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Governing without Consent of the Governed

(photo: jugbo / flickr)

It’s that time of election season when the mere thought of politics turns the stomach, and few of us can stand any more of the yammering that we call campaigns, so we turn to navel gazing. You probably saw Conor Friersdorf on “How shall I use my precious vote”, and the pontificating that followed. I think that blows out my earlier entry in that category, here. Matt Taibbi looks like a lock in the incompetent Democrats category and the role of the media in these stupid campaigns category. So, I going to enter the What Does It All Mean category.

The only reason to vote is that from the outset we agreed that consent of the governed is the essence of democracy. It was a long time ago indeed, before the Republicans made the filibuster an instrument of minority rule. The Democrats decided that they could safely be move right, just like the Republicans only less crazy, and began voting for just about anything their rich patrons wanted, from deregulation of the financial system to tax cuts for those who don’t need them to ending welfare as we know it.

Now we have the leader of the Democrats, Barack Obama, running on a platform just like the moderate version of Mitt Romney. For example, Obama says if elected, he’ll only tinker with Social Security, just like the moderate Mitt, instead of slashing it like the Tea Party Mitt. Tea Party Mitt wants to invade Syria and Iran. Moderate Mitt, like Obama, is apparently content to kill people with drones.

Moderate Mitt assumes that the Tea Party fanatics will vote for him even if he isn’t crazy enough for them, because he and his party have spent the last five years ferociously lying about Obama. So he panders to the low information voters and tribal Republicans with his version of Compassionate Conservatism. Maybe he’ll win with that combination. Are they really consenting to be governed by the insane economic policies both versions of Mitt Romney promise? Or are they just afraid of Obama?

Possibly enough low-information voters and moderate Republicans will vote for Obama because they are worried about the Tea Party Mitt, or they think Romney is a liar and an unprincipled selfish prig and that he despises them from the bottom of his plutocratic heart. Maybe that’s enough to get Obama re-elected. What kind of government are those people consenting to? For them, Obama’s the lesser of two evils. Maybe they’ll be happy to see his proposals defeated by divided government suffering from minority rule so that nothing gets done. Maybe they don’t know what else to do. That doesn’t sound like consent.

And what about the tribal democrats who are going to vote for Obama? There is no constituency in the Democratic party to cut Social Security. The vast majority of traditional Democrats realize that Social Security is the basis for their retirement and that of their parents. They want to preserve it for their children. Certainly no liberal is in favor of cutting Social Security or Medicare, and precious few are in favor of killing people with drones or locking up pot smokers or turning police departments into paramilitary operations, but tribal Democrats don’t seem interested in that kind of issue, let alone punishing Wall Street criminals. Obama just needs to top off with some of those low-information voters. He figures he’ll get their votes, and maybe he will.

In 2008, the left was energized. We saw ourselves as the base of the Democratic Party, and nearly every one of us gave money, and spent hours trying to convince anyone we met to vote for Obama, and generally succeeding. It didn’t take long before we realized that Obama accepted the principle that this is a center-right nation, and planned to govern from the center-right. Obama told the left to drop dead, and he continues to do so. He didn’t lift a finger to push any of our issues, especially my barebones demand that he enforce the criminal laws governing the financial sector. That left whatever is left of the left with no where to go. In 2010, there was no energy on the left, and the crazy right won back the House.

Obama assumes lefties will vote for him because he isn’t a soulless plutocrat who thinks half of the population is out to get his money. That’s the Democratic Party’s version of the crazies saying that Obama is an Islamo-Communist from Kenya. Obama doesn’t care how close the election is, and he doesn’t care if he has majorities in Congress. He just wants to squeak through. If we vote for him, what are we consenting to? He’ll see it as approval of his program of governing from the center-right.

This isn’t about consent at all. It sucks. It’s hard to work up the energy to curse, let alone to go to the trouble of voting.

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