Facing the Present

Thinking more on ROM’s final testament, in Dead Memory: “if you could only learn to read the present, your memory might be of some use to you.”

I dread the future, I live every day in anxiety. Lately I’m thinking that America likely approaches a point when the whole idea of elections with specific, factual outcomes just disintegrates. It looks very likely that in future national elections, hundreds if not thousands of county and precinct election officials will reject as fraudulent any outcome other than a big vote for Republicans. No one is prepared for that and I’m not sure that there even exists a meaningful way to be prepared for it. That scenario isn’t a bug or a hack of systems of authority, it’s the disintegration of authority through mass opting-out.

Of course, I don’t know that will happen, let alone when. If Democrats’ coalition feels no compelling stake in the 2022 elections, Republicans will likely declare the results very legitimate.

Yet the most important reality here, as with my larger dread, is not with what could happen but with what has already happened.

Consider some of what happened following the 2020 election:

  • Texas electors voted 34-4 to call on Legislatures in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin to appoint their own electors to overturn the election
  • Armed protestors threatened Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
  • Republican election officials belatedly, and very reluctantly, certified the reality of Wayne County MI vote totals, and almost instantly afterward declared that to have been the wrong decision
  • Ronna McDaniel privately told “multiple confidants that she doubted there was any scalable voter fraud in Michigan.” But she said she had to parrot Trump’s narrative to prove she was willing to “fight.”
  • It was treated as “Breaking News” that “Michigan lawmakers said they would honor the outcome of the state’s election process,” that’s how bad things got

The above is just a small survey of news from one state. In the year since, Republicans have embraced the Big Lie mythology, and moved nonstop to replace the improvised flailing of late 2020 with trained and drilled operatives. Hundreds of them, thousands.

Meanwhile in the much bigger picture, a huge flaw in efforts to save American democracy is that at their core, there is no solid explanation of what they are intended to save and why. That isn’t the only flaw, of course; the machinery is very far gone and that matters too. But even in theory, even the proposed remedies just aren’t really a coherent vision.

Aside from my ongoing questions about whether any such remedies can work in the face of mass opting-out, what does “working” even mean? America’s political system is, at a national level, broken. Democrats’ candidates for president have gotten the most votes all but one time since 1988, despite which procedural mumbo jumbo has given Republicans two of the five presidencies since then, and the great majority of Supreme Court appointments. We kind-of sort-of acknowledge in theory that gerrymandering is now outright election-rigging, not just a mild “thumb on the scale,” but if gerrymandering is undemocratic then the US Senate is obviously so in the extreme. In my adolescence America heard often about political “gridlock,” yet at this point it’s completely normalized that even legislation wildly supported, across party lines, cannot be enacted no matter what voters do. What is the point of this system…?

Occasionally someone glances at this, but there is really no remotely credible way to do anything about this system within the system. Openly discussing that is still just verboten. So, stumped liberal elites mostly go on fretting that the country isn’t more exercised on behalf of a democracy that’s largely imaginary, or they just carry on with message bills and hearings and factory tours.

Read the present. Look and observe what’s already here, what has already happened, and been completely normalized.

I often write of zombie systems, but lately I think also of The Sixth Sense, as the society around me feels like some sort of unaware afterlife. “I see dead political systems. All around us. They don’t even know they’re dead. They only see what they want to see.”

“Telling you what the future holds won’t help you,” said ROM. Telling ghosts what their present holds seems not to help, either.

“Change occurs when systems reach their breaking point, and then it’s too late.”

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