of the same period, who said, “Electors are like the marionettes in a Punch and Judy show.”
But it’s clever for neocon think-tankers, possibly paranoid and in fear of some wild Constitutional amendment to scrap the Electoral College, to invoke said Republic and promote the idea of danger in the vote of a self-interested emotional and poorly informed, and thereby irrational, people. As if we now existed in an unadulterated democracy in which some demagogic tyrants might at any moment seize control of the unfocused majority.
(Mmmm….again, something like what Bush and Cheney have done, huh?).
When in fact, these days, as uninformed and unincluded as we the people may be, it doesn’t take a rocket science I.Q. to grasp the agendas of Cheney, the conservatives and the greed-driven Corporations. The result of which is the containment of Joe Six-Pack within the corral of his need to survive in the daily two-job-a-day struggle; in which he is in effect told: don’t get in the way, man. You’re on the outside, man.
The agenda, of course, being the good ol’ laissez-faire thing, a free capital market in which unregulated, under-taxed corporations can create for themselves a globalized heaven on Earth, which they’ve succeeded in doing by stuffing the campaign pockets of the people we elect to serve us. At our expense–we the newly disenfranchised people, naturally. This heaven on earth, having initially been helped along by Bill Clinton’s mistake, NAFTA, has been sending our service and manufacturing jobs overseas, reduced the creation of products in the U.S., and allowed illegal immigration from the south to burden our system and compete unfairly with our labor force. Not just working crops and mowing lawns, but in factories and construction, as well. Business loves cheap labor and this administration is always anxious to please, and did so through the recently departed Mr. Gonzales, who cherry-picked laws to enforce and not to enforce — in this case, not.
Too much happens behind closed doors to thwart the will of the people: Cheney and his oil pals setting energy policy for the country, screwing us, the people, while the V.P. continues to refuse to disclose the names of the attendees of that closed door get-together, claiming executive privilege. The lies, the deception formulated in the oval office as part of the policy of the preemptive invasion of Iraq; to grab the oil, to own a part of the Middle East, and to use this as a stepping stone into Iran.
A corporate war in the guise of our national interests, directed away from the will of the people which had morally invested itself in the fight in Afghanistan. A war cynically wrapped in religion and the American flag and supported by both Republicans and weak-willed Democrats. An immoral policy created secretly by intellectual neocon sneaks like Messrs Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Men who crept away after the miserable failures of their think-tank orgies, afraid to suffer the same public humiliation of a wrong-headed Donald Rumsfeld, the man who brushed off Mid East scholars warning of post invasion chaos, and who referred with contempt to “Old Europe” because European leaders saw through the fantasies of “WMDs,” “Mushroom Clouds,” “The Plan For Victory,” “Mission Accomplished” and “Operation Forward together.” All of which has continued because it was allowed to happen by both political parties.
Right, the Democrats, too, who are only recently learning to stay on message; and like the Republicans, (brilliantly guided by the recently departed Machiavellian Rove) so much of what is said by the Dems, these days, is also merely political rhetoric, a pandering to this or that group. For instance, during this presidential campaign (the longest ever), the mostly secular-minded Dems have suddenly, and laughably, found religion.
Yes, Democrats, along with Republicans, stuff their campaign pockets with money from corporate lobbies (maybe not Obama) and thereby continue to thwart the will of the people they supposedly represent. As of August 2007, K Street lobbies spent a staggering 1.24 billion dollars to get what they want, and the public be damned. I’m guesstimating there are more than 35,000 lobbyists at work within the beltway, and their ranks are routinely replenished by former well-connected governors, congressmen, Capitol Hill aides, plus Admirals and Generals who are especially valuable to defense contractors who need an edge in their dealings with their friends at the Pentagon. Therefore all of these new lobbyists can become millionaires by selling their influence and donating money to both parties, which is simply bribing our representatives and undermining our Democracy. (Sorry, our Republic).
As an example, I quote the Washington Post from June 22, 2005:
"In 2002, Susan B. Hirschmann, chief of staff to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), had so many lobbying offers that she enlisted Robert B. Barnett, the attorney for Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), to receive and filter them.”
Nice to be wanted.
So all of this is allowed by our legislators who vote themselves salary raises, decent pensions and excellent health care, while quite a few of the rest of us have to scrape along and hope for the best. Millions of Americans with stagnant wages and without health care, watching their taxes pouring into the bottomless pit of the Iraqi war and into the pockets of no-bid contractors. Compliments of Bush/ Cheney and the Republican party, and the Democrats who signed on to this, ignoring the interests of their constituents.
Us. You and me.
So much for the will of the people.