Whither Democracy?

…as democracy withers…

At the moment, the message throughout the liberal/progressive end of the blogosphere is “don’t give up.” We lost the Big One, but built the foundations to counter the right wing Scaife/Limbaugh/Newsmax/Fox/Washington Times noise machine. This Is Only The Beginning.

Well…maybe.

As much of an incurable optimist as I usually am, I can’t help but see the fundamental flaw in such thinking: movements only matter if those in power can be removed by them. Optimism about our infrastructure would be justified if we could reasonably believe that we will have freedom of speech, press, assembly and petition in the years to come.

The word “democracy” refers, literally, simply to the power of a populace to vote. This can be on laws, such as in a direct democracy, or on representatives, such as in a democratic republic like America, or both, such as in California. However, the colloquial meaning — democracy’s connotation, if you will — has come to mean the entire slate of rights and protections. Privacy, expression, representation, equality, due process, all of these things are part of the meme of democracy if not the dictionary meaning. And in spite of (or perhaps because of) Dubya’s rhetoric about defending “freedom” and “democracy,” both are in terrible danger in the United States. Now if Bush becomes sufficiently confident in his so-called “mandate” that he decides the “focus groups” can yammer all they want, our ability to change things with our voices remains dependent on our ability to vote. Suffice to say that, in the wake of Diebold’s Ohio strategery, I am reminded of the old Soviet axiom about who counts the votes.

This is not to say that change is impossible, nor am I suggesting that we give up. Surrender is death. (Unlike many other Democrats, however, I will not condemn those who leave the country — as a husband and father myself, I am giving the possibility serious thought myself — but one can write from anywhere.) Nevertheless, we have to accept the reality of the situation. The current Republican leadership is willing to do anything to hold on to power. Noise on the right — even among supposed moderates who should know better — is leaning disturbingly towards “shut up or we’ll make you.”

Which means, of course, that it’s the last thing we should do. The Republicans expanded their grip on the White House and the Senate, barely managed to hold their own in the House (thank all the gods for Nancy Pelosi), and thanks to the sheer blindness of millions of our fellow Americans, Bush will get to appoint at least two Supreme Court judges. All we’ve got left is the good puppy press…which looks like it might finally be tired of getting kicked.

The Right has been “working the refs” for decades. I have just enough faith left in me to believe, though, that the SCLMers are tired of being played by people who despise their entire profession, who serve lies while the SCLM (supposedly) serves truth, and who are trying to turn them into overpaid narrators and stenographers. They do need one thing, however: motivation.

We had our chance to vote. We threw everything we had into getting Kerry elected. We lost. Now, we have one chance left: tell the non-wingnut media to stop giving Bush a free ride. Iraq lies, his failures in the War on Terra, corporate cronyism unseen since the 20s, betraying an operative working on WMDs, the annihilation of the environment, fiddling while the world’s oil burns, outsourcing, pandering to the Saudi royals, and a slide towards an apocalyptic theocracy. It ought to be a scandal. It ought to be a thousand scandals. And maybe it still can be.

It’s time to start making some noise…while we still can.

(/) Roland X
No Retreat, No Surrender

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