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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 10:02 AM
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Defining Democracy In Actions


I found the Democratic Underground's General Discussion forum to be very interesting in the past 72 hours. There were several good OP/threads which examined a wide range of issues that are important in the context our our ability against the odds to repair the Constitutional foundation of the United States, and to build a society upon that foundation that approaches the ideals set out in that Declaration of Independence.

Is it good, or even okay, to boycott BP? Is there any plan at the federal level to ever withdraw our troops occupying Afghanistan? Are violent protests ever necessary in a democracy? What was most significant about Senator Byrd's career in politics? What role do individuals and groups play in the context of a struggle for social justice? These were among the issues that I had the opportunity to read and think about, and to discuss with other people ..some of whom shared opinions similar to my own, and some with opinions which were very different than mine. And that, of course, is the way it should be.

One of the things that I found myself thinking about yesterday afternoon was the importance of an accurate definition of what our present form of government actually is ..for if we do not have a firm grasp of what system we are struggling with, our ability to make meaningful and progressive changes is surely minute. But even within what is supposed to be a progressive/liberal democratic community, there will be very different definitions.

There should be general agreement on the basic concept, defined by the Constitution, of a federal government composed of three branches. Those three branches, in theory, make for a creative tension, with checks and balances on each of the three. Even in that context, however, there has been some interesting disagreements here on issues including those very checks and balances. None was more important, in my opinion, than the debates about if Congress should have fulfilled its Constitutional duty to impeach VP Dick Cheney for high crimes and misdemeanors. I believe that those discussions illustrated the lack of familiarity that many have with Constitutional law. Again, it is extremely difficult to make meaningful progress within a system, when one is unfamiliar with both how that system works, and how it is designed to work. There is an obvious connection between the problems we face today, the inability and/or unwillingness of the government to address them today, and the failure of Congress to confront Cheney's high crimes and misdemeanors yesterday.

One OP from yesterday requested recommendations for good books about the nation's history, regarding the Constitution as it applies to the intended form of government. I suggested Sean Wilentz's The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. While I tend to disagree with some of Wilentz's opinions on currents political issues, I have great respect for his talents as a historian. The other book I suggested was The Bill of Rights: Original Meaning and Current Understanding, a fascinating collection of essays by some of the most respected Constitutional scholars of this era.

Among the four definitions that I'm including today are two by Wilentz, one by Noam Chomsky, and one by Robert Kennedy, Jr. Just as I'm not fond of Wilentz, others here may have negative feelings about Chomsky and/or Kennedy. I say this now because of the inevitable splattering of vaccine responses to any OP that mentions Robert. As a long-time friend, I've become accustomed to those who are employed to damage Robert's image; as a 7-year member of this forum, I have also become accustomed to those who view everything and everyone in a negative light, and freely spread that darkness. I'm hoping that this thread not be disrupted or distracted by such nonsense, and offer free use of Zippy the Pin Head's Legalize Lonnie Anderson's hair! as the appropriate response to any such attempts.

Now, let's look at four forms of government. In each, I add some comments of my own.

{1} Republic: from res publica meaning public thing. It is an attempt to secure the common good through the ministrations of the most worthy, enlightened men. From the 1780s to around 1800, our form of government was a republic, not a democracy. Those who are invested in having an elite economic ruling class have never given up on their attempts to convince the public that the original intent of the Constitution is for them, and their class alone, to rule. By no coincidence, they will inaccurately identify the Founding Father's efforts as plans to establish a Christian nation, which implies that God ordained the elite to rule, and that questioning or disagreeing with them is the same as opposing God. (Wilentz; xvii)

{2} Democracy: from demos krateo meaning rule of the people. Many of the Founding Fathers were strongly opposed to democracy; George Cabot, for example, refered to it as the worst form of government. From the perspective of the elite economic/social class, democracy is indeed the worst form of government. But, for the vast majority of people, it offers the best potential of government. (ibid)

The roots of democracy are found in the Constitution's Bill of Rights. Where the main body of the Constitution defines the structure of the government, that second part defines the manner in which citizens have both the right and the responsibility to be active participants. Thus, throughout our history, we find elite shitheads such as Dick Cheney have abused the first part the form of three co-equal branches in order to suck the life-blood of foreign lands and populations, and deny the Bill of Rights to suck the life-blood of American citizens.

