What is "democracy?"

Discussion in 'West Mall' started by Mr. Deez, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez 5,000+ Posts

    So Mrs. Deez is in Texas right now, and once Deez, Jr. goes to bed, the place is quiet, which means I get bored. Tonight I was especially bored, so I looked at this article. It's a New York Times piece by Michelle Goldberg commenting on Madeleine Albright's book "Fascism: A Warning." (Yes, I was really bored.) Unless you're as bored as I am, I don't encourage anybody to read it. It's the usual material you'd expect from the Times and from Goldberg - lots of Trump-bashing, sanctimony, and ***-kissing of a Clinton family acolyte and loyalist. Unless you just feast on that sort of thing, don't waste your time.

    So what's my point if I'm not encouraging anybody to read it? My point is that I'm noticing a common theme, which is that the globalist Left (as represented by Goldberg and Albright) holds itself out as the guardian of "democracy" and the descendant of the victorious philosophy of the Cold War and, of course, portrays their opposition as the reverse - a movement away from democracy and a retreat from victory in the Cold War. (I use the term "globalist Left" to distinguish it from the tradtional labor-oriented socialist Left. I'm talking about the Hillary Clintons or Barack Obamas of the world, not the Dennis Kuciniches or even the Bernie Sanderses of the world.) I started noticing it first here in Europe when I saw how groups that were Eurosceptic (meaning they were hostile to some degree to the European Union and/or the Eurozone) were portrayed as advocates against liberal democracy. It intensified during the Brexit debate. And of course with the nomination and election of Trump, it has reached a fever pitch.

    To be honest, I don't understand what the hell they're talking about, and it's more than that. I don't even understand the argument. It makes no sense to me, and it's never explained or rationalized. It's just a rhetorical assumption - a deemed truth, and I rarely hear people on the Right mount a serious challenge to it. They just talk past it, and it's foolish to do that. It's a dangerous narrative to let them get away with.

    To me, a "democracy" is a system of government in which the people rule either directly or through representatives who account directly to them. Of course, there are degrees of democracy based on structure and power sharing. A government closer to the people (such as cities and states) is more democratic than a national government, because an individual's vote counts for more at lower levels. A government that requires democratically-elected officials to share power with unelected officials is less democratic than one that does not have such a requirement, especially if the unelected offical's power has supremacy over or can encumber the elected official's power rather than vice versa.

    In Europe the globalist Left favors diverting power away from local, state, end even national governments and toward supranational institutions, especially the European Union. Of course, the governments of the nation states of Europe are extremely democratic (more so than the United States). The center of power is in duly elected parliaments. They don't rule alone, but they dominate. And of course, lower levels of government are similarly democratic. The EU has an elected parliament, but of course, its authority is diluted among 28 nations and half a billion people. Furthermore, it's not the center of power. It is dominated by European Commission, which is not elected by the people at all. And of course, the European globalist Left is also very deferential to other global institutions like the UN that are even further from the people than the EU is.

    In the US, the globalist Left favors diverting power away from states and municipalities and toward Washington. And within Washington, they tend to favor vesting power not in Congress (the most democratic federal institution) but in the bureaucracy (less democratic) and of course, the judiciary (the least democratic institution). Like their counterparts in Europe, they are also deferential to global institutions like the UN. With respect to both the European and American globalist Left, I can't imagine much stronger advocates for diluting or otherwise weakening democracy.

    And what the Right? Who on the Right is working to weaken democratic institutions, and what are they specifically doing? Let's look at Trump, since he's the center of the accusation at least in the United States. What unelected official(s) is he seeking to empower, and how so? What citizens is he trying to disenfranchise?

    Is this deception by the Left, or is this a semantics problem? Have we reached the point at which Left and Right don't even agree on what "democracy" means or looks like?

    OK, I'm done.
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    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
  2. ProdigalHorn

    ProdigalHorn 10,000+ Posts

    I suspect the reason is pretty simply that it's a talking point that doesn't have to mean anything. We are virtuous, ergo we are seeking democracy. They are not virtuous, ergo, they oppose democracy.

    The one thing that I guess ties in for the American leftist is that if you believe the narrative that Trump is ruling like a dictator (that's another talking point that doesn't have a whole lot of explanation or meat behind it aside from when he fires people), then the right is attempting to destroy democracy by allegedly promoting a dictator-style government. There is of course no evidence of that and no one on the right wants that. In fact, it's the left in general that would greatly prefer to install appointed bureaucrats to run things with zero accountability to the voters or congress (Liz Warren's baby is exactly that).
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  3. Musburger1

    Musburger1 1,000+ Posts

    That was a beautiful essay. I’m not sure what type of responses are most appropriate but I’ll attempt one.

    Democracy, if you will, when defined either as direct governance by the people, or indirect by way of elected representatives, is most responsive at the local level and less so when governance becomes centrally managed far distant from the periphery. I think you said as much in the essay.

