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Destroying Democracy to Save It

by Zwackus Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 12:29:50 AM EST

Post-election events in the US have been as depressing as expected. Two developments, in particular, suggest that American democracy is really and truly in its death throes.

Post-election events in the US have been as depressing as expected. Two developments, in particular, suggest that American democracy is really and truly in its death throes.

On the one hand, you have the Republican party of North Carolina, which is holding an emergency lame-duck session of the state legislature to remove as much power as possible from the Governor -- because a Democract won the election.

North Carolina Republicans Try to Curtail the New Democratic Governor's Power

DURHAM, N.C.--With a Democratic governor scheduled to take the reins in Raleigh on January 1, Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly are taking advantage of an emergency session for disaster relief to bring forward a raft of bills designed to sharply curtail the governor's power.

Among the bills introduced on Wednesday are measures that would make Cabinet appointees subject to state senate approval, remove the governor's power to appoint trustees of the University of North Carolina system and the state board of education, and eliminate other gubernatorial appointments.

So, one party has pretty clearly given up any pretense of democratic legitimacy, even in a year in which their party won pretty solidly at every level, and in which their loss of the governorship was entirely expected given the complete disaster that McCrory had been for the state.

What about the other side?

Spend a few moments over at Kos and you can see a full-throated call to overturn the election. The Hamilton Elector movement has not been fully embraced by the party establishment, but it's pretty clear that a good chunk of the base (intellectual and grassroots alike) is ready to stop a Trump presidency by any means necessary.

The Constitution lets the electoral college choose the winner. They should choose Clinton.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the electoral college requires that the person who lost the popular vote this year must nonetheless become our president. That view is an insult to our framers. It is compelled by nothing in our Constitution. It should be rejected by anyone with any understanding of our democratic traditions  -- most important, the electors themselves.


Instead, if the electoral college is to control who becomes our president, we should take it seriously by understanding its purpose precisely. It is not meant to deny a reasonable judgment by the people. It is meant to be a circuit breaker -- just in case the people go crazy.


But the question today is which precedent should govern today -- Tammany Hall and Bush v. Gore, or one person, one vote?

The framers left the electors free to choose. They should exercise that choice by leaving the election as the people decided it: in Clinton's favor.

Recent reports suggest that the movement have have already rounded up 20 of the 37 required faithless electors, though one can only imagine the response that would greet the first activist Electoral College in the history of the USA.

So, what do we have? One party has become nakedly authoritarian and has set out to rig the system to guarantee their own power at all costs. The other side is starting to respond in kind, rejecting the results of the election because the election happened to have been won by an offensive idiot who has nurtured a neo-fascist movement in the belief that it is really a personality cult.

Clearly, Trump should not be president, and it really does look like the only way to save this village is to destroy it. But the very fact that things have gotten here is a sign that the village had already been claimed by the Black Plague years ago.

Now, I know, a variety of voices have been claiming that Democracy in America is dead since the 60's. I have never really been a fan of those arguments, because in my opinion they all boiled down to, "powerful people have power in government, so Democracy is a lie." Well, duh.

The fact that Democracy is an arrangement between the powerful factions in society to compete in a regulated and controlled manner, as opposed to the free expression of the will of the people, is not exactly surprising. It is also a remarkable historical achievement, and one that we are now realizing is incredibly fragile. Apparently, lots of powerful people have decided that they have more to gain from abandoning democratic norms and values than they have to gain from respecting them.

That road leads to war, and that road is not very long.

We are fucked.

I think you're missing two important pieces from the dem side.
One is the Red Scare they have going at the moment. See:

As far as I have been able to make out the most solid thing they have is some anonymous CIA spooks claiming that the Russians were behind the DNC leak. And even if you believe them without seeing their evidence that doesn't really impact the legitimacy of the election as far as I can see. It's not like the mails weren't genuine. Not something you should start a shooting war in the Baltics over. And it comes with a rerun of the doubt is treason rhetoric from the WMD years.
Leading to the second point: Fake news. The Dem aligned part of the media is throwing a giant hissy fit about "fake news" and predictably this is used to go after legitimate websites like Naked Capitalism and Consortium News and invest Facebook with even more monopoly power by officially appointing it as arbitrator of what is true and false.

by generic on Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 01:39:52 PM EST
They've got quite a bit more than that.

They managed to recover (and presumably decompile) the malware that was infiltrated into the DNC machines.

The DNC's contractors claim that this malware was government-grade, but there are at least two problems with that claim. The first is that that's what every ass-covering wanker says after a data breach (remember how Sony was totally hacked by North Korea, except they couldn't actually prove that either). The second is that so much government malware coding is outsourced to private contractors these days that the skills and organization to create "government-grade" malware is readily available in the private sector.

