Are you OK, America? Democracy?

No this is not a thread to bash the Americans in any way. Especially not those on the ship.

I have been on a couple of anarchist forums of late. The first one I left, because I clashed with a number of ancap - these are "anarchist-capitalists" - a contradiction that is recognised by other forums (who reject them as not being anarchists). This seems to be a position taken by some groups of American Christians (of - it would seem - a more fundamentalist nature) who object to paying taxes because the government spend them of hideous things like Other People*. They have what seems to me to be a very skewed image of Christianity and anarchism, seeing the "counter culture" as being "not paying taxes becasue I need to spend the money on guns" type of approach. Which baffles me in the extreme.

* Actually, the real objection is Planned Parenthood. But it spreads wider.

Then I found another group of anarchists - far nicer. And yet there are Americans on there whose understanding of "reject the government" is "There is no pandemic - everything the government says is wrong". Apparently, the pandemic - which is killing hundreds of thousands of people, is pure propaganda.

Now - just so I am clear - I know these views are also presented by people in the UK and other countries. This is not anti-American in any sense. It is just a genuine question that, with this sort of drivel being spouted (I suspect very widely, from what I hear) whether anyone else is worried about the heart of western democracy? Between the US enabling such unhinged conspiricists, to the UK seeking to destroy our democracy piece by piece, I wonder if this is the end?

Comments

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    I'm extremely worried. Nothing can stop Trump's re-election in 2024 with the voter suppression rolling out and the GOP using Tory tactics and talking about hard working citizens needing the government to stop taking all their hard earned money away to give to the undeserving poor.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    I think there’s a big difference between the “don’t take my money and give it to *them*” crowd and the “this thing that anyone with half an eye can see is obviously happening isn’t really happening” crowd.

    The first is not denying reality, it’s just a different opinion about resource allocation. The second is denying reality itself. Similarly, the first is not an unhinged conspiracy theory - it’s just good old fashioned selfishness and intolerance.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    I agree with @Marvin the Martian.

    I worry far more about U.K. democracy. At least in the US it’s all up front and visible. In the U.K., like you say @Schroedingers Cat, it’s piece by piece by stealth - right under our noses.
  • I think the examples are different - but it is the combination of them, coming from a very broadly similar group that made me worry.

    I think as these types of idea grow and get a hold in government circles - and we have seen how easy that is - democratic society is in trouble. The "Low tax" dream of the UK Tories is not that for from the "I am not paying my tax to help other people" dream.

    These ideas, that both have little grounding in reality (that I should control where my tax money goes; that the fact that I have not known anyone with COVID means it is a fake) are taking over our politics, it would seem. I mean, we have a party leader who is a YEC.

    Sorry if it is not entirely clear and consistent. But it does seem that fanciful ideas - that are sometimes really hard to pin down - are getting traction in places that we have relied on for a degree of rationality.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    These ideas, that both have little grounding in reality

    I think the idea that people in a democracy should be able to vote for their preferred policies on taxation and government expenditure is firmly grounded in the reality of what democracy is supposed to be all about.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    American democracy is under threat from the Republican Party passing hundreds of laws to prevent voting by Democrats or other left-leaning people. Purging voting rolls, requiring ID then shutting down places to obtain ID in heavily-Dem areas, gerrymandering, and many other methods are being employed in an attempt to make the US a one-party dictatorship. And given how that one party feels about LGBTQ people, POC, the poor, and their political opposites (anyone left of them), it wouldn't be a very nice place. Handmaid's Tale is pure optimism in comparison.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    I agree with mousethief. America's not sick. The Republican Party is sick. In fact, it just might be terminal. I am waiting to see if people like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney and the Bushes plus others will form a third party that will be able to be more like the party of old. Did you know at one time blacks favored the Republican party because it was a progressive party of Lincoln and southern whites preferