I'm starting to wonder if we really live in a democracy any more. Sure, I have my misgivings about democracy: everyone (or nearly everyone, anyway) gets a say in how things are run, even and especially the people who I think are either stupid, crazy, or both. We get don't pick and choose who has a say, removing all the morons from the pool for the good of the whole.
Also, democracies, at their worst, can involve the tyrannical oppression of the minority by the majority. Nowhere is this more the case than in states like my home state, Kentucky, where a constitutional amendment prohibiting the legal recognition of homosexual relationships passed so overwhelmingly that even the most liberal of the "liberals" - if they want to get elected to anything - have to run as far away as they can from the notion that homosexuals are persons entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals.
At its worst democracy can turn into a legalized "mob" rule, in which those who disagree with the majority are demonized and destroyed, or at least robbed of all voice and power. And democracy, at its worst, is a system in which, by its "winner-take-all" nature, only those who vote with the majority have a say in the operations of the state. There can be no consensus; only majority.
But democracy, despite these and a myriad of other problems, is still the best available form of government, because it asks for the voice and consent of the governed. And, imperfect though it is, it is our form of government, the form which we agreed to. It is a part of our social contract. Or is it?
Thanks to Amy for sending me a link to this muckraking article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in Rolling Stone Magazine (didn't that used to be a rock and roll magazine?) detailing the fraudulent nature of the 2004 presidential election. Right now I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I suppose a member of a party which was involved in machine politics for as long as it held power (including some notorious machinery in Louisiana, Chicago, and my home of Kentucky) should not be surprised when the "other" side does what we would probably do if given the chance. But this just further illustrates the illusory nature of democracy.
The game is rigged, folks. We can either give up, or fight against a force we probably cannot change. Maybe I'm the patron saint of lost causes, but I say, let's fight! Or, as my dad said after reading the article, "He got it wrong. The election wasn't stolen, it was given away."
I'll leave you with what the good folks at Habbakuk's Watchpost would call the "money quote" (though, in fact, the article is riddled with "money quotes"):
The issue of what happened in 2004 is not an academic one. For the second election in a row, the president of the United States was selected not by the uncontested will of the people but under a cloud of dirty tricks. Given the scope of the GOP machinations, we simply cannot be certain that the right man now occupies the Oval Office -- which means, in effect, that we have been deprived of our faith in democracy itself.
American history is littered with vote fraud -- but rather than learning from our shameful past and cleaning up the system, we have allowed the problem to grow even worse. If the last two elections have taught us anything, it is this: The single greatest threat to our democracy is the insecurity of our voting system. If people lose faith that their votes are accurately and faithfully recorded, they will abandon the ballot box. Nothing less is at stake here than the entire idea of a government by the people.
Voting, as Thomas Paine said, "is the right upon which all other rights depend." Unless we ensure that right, everything else we hold dear is in jeopardy.
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