They also claim that the malware in question has previously been tied to state actor operations, but that's based on assuming that all hacking groups that hit mostly targets with no obvious monetization potential are state actors (as opposed to, say, for sale to the highest bidder).

They did find some Russian language settings in one of the leaked documents, but that only tells us that whoever did the post-exfiltration processing was probably Russian. It tells us very little about the actual intrusion, unless you go in with the assumption that the people who stole the paydata and the people who published the paydata were the same organization.

The most conclusive is that they found Russian IP addresses in the malware. The problem with that is that Russian IP addresses are the go-to for IT criminals wanting to obfuscate their datatrail.

So we have hard evidence that there were hackers. And we have enough circumstantial evidence to say that the balance of probability is that they were Russian hackers (especially given the fact that if you go to the dark web to hire a random hacker, chances are they will be Russian on purely demographic grounds).

But nobody has to my knowledge presented anything that lets us distinguish whether they were government agents trying to destabilize the US, activists hacking in for shit and giggles (the DNC's security was bad enough that that remains a possibility, and there is an enormous resentment in Russia over Clinton's role in the Kosovo war), or mafia or Blackwater-style "contractors" moonlighting for a private sector client (Trump opposition researchers, maybe?).

Now, it is entirely possible that all these anonymous spies who feed stories to their tame newsies do have real evidence. Maybe they've even presented it and it just got buried under the sensationalist yellow journalist hysterics. But so far I haven't seen it.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 08:06:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But weren't these first contractors, well these contractors:

Or am I getting my dubious defence contractors mixed up?

by generic on Sat Dec 17th, 2016 at 05:48:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The likelihood of attempted Russian intervention in the election is one issue, and it is a foreign policy issue more than anything.

The freak-out about it is an entirely different thing, and it is kind of ridiculous. If it was the Russians remotely hacking voting machines and changing the recorded totals, well, that would be one thing -- but as far as I can tell nobody is suggesting that.

No, what happened is that some emails were released, and these revealed that politicans are, in fact, politicians. If this gave some people the excuse to have a case of the vapors, well, that's too bad, but I cannot bring myself to beleive that these were in any way, shape, or form decisive. Comey, maybe. White nationalism, probably. Racism and sexism, definitely. But the effect of the Russian hacking on the election is being blown far out of proportion by the disgruntled netroots.

by Zwackus on Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 11:55:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't blame disgruntled netroots for this. I think this comes from the very top and is aimed more at Dem loyalists than Trump. There is a real risk of the coalition behind neoliberal, ,means-tested overly complex policies that are without alternatives to unravel. Leading to a lot of important people to lose their job and status.
Remember: "democratic socialist" Sanders is still the best liked politician in America, his campaign showed that you can run for office without begging the Oligarchs for bribes and he is still touring the country. And as far as I can see the only people who liked real existing Dem policies were the vox types who were paid to explain them to the proles.
Now not only has the Dem elite failed catastrophically, with the E-Mail leak they also have failed transparently. Being the competent ones was their whole shtick and now that along with the aura of inevitability is gone. And it is not only Sanders supporters who might be justified angry at Dem Central. Local Dems were also screwed by the Clinton campaign's "joint money raising" program and their "the good moderate GOP and the evil Trump" campaign.
So look over there! It's Putin!
by generic on Sun Dec 18th, 2016 at 01:01:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the argument for activist electors is that Trump is uniquely not qualified for the office, then the principled thing to do would be to convince electors to vote for anyone else - Johnson, McMullin, Stein, Sanders, Bush, anyone - and let the house sort it out. But then Clinton probably wouldn't win, so of course they are persuading them to vote Clinton.

If she gets the EC to back her, and it survives court challenges, what a hollow victory that would be, with Republican majorities in both chambers. Would she even get to appoint a cabinet? If the Republicans gained enough seats in the Senate in two years time, I think they would impeach her as payback.

by fjallstrom on Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 06:23:40 PM EST
Not having a cabinet would still beat the lineup Trump has...

Also, keeping Pence from having a hand in appointing judges is worthwhile on its own.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 07:38:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having Clinton win the electoral college would, at the very least, create a long running stalemate. Even if the Republican majorities in the House and Senate impeached and convicted her we would get Kaine. Or the climate could get so toxic that Clinton resigns in favor of Kaine. He is orders of magnitude better than having Trump. It would be worth the ordeal just for the sake of the Supreme Court. But it would also prevent administrative changes such as the looming disaster for the environment, Clinton could ask current cabinet members to stay in their jobs and renominate them. Then they would be able to provide administrative continuity. If even TWO Republican Senators went along with this the Senate would become a relatively neutral body. They could die heroes, like Howard Baker, Senator from Tennessee during Watergate.

