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Performing patriotism by @BloggersRUs

Performing patriotism

by Tom Sullivan


The United States Senate party membership by state. States with two Democratic U.S. Senators are in blue, states with two Republican U.S. Senators are in red, and those with one of each are in purple. States with an independent U.S. Senator are marked with green stripes on a blue or red background, depending on the party of the other U.S. Senator. - Wikipedia

Reality TV isn't. Under a party led by a reality show star, democracy isn't either. Royalists want to rule. Republicans want to fall in line.

Former secretary of state Colin Powell told CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Sunday his three favorite words in the U.S. Constitution have long been "we the people." That puts him out of step with his political party, one that, for all its patriotic bluster, breaks faith with the constitution after those first three words. The Republican Party does not believe in them, nor in democratic institutions it cannot control.

That break came long before the sitting Republican president took office. Powell nonetheless lamented that since January 20, 2017, Donald Trump has twisted those three words into "me the President."

The alleged leader of a crime family asserted Republicans believe in the rule of law while describing women protesting the elevation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as an angry mob.

But as Will Bunch observes, one person's mob to others is what democracy looks like. If you are into that sort of thing:

Believe me, this so-called "angry mob" would much rather spend its fall weekends at their kids' soccer games or picking apples than chanting themselves hoarse or, in dozens of cases, getting arrested. But this was inevitable after two years of watching Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his henchmen crash through the guardrails of democracy to stall and kill the SCOTUS nomination of the profoundly decent Merrick Garland and then ram through the indecent and indignant Kavanaugh. Not to mention a confirmation process designed to throw darkness rather than shed light, right up to a sham FBI investigation as ordered by the White House. No wonder citizens are airing their complaints to a government that's indifferent at best and autocratic at worst. If this was a mob, then it was a mob in the exact same spirit as — dare I say it — the Boston Tea Party, without the tragic waste of caffeine.
But a sham democracy is just what America is headed for if Republican leaders have their way with us. Blogger Susie Madrak opined that they only "perform conscience" these days. Performing democracy has long been second nature.

The New York Times' Charles Blow would agree:

The founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy in this country, and in fact were dreadfully afraid of it.

Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this sensibility, wrapped in a populist “follow the Constitution” rallying cry and disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism.

Performed patriotism, that is. One reason one of America's major parties has rejected democracy and embraced ruthless Trumpism "is rooted in the certain knowledge that they are in the minority,” says Democratic strategist Paul Begala. Thus, they “maximize every opportunity to assert the power they do have.” Being in the minority is in their minds no reason they shouldn't rule.

Bunch offers several actions America might take to undo the corrosive effects of antidemocratic elements in the constitution left over from its slave origins. Those, the GOP has used to leverage its minority support into control of all three branches of government and the near elimination of checks and balances.

"The system of government as written up right here in Philadelphia in 1787 is in shambles," Bunch writes, "badly broken to the point that if we don't make radical repairs soon, American democracy will die a painful, ugly death."

Eliminating the electoral college is a talking point that will not restore the principle of "one person, one vote" as armchair activists believe. That and demographic trends might help elect Democrats retake the White House, but with the GOP in firm control of the Senate, then what? Gridlock will prevent a Democratic president from advancing progressive goals or, as we have seen, appointing judges to the courts including the Supreme Court.

While demographic trends might favor Democrats on a aggregate basis, we elect the United States Senate geographically, not democratically. In those terms, we are headed towards a permanent Democratic House and a permanent Republican Senate with control over Supreme Court confirmations.

To restore "one person, one vote" in the Senate will require undoing the undemocratic Great Compromise, to which no small state senator or legislature will give assent in our lifetimes. Democrats' only other near-term option is to win U.S. Senate seats in red states where they do not now. That will take the kind of unsexy organizing and infrastructure building election-cycle obsessed, Washington-focused Democrats do not do now.

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