Snob Story

The concluding part of Bill Maher’s “New Rules” segment last week illustrated some of the glaring contradictions between historical fact and fanciful, revisionist fiction when it comes to the disparity between the fundamental values of America’s Founding Fathers and those of the so-called Tea Party movement that has attempted to co-opt them as spiritual leaders of their reactionary, populist cause.

Writing early last year in New York Magazine about the recent surge of populism in the USA, Kurt Anderson succinctly described the “elitist” disposition of America’s framers this way:

…what those thoughtful, educated, well-off, well-regarded gentlemen did was invent a democracy sufficiently undemocratic to function and endure. They wanted a government run by an American elite like themselves, as James Madison wrote, “whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.” They wanted to make sure the mass of ordinary citizens, too easily “stimulated by some irregular passion … or misled by the artful misrepresentations” and thus prone to hysteria—like, say, the rabble who’d run amok in Boston Harbor—be kept in check. That’s why they created a Senate and a Supreme Court and didn’t allow voters to elect senators or presidents directly. By the people and for the people, definitely; of the people, not so much.

It’s an excellent article that explores the conflicting dynamic that has existed from the outset in American politics between the “deliberative gentlemen engaged in careful compromise” and “the apoplectic vandals… throwing things overboard.”

Note: The usual warning applies regarding any RTWBM video… HBO may decide to have it pulled down at any time because they’re dicks that way.

Update: As expected, the hyper-vigilant copyright police at HBO zapped the clip that had originally been embedded.

Alternative Voting

The embattled Labour government of Gordon Brown in the U.K. is proposing a new “alterative voting” scheme whereby, rather than simply marking an “X” on the ballot, citizens would indicate their preference for in ranking order for the various candidates on offer.

Apparently, the British Tories are quite outraged about this proposal as analysis of recent past election results indicate they would generally be somewhat disadvantaged by such a complex redistribution of votes. Go figure.

I wonder if the idea might catch on here as an initial step towards electoral reform and a more proportional form of representation. As well, it could be forcefully argued that it might not be an altogether bad thing to encourage people to invest a little more thought into marking their ballots. And yes, this does relate somewhat to a previous discussion about “literacy tests” but in an entirely more positive way…

A Rogue Opinion

I don’t think anyone could accuse Sean Holman (a local political commentator and investigative journalist behind “Public Eye Online”) of being a “Con spinner” by any means, so his opinion on this weekend’s anti-prorogation rallies was, for obvious reasons, quite interesting.

“Many of those criticizing the proroguing of parliament are less interested in democracy and more interested in capturing the kind of undemocratic power that comes with a majority government.”

A Question of Democracy?

Michael Ignatieff speaking at the anti-prorogation rally on Parliament Hill yesterday. “This is a demonstration that shows that Canadians understand their democracy, care for their democracy and if necessary, will fight for their democracy,” Ignatieff told the crowd.

Well, we shall see about that… I’m still inclined towards a more cynical disposition when it comes to Canadians by and large understanding their “democracy” let alone caring all that much for its parliamentary procedures or partisan political machinations.

Why, for example, do all these protesters earnestly shouting “Back to work!” accept without question the adjournment of parliament for a full two and a half months during the summer each year? Perhaps they’re unaware that parliament actually sits for just 136 days out of the entire year. Or if not, do they presume that government isn’t “working” for the remaining 63 percent of the year?

As H.L. Menken famously said, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Update: Video from the rally in Victoria.

From today’s Times-Colonist report of the event:

About 1,500 people gathered at Centennial Square, from teens to seniors and Greens to Conservatives.

Victoria organizer Craig Ashbourne, a 26-year-old sociology student, told the crowd the numbers of people of all political stripes drawn together after only two weeks of Internet postings and e-mails is proof something profound is happening in Canadian politics.

“And people are coming up a little bit inspired,” said Ashbourne after the event. “They are talking about what we can do here and [they’re] not just going to sit back and wait for the next election.”

Speakers included Victoria-area NDP MP Denise Savoie of the NDP and Liberal MP Keith Martin, along with University of Victoria political scientist Dennis Pilon, who said he knew of many Conservative voters who were offended by the move.

Whether the Dear Leader will be impressed by the fact that 0.5% of folks here in Victoria were sufficiently frustrated with his government’s (in)action to turn out to a protest rally is, I would suggest, doubtful to say the least.

The Anxiety of Freedom

Paul A. Rahe, author of Soft Despotism: Democracy’s Drift relates political behavior to human nature. Rahe argues that governmental policies regarded by some as manifestations of a tyrannical, overbearing “nanny state” inducing individuals to happily succumb to a state of servility are primarily caused by a disturbing sense of anxiety or inquiétude associated with social freedoms.

It’s a rather charming theory, but one that I suspect works quite painfully backwards from a preconceived ideological conclusion.

As usual, the complete discussion is available here.

America the Beautiful

Well, for some perhaps…

I used to be somewhat dismissive of Palast’s allegations back in 2005, or at least highly skeptical about them. No more. You can find much more about him and his work (some might call it a “crusade”) from his website. It’s quite eye-opening stuff when you really start to delve into the subject — it may however lead to deep cynicism about so-called “democracy” as practiced in America.