{3} Polyarchy: is the form of government that political scientists tend to apply to the United States today. It is where that economic-political elite finds the general public to be corrupt and dangerous, and that democracy allows the public to place undeserving individuals in positions of power that threaten the elite. Hence, they use tools especially the media, which they own to manipulate the public into believing they are participating in a meaningful way, by voting every four years. In the years between those votes, the public will be distracted by the media, and any attempts to organize meaningful change will be disrupted by that same media. (Chomsky; Hegemony or Survival; page 5)

{4} Fascism: is defined by American Heritage Dictionary, Robert Kennedy, Jr., notes, as a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership together with belligerent nationalism. (Kennedy; Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy; page 193)

I'm sure that others on this forum could supply other definitions, or expand the list of four I have made. But I think that these four are a good start for our consideration. Quite a bit of what events and circumstances that are discussed and debated daily on this forum fit snug in one or more of these four. Even a group such as the Tea Bag Party: I'm reminded of a part of Taylor Branch's recent book on the Clinton Presidential Tapes, where Clinton related that former President Bush told him that the new breed of republicans worried the establishment elites. At the same time, we witness the media's purposeful attempts to ignore, discredit, and disrupt the progressive left by manipulation of images of the progressive left and tea bagsters.

What is the significance of these observations? What are the implications in terms of identifying the possible answers to the challenges we are faced with? In my opinion the same that I've expressed here for seven years we can only begin to re-establish something approaching democracy by exercising those muscles identified in that Bill of Rights. While that includes voting in national, state, and local elections and working to elect those candidates the elite finds unacceptable it means being politically active on a steady, on-going basis. It means fighting for social justice on a constant basis. For democracy means struggle: it is not something that can be accomplished inside a voting booth, nor is a fight that is won and then appreciated from the comfort of a spectator's seat.

Fight the Good Fight!

Thank you,
Patrick H2O Man
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countingbluecars Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 10:43 AM
Response to Original message
1. K&R n/t
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 12:44 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Thank you.
I thought that this OP focused on an interesting topic. Exciting, no, but important nevertheless.
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Beringia Donating Member (193 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 02:34 PM
Response to Original message
3. Fight the good fight
Edited on Wed Jun-30-10 02:35 PM by Beringia
is a phrase that always catches my attention. However I sometimes am able to see a vantage point, where humans are here on earth to really Bring the good and that it is not a given that we will win, especially if we don't act. I grew up thinking good was natural, and we just need to adjust what is not good, but it is much bigger than that.

Thanks for your post.
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Beringia Donating Member (193 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 04:41 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. and that's a great picture of you
it looks like you are in court
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 05:28 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. It was a hearing
on the first case to test the federal Native American Burial Protection and Repatriation Act. In the case, I had the opportunity to write and file motions, and argue in the NYS Supreme Court. Though I am not an attorney, the judge hearing the first part of the case knew me from other cases, and allowed me to fill in when our two attorneys could not be in court.

It was, in my opinion (subject as it certainly is), a good example of challenging the system to advocate for our Constitutional Democracy to live up to its promise.
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immune Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 06:18 PM
Response to Original message
6. K&R
In terms of establishing something approaching "democracy", you're exactly right, it won't ever be accomplished from the inside of a voting booth alone. Voting is probably the least of what all needs to be done.

For anybody who isn't already familiar with this magazine, there is a growing group of people who aren't counting on top down broken promises any longer and are exercising some of that muscle you mentioned with stunning results.

http://www.yesmagazine.org/
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 06:38 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Thanks for the link!
Outstanding! Much appreciated!
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immune Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 07:01 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. Well hey, one good turn deserves another ...
I've been enjoying your blog. Especially this snip from your community organizing article:

"The difference between the castle and the tipi is immense, yet there are such great similarities that it is difficult to distinguish between them. Each offers social identity and economic security within a definite communal system. But the leveling process of the tribal form prevents hereditary control over a social pyramid, and the feudalistic form has the efficiency to create and control technology. Both are needed if we are to rule machines instead of submit to them."

That seemed to fit very nicely with the link to "yes! magazine".
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OneGrassRoot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-10 08:05 AM
Response to Reply #6
9. Yes! I love this magazine....

and a huge K&R to the OP. :)


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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-10 11:36 AM
Response to Original message
10. Kick
:kick:
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