Tag Archives: Liberalism

How many refuseniks can a liberal democracy handle?

There’s a saying that goes “if someone owes you $500, that’s their problem; if someone owes you $500 million, that’s your problem.”

Lately I’ve been thinking that if one citizen of a liberal democracy rejects its philosophy, one person has a problem; if one million citizens of a liberal democracy reject its philosophy, society has a problem.

Mostly, this is just me putting a familiar theme into a new bottle, so I won’t dwell on it all that long here.

But it continues to seem like something which we need to confront, and I’m not sure that I have seen anyone doing so:

Even in an impossible scenario of sweeping new political rules to take away all of Republicans’ (currently generous) options for exercising tyranny of the minority, what does liberalism propose to offer them other than the steamrolling of what they value, forever?

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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.

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Garbage Time

I have thought a time or two, recently, of the “first they ignore you…” bit, and how failing systems of authority may experience it in reverse. First people respect and feel part of the system, then people bump up against unworkable features of the system, then people laugh at its continued pretense of authority, then people just ignore it.

This is as close as I can get to a theme for what’s going on now.

Steady rot, maddening slowness of even attempts at constructive response, and more opting out.

Of the steady rot, well, good grief. This post’s featured image is of a protester in February 2017, and I suspect her sign could actually be more true now, not less. I wrote this post almost 29 months ago, and could just about repeat every word of it today. The big picture is dismal, and while one may find bright spots in the darkness here and there, from a perch next to Cleveland, Ohio, it’s just awful.

Yet leaders and institutions mostly seem, perhaps inevitably, deeply attached to accepting the system’s limits no matter how ridiculous they become. Pick an example. Congress is almost too obvious, yet it’s perhaps worth pointing out that it should be obviously unthinkable that about 50% of a legislature with vast responsibilities is permanently committed to blockade any and everything, even policies which are genuinely very good as well as wildly popular with the public. Yet this is just normalized. Working around the bad sectors and “out-organizing” them, accepting that impossibly bad rules and what they are, aw just try harder, is broadly accepted by leaders and institutions.

Liberal democracy, certainly in America, just seems to have no idea whatsoever what to do about an organized enemy which is inter-weaved with a traditional political party. It is just not done, apparently, for liberalism to actually fight to shut down a political party no matter how toxic it becomes. Instead liberal leaders and institutions just endlessly monitor the bad behavior and point at it, waiting for some other authority to take responsibility. The courts, which are too slow at best, or the voters, who pour votes into systems which just throw them out because those systems are already corrupted. Liberalism is forever determined to win the argument; even if it conclusively wins the argument and systems don’t respond, the answer is always to try winning it even more.

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Brexit via exhaustion

My interest in “Brexit,” at this point, is mainly entertainment. I suppose it always has been. The points of comparison between British and American politics are interesting—sometimes downright eerie—but mostly I look at Brexit news for a diversion from our domestic dysfunction. A friend and I refer to it as The Daily (Shit) Show.

This week, at last it’s more or less official. Years after the referendum the UK is leaving the European Union, with a replacement trade agreement being rolled through a political system which seems mostly to be reacting with sheer exhausted resignation.

Far more informed people have already analyzed this from countless angles and will go on doing so for years. My primary “take,” as such, is the same one I arrived at two or three years ago: the key word for interpreting all the thrashing and contortions of Brexit is “plus.”

In an earlier season of the show, the word “plus” was an indispensable suffix. What practical model for relations with the EU should follow the egregiously vague 2016 referendum verdict? The answer was always something-plus. Canada-plus. Norway-plus. Etc.

The repeated insistence on some model different and better than any which existed seemed, and seems, to encapsulate the denial which produced years of fumbling to little apparent purpose, which turned the English left inside-out, and which may disunite the UK.

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