At worst, the Electoral College picking Clinton on grounds of Trump's unfitness would be a re-run of the Johnson Administration of the 1860s, and our form of government survived. That is much less certain with Trump in office. We would have a bunch of outraged right wingers and true believer Trupmistas and some would commit acts of criminal violence. But the apparatus of the Justice Department would be in the hands of people who are at least sane and of sound judgement.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Dec 17th, 2016 at 06:36:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the apparatus of the Justice Department would be in the hands of people who are at least sane and of sound judgement.

What ... is someone giving news interviews wearing their underwear on the outside? It's not a matter of sanity ... they just have views which will cause massive upheaval while Trump pillages the nation. Simple!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Dec 17th, 2016 at 01:31:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
'Sane and of sound judgement' was in reference to Trump who is a walking example of a 'narcissistic personality disorder' and might as well have a four sided sign flashing that in neon above him wherever he goes. Where is 'whataboutbob' when we need him?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Dec 17th, 2016 at 08:13:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's way past time the Democrats develop some elbows and fight. If they like to be fucked over time and again then it's unfortunately not only their problem. Norms and rules do not get defended by asymmetrically complying to them while the other side gets more brazen. Tit for tat, a real and immediate response is something that is necessary for civilized life. Otherwise it's just barbarians doing their thing while the 'honest' and 'just' just play at civilization.

Buck Up, Democrats, and Fight Like Republicans - Dahlia Lithwick and David S. Cohen - NYTimes

The Democratic Party has avoided fighting the legitimacy of Donald Trump's election. This is a mistake the Republicans would not have committed.
Start cracking. Otherwise, it'll just be a sad story of failure like Bush-Gore, till Trump and his goon squad turn the US into a total cleptocracy. If you don't want to play politics go join a monastery.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 10:32:53 PM EST
Yeah, it's time for the Joseph Stalin of the American left to emerge and start breaking heads. Democracy is already broken, and I'd rather have my strongman win than their strongman.

Sadly, this is what it has come to.

by Zwackus on Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 11:56:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sat Dec 17th, 2016 at 02:46:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, it's time for the Joseph Stalin of the American left to emerge and start breaking heads.

ME !  ME !  ME!

I saw a newsreel clip of Stalin addressing his "legislators" ... he called out there names, one by one, and each one was taken out and shot, one at a time. Ah, the good old days!


They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Dec 17th, 2016 at 09:00:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know, I know ... this isn't the appropriate place ... still.

Just wait till The Emperor gets control of the Pentagon. All this Democrat/Republican shit is moot. The Emporer is out for himself ... Rachel Maddow had a good piece on her show yesterday about the rise of the wealth of Putin. He and his buddies looted the "Soviet Union" and are now the oligarchs ... and Trump plans to do the same thing here. And all those Generals he's surrounding himself with ... looks a little like Kim Yung Asshole, doesn't he? The Generals aren't for foreign use ... they're to control/kill the domestic population if we get out of hand.

And so ... I hope it gets REALLY bad, REALLY quickly, REALLY obviously ... until Maddow et al are shut down ... I give it two weeks. That should give the Calexit movement the push it needs to get my whole state moving ... before Trump's face is jackhammered into Half Dome ... you KNOW that is coming!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 11:54:03 PM EST
P.S. The U.S. Federal Govt. is dead ... worse than dead ... it's a cancer. California needs to leave the cancerous body behind.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 11:56:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When Andropov became head of the Soviet government, I had a flash of intuition about a possible law of politics:  when the chief spy becomes head of the government, that government is close to collapse.

Then George HW Bush became the President.

Lately, I've begun to think that all the focus on electoral politics is counter-productive to real democracy.  Elections are a shadow show while the deep state goes on, doing what it wants to do despite any politician or legislative regulation.  Prof Michael Glennon at Tufts is one academic who has been writing about this.

My focus is on what I can do within my own small circle and is less concerned with legislation and elections than it is with economics and local production, or swadeshi as Gandhi called it, the heart of satyagraha.  But then I also like Kropotkin's ideas on voluntary association so I must be an ineffectual dreamer.

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Sun Dec 18th, 2016 at 07:20:46 PM EST
In an caustic way, this could be a good "Atlas Shrugged" moment for common liberals, progressives. Walking away from a banana republic political-economic climate would mean giving up a lot of public assets, but how much could be saved anyway?

Russia would still be the cheapest place to build a Kropotkian society, ironically.

by das monde on Mon Dec 19th, 2016 at 12:54:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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