    Here’s the dilemma. As globalism has become the economic
    system, capital flows (mobility of capital) takes power away from local populations which has led to disruption of the ability of labor to sustain wages. As a result, the inequality between classes expand and local political power - even at the national level - is sublimated to globalism (redeployment of capital beyond borders which suppresses labors ability to bargain). Hence the popular movements toward nationalism and the rhetoric of Trump.

    Neoliberalism is basically another term for globalism as I understand it. Neoconservatism as I understand it is basically the idea that American Exceptionalism is the superior governing authority and any contesting ideology that threatens the existing template (globalism) must be contained or eliminated.

    Bottom line, democracy is incompatible with globalism.
    Elected politicians must keep the existing system afloat, and to do so often requires subjugating the wishes of the electorate to the needs of the global capital interests (the multinational corporations).
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  4. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez 5,000+ Posts

    It definitely doesn't have to mean anything or be true if nobody's going to mount a serious defense of it. If a false accusation gets repeated enough times without being denied, people eventually start to take it seriously. This narrative needs to be fought passionately and unrelentingly. This is where having an aggressive advocate on our side would be nice.

    Of course, many would point to Trump here. The problem with him is twofold. First, he's aggressive but undisciplined and scattered. He fights hard, but he's not good at refuting things on the merits. Acting like a prick isn't enough. If anything, that reinforces the narrative. Second, even if he was good at this, he can't be everywhere at once. The Right needs to drill into all of its spokespersons that if anyone pulls this stunt, you need to make them regret it - not physically of course but rhetorically.

    That's also a common accusation, which is interesting coming from the people whose President did things that he admitted he didn't have the legitimate authority to do. However, this angle is bigger than Trump. It's seeping into political coverage of various sorts, and like I mentioned, it was common in Europe before it got to the United States.
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  5. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez 5,000+ Posts

    Of course, what's supposed to keep this in check is the rule of law. (By the way, that's another false narrative that gets pitched - that the globalist Left are champions of the "rule of law," but I won't mess up the topic by expanding on why that's garbage.) First, the structural constraints of the Constitution are supposed to preserve the federalist system through the Tenth Amendment to keep power at the state or local level, even when economic forces push power in other directions.

    Second, part of that law is the immigration laws. If they aren't enforced (as they so frequently aren't), then that works to dilute the economic and eventually the political power of local populations.

    I don't consider "neoliberalism" to be entirely synonymous with globalism, because there is a definite corporate globalism of the Right. That's why the term "globalist Left" is not redundant. Keep in mind that people like George Bush (especially the elder Bush), German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and former British Prime Minister David Cameron are all staunch globalists. However, none of them are of the Left.

    Of course, this begs the question of "what is globalism?" Does it have to include the ceding of sovereignty to undemocratic international organizations? I don't think it does. Do we consider free trade to be part of globalism? I think most people would. Well, a democracy can certainly choose to be a free trading country. It doesn't have to impose tariffs, quotas, or other trade restrictions to be a democracy. (Of course, it also doesn't become less of a democracy if it does.)

    Usually when we see a loss of sovereignty associated with free trade agreements, it's a symptom of corruption, not an inherent component of free trade. When we craft free trade agreements, they're full of exceptions and sweetheart deals for politically favored interests. (In other words, they're not truly free trade.) That's why such agreements are hundreds or thousands of pages long. Well, some body has to be set up to adjudicate disputes under these complex agreements, and that's how things like the World Trade Organization get established and given power.

    For me, the issue is about balance and integrity. A free and democratic nation can and should choose to be globally engaged and work with other countries with similar values, but it should keep its own citizens' interests at the forefront. Furthermore, it should be honest about what it's doing. If you claim to be a free trader, then you should actually advocate free trade and take the good with the bad. And of course, you should enforce your own laws. If your constitution gives power to states, then you should leave it there or amend your constitution. If your laws dictate an immigration system, you should not tolerate an illegal system set up on the side to circumvent it. That's not an immigration system. It's a racket.
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  6. Musburger1

    Musburger1 1,000+ Posts

    It’s a complex topic for sure. The concept of free trade takes on a different meaning than it did two decades ago. It used to refer primarily to the flow of goods and services between countries. Now, more importantly, the primary attribute of “free trade” is the displacement of capital (closing operations in country A and opening same in country B). The headquarters may remain in country A after the dislocation, and products are sold to the same customer base as before, the difference being that cost of production is reduced, profit increased, and downward wage pressure exerted on a large portion of country As work force. This provides impetus for a
    movement toward nationalism and away from the globalist model. The current status quo - the elite and the governing institutions - benefit from the current globalist system (“free trade”). As the wave of nationalism tries to rebel through democracy, they find few candidates to represent them and the system favors which candidates have the monetary support, You end up with faux democracy.
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  7. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez 5,000+ Posts

    The displacement of capital has been part of the equation certainly since the 1970s. Displaced capital left the US and went to places like Mexico, China, South Korea, etc. And of course, in some situations (though far fewer), capital left other places and came to the United States. For example, plenty automakers from both Japan and Germany now produce huge numbers of cars in the United States.

