I don’t know what the world will feel like tomorrow morning. Elation, despair, or somewhere in between. Whatever happens, I’m glad I post these rants on Tuesdays, not Wednesdays. Because regardless of the outcome, I don’t think I could write about it tomorrow.
Today, if you haven’t noticed, we’re at the intersection of two existential emergencies — a worsening global pandemic, and what amounts to a Republican coup. The first we can’t do much about, mostly because of the second. The virus will be with us much longer than we ever thought. But the Republican attack on democracy could be reversed, or at least postponed, by tomorrow.
Before 2016, I doubt I wrote the word “democracy” five times in my entire career. Now, I should probably assign it a smart key.
Not that I really want to talk about it. In general, I don’t discuss philosophical constructs or lump-in-the-throat ideals, partly because it’s vaguely embarrassing, but mostly because they tend to be fuzzy abstractions, of limited everyday use. Food for thought, yes, but not easily digested.
Still, it’s hard not to think about democracy, especially today. Because right now there’s nothing abstract about it. We see it clearly — clearer than we ever have — now that it’s bleeding from potentially fatal wounds. We’re counting on the electorate to stop the bleeding, but we’re afraid we might be too late.
This country is the world’s oldest and longest surviving democracy, and while newer ones have learned from our mistakes, we obviously have not. And a lot of those mistakes concern everything having to do with free and fair elections.
Our long outdated election system has, quite insanely, been left entirely to the individual states. This has long been a problem hiding in plain sight. As long as there was a modicum of good faith among voters, our elections could wheeze along, sclerotic but serviceable. Now, with bad faith a cornerstone of the Republican party, elections could be the weak link that brings down the whole system.
The thing about democracy is that you really need to know something about it to make it work. An informed electorate is essential to the process, and our electorate is now shamefully ignorant. You can’t be a well-informed citizen and want Trump running your country.
Even so, the level of ignorance is appalling. There have been some bizarre incidents in the last few days, but for me the most telling was the picketing of Bill Barr’s house by Trump supporters. Seems they were angry at Barr for still not arresting the Bidens, father and son, for crimes that no one seems able to articulate, much less make a case for.
Did these people not go to high school? Do they know nothing of how their society, let alone their government, actually functions?
Even if your entire knowledge of the legal system comes from watching Law and Order reruns, you would still know that the punishment generally comes after the crime, not before.
Yet these ignoramuses still think a president can have his enemies arrested and beheaded. Like he’s a Saudi prince or something.
Now, it’s true that these people have been hearing about Hunter Biden’s laptop nonstop for weeks, thanks to Fox News and the wingnut media complex. But that doesn’t excuse their ignorance — which they seem proud of — or their total absence of critical thinking.
You’d think they would have noticed that Hillary Clinton remains a free woman, with no pending indictments whatsoever. Obama as well. Even Bill Barr — as loathsome a public figure as this country has ever produced — knows he can’t just snap his fingers and make Trump’s enemies disappear. For one thing, there are far too many of them.
Despite all our fears, and all his ludicrous pronouncements, Barr has been remarkably bad at carrying out Trump’s agenda. He couldn’t overturn the convictions of Roger Stone or Mike Flynn. He couldn’t install his own stooge at SDNY. He couldn’t take over the E. Jean Carroll rape case. He couldn’t get John Durham to pervert justice for Trump’s sake.
Everything Barr has tried to meddle with has been met by career prosecutors and judges saying, in effect, WTF? The one glaring exception was his gaslighting of the Mueller report, which was probably the last time he made Trump happy.
So it comes down to rule of law and fair elections. These are the linchpins of democracy, and they matter much more than we ever thought. And now we’re seeing, for the first time, what it means when they’re called into question.
The rule of law has been pummeled, but it’s still standing. If we have a good day today, Barr will be at the head of the line when the indictments are handed down.
As for the election system, the massive turnout we’re seeing is happening in spite of its egregious flaws. Which is both embarrassing and encouraging.
Democracy, battered as it is, seems to be hanging in there. At least until tomorrow morning.