Debunking the myth of American democracy
“I can tell you this — the president of the United States said, ‘Wow.’ The president said, ‘You showed why you were speaker of the California Assembly. The president, the vice president, Mrs. Obama, all of them acknowledged the decisive way I handled that.’”
Democracy shemocracy! Who cares when the Supreme Leader claps you on the back and congratulates you for a job well done? In that Villaraigosa moment, the true contours of power in the world’s greatest democracy were revealed.
The little people — i.e. the delegates, the voters, and those who have stopped voting for precisely this reason — are irrelevant pawns, to be moved about the chessboard by these giants.
“It was a lot of ado about nothing,” said Villaraigosa, misquoting and well as misusing Shakespeare:
“When reporters told him after the vote that they did not clearly hear two-thirds support, he responded, ‘That’s nice to know. I was the chairman and I did, and that was the prerogative of the chair.’”
This is the face of our political class: arrogant, authoritarian, and on the level of somebanana republic south of the border. Welcome to the New America, where leader-worship has taken the place of politics, Team Red and Team Blue battle it out to see who gets to be El Supremo for the next four years, and politics resembles a prolonged soccer game.
At least the Republicans ran their operation with a modicum of formal “democracy.” It wasn’t their fault the bus driver bringing Morton Blackwell, chief opponent of the controversial rules change, to the convention somehow got “lost.” The Paul delegates were a minority, albeit a vocal and well-organized one, and they got voted down squarely if not fairly.
Villaraigosa didn’t bother with such old-fashioned formalities: he simply asserted his “prerogative” and declared the amendment passed. One dictionary defines prerogativeas follows:
“1. An exclusive right or privilege held by a person or group, especially a hereditary or official right.
“2. The exclusive right and power to command, decide, rule, or judge: the principal’s prerogative to suspend a student.
“3. A special quality that confers superiority.”
His Honor’s choice of words reflects the mindset of his class — an increasingly assertive political class which views itself as a justly privileged elite. These paladins of the New Order are brazen because they know they can get away with it:
“Villaraigosa noted that any delegate who objected to the process could have made a formal challenge within 10 minutes of the vote. ‘Not one person objected. It’s more a media concern than a delegate concern.’”
I don’t know whether this is true, and I certainly wouldn’t take Villaraigosa’s word for it. If there are any antiwar Democratic delegates to that convention, who might be in a position to know, please write me — because it’s an important point. If indee d no one rose to object and register a formal challenge to the decision of the chair, then what passes for the “left” today is truly as dead as I’ve long maintained. I’m not talking about the Marxist left, which has too extensive a history to be uprooted even by the fall of the Soviet Union, but the Adlai Stevenson type liberals and the plentiful peaceniks-for-Obama who put the old Bush-is-Hitler antiwar coalition in mothballs when Obama took the oath of office.
As the third vote was taken, with the same audibly fifty-fifty results, Villaraigosa didn’t have to worry about what to do: the decision had already been made for him. As Fox News caught on camera, the teleprompter telegraphed the results before the vote was even taken.
As low as my opinion is of the Democratic party, that this happened in America, rather than North Korea, is hard to believe.
The platform revisions reflect two important facts about the rising political class; its insularity and its subservience to foreign interests. The God business was indeed a simple oversight: what happened is that the secularists who wrote the draft were given a free hand and their superiors never noticed the omission. To these people there is no god but the government: political rallies, and perhaps union meetings, are their equivalent of church. They don’t know or care that the vast majority of Americans are professed believers, Christians for the most part — especially outside the party’s urban fortresses.
The Jerusalem business was more serious, reflecting a real ideological rift between the party leadership and the grassroots — and an ongoing conundrum for the Obama administration, which is under increasing pressure from the Israel lobby. In tandem with this, the President faces additional pressure from some very big donors to the party coffers, whose fealty to the Democrats, as Wesley Clark pointed out, is predicated on the party’s unconditional support for the state of Israel.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama pledged to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and recognize that city as the “undivided capital of Israel,” as the revised platform now states. So did the Republicans. So has every candidate, Democrat and Republican, since Ronald Reagan. Even Ron Paul — wrongly, in my view — concurs. Yet no matter which party wins, the embassy stays in Tel Aviv. The whole “controversy” was manufactured, from beginning to end — and wound up being just another way for the Israel lobby to display its power.
The elaborate farce surrounding the platform “debate” underscores the great distance between political actors and those in the audience, the voters, who are increasingly just observers of a process — a narrative — over which they have no control. The narrative is being written for them, as it appears on the teleprompter, and hacks like Villaraigosa just have to mouth the required phrases, all the while exercising their vaunted “prerogatives” to the hilt.
If every country gets the ruling class it deserves, as a roughly accurate reflection of the national ethos, then we are saddled with one that rivals the Bourbons in their arrogance, the Stalinists in their instincts, and the late Roman aristocracy in their decadence and hubris. That Villaraigosa moment was a close up snapshot of American “democracy,” which clearly showed the brazen effrontery of our rulers in action.
The myth of American democracy is like a great tree, standing upright against the winds for as long as anyone can remember: its hollowness is only revealed when one day it is struck by lightning.
No one can predict when lightning will strike, but when it does we’re bound to have another Villaraigosa Moment, albeit on a much larger scale.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
To those libertarians who take the Paulian view — which is, in essence, that it’s none of our business where the Israelis want to have their capital — I ask them to imagine the following scenario:
Country A invades Country B, conquers it, and declares the former capital city — which just happens to be sacred ground to the world’s three great religions — to be the capital of the newly formed conquistador state. It’s as if Canada invaded the US, took DC, and declared Washington the new capital of the United States of North America.
The United States has shipped billions in “aid” to Israel and stood by the Jewish state through thick and thin. Israeli and US interests are so intimately intertwined in the region that the President had to assure the Iranians we would have no part in an Israeli first strike — and ask them to please not blow up our Iraqi embassy.
The essence of the “special relationship” is that we must bear ultimate responsibility for Israel’s actions. We have been not just their sugar daddy but also their advocate in the court of world opinion, even when they’ve been clearly and brazenly in the wrong. For us to cap off this record with a declaration clearly meant to offend the expropriated Palestinian people, even while officially declaring our support for a Palestinian state, would reverberate throughout the Muslim world. If the words of the revised Democratic platform were ever implemented, the interests of the US would be seriously and irrevocably damaged in the region. Which is why no President has ever done it, why it’s one of the few mistakes the Bush administration didn’t make, and why Obama isn’t going to break that tradition.