    What has definitely changed is that private sector organized labor is no longer a major force in American politics at least outside the Rust Belt. It used to be able to contribute enough money to at least compete with the business community and also essentially contracted out its grassroots network to the Democratic Party, which mostly supported its agenda. Under Clinton, the Party mostly abandoned their agenda, started taking money from the business community, and substituted the labor constituency with the identity politics constituencies.
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  8. Musburger1

    Musburger1 1,000+ Posts

    Absolutely correct. Which is why Trump won as this large voting block which formerly was supported by the Democrat party have had no where else to turn. This transformation of the Democrat party happened in the 90’s under Clinton, his Treasury secretary Ruben, and the Party’s turn toward corporate America as the main constituency and identity politics as a political weapon.
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  9. Htown77

    Htown77 2,500+ Posts

    ^ Yes, a lot of people have different definitions of democracy. For example, for people that shout "this is my america! my america!", the meaning of democracy is certainly different than the dictionary definition.
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  10. Musburger1

    Musburger1 1,000+ Posts

    Timely post Deez. Roger Stone just wrote an article about Trump, stating that he's naive with respect to the Neocons. Some of the piece ties together the relationship between the Neocon hawks and the Obama/Hillary globalism and contrasts this with what Trump campaigned against. I'll post a excerpt below which covers the first half of the article. Anyone who wishes to read the article in full can click on the link.

    Note: Russia-Insider is not a Russian publication. It's founder is American Charles Bauman and his purpose is to provide a platform to voices dissenting against US foreign policy that are basically shunned by MSM.


    The moment Donald Trump became president-elect, the political and governmental establishments of the United States, in particular the intelligence agencies, commenced nonstop efforts to stall, co-opt and dilute the policies on which Trump ran, and was ultimately elected.

    On trade, immigration, tax policy and regulatory reform President Trump has managed to accomplish more than many of his critics and even some of his supporters had thought possible. It is vital to note that some of the president’s policy advisors and even White House aides have tried to kill or dilute many of the policy changes and reforms Trump was enacting. Fortunately, they failed.

    They tried to reverse the president’s position on climate change, they tried to dilute his tax cuts, they tried to kill the tariffs he enacted, they tried to undermine his travel ban and there are some who continue to insist that the southern border wall cannot be built.

    But more than any of the other policy areas, it is in national defense and foreign affairs that President Trump faces the most ruthless and ubiquitous of would-be usurpers: the so-called neoconservatives. The neocons are dead-set on maintaining their vice grip on American foreign policy and continuing to impose on this country their messianic international designs and risky interventionist schemes that seek to use American military might as the tool of their dubious globalist objectives.

    The track record of the neocons is as clear as it is dismal and disturbing. This aberrant sect that has burrowed itself within America’s defense, intelligence and diplomatic hierarchies has given us endless war, 100’s of thousands, if not millions, of human beings slaughtered, and trillions of dollars siphoned out of the pockets of America’s taxpayers, present AND future, only to be squandered on aimless overseas misadventures and prolonged military occupations of hostile 3rd-world countries.

    Compounding the injuries and costs they have inflicted on the American people with their hubris-driven overseas military interventions, the neocons have systematically, and in many instances illegally, decimated many of the most fundamental safeguards against tyrannical government that comprise the essence of the Constitution of the United States. The rise of the neocons has been directly proportional to the erosion of civil liberties in the United States of America.

    The militarists and spooks who serve this neocon agenda color, hype, fabricate and dress up the intelligence given to the president to induce him to abandon his non-interventionist ideals. They abuse their official capacity to promote a political agenda.

    President Trump has great reverence for the institutions of our military, and particular affection for those who serve in America’s armed forces. Unfortunately, the president has not recognized the extent to which the Pentagon was, like every other arm of our federal government, cynically politicized under Barack Obama.

    Obama’s apparatchiks methodically promoted and empowered personnel whose leanings are decidedly globalist, while retiring if not purging those suspected of having Republican leanings or a traditionalist conservative view of American military power, whereby our fighting forces exist for our national defense, not as an international police force.

    The President gives his foreign policy advisors a presumption of honesty they do not deserve. The pardon of Scooter Libby, who was the immediate underling of perhaps the ultimate neocon warmonger Dick Cheney, merely highlights the president’s failure to recognize how the neocons will simply invent a false narrative and spoon feed it to their handmaidens in the pliant corporate media in furtherance of their war agenda.
  11. Crockett

    Crockett 5,000+ Posts

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  12. Seattle Husker

    Seattle Husker 5,000+ Posts

    Like many things, everyone wants Democracy their own way. The only difference is the agenda we each bring to the table. Look back at the Tea Party protests in 2009. The primary difference? A different party was in power.
  13. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez 5,000+ Posts

    But is the meaning of democracy, not in terms of policy but in terms of structure and who's in charge, a subjective matter? Like I mentioned to Musburger, I think you can be globalist in your policy agenda and still be democratic. It's about the "how," not the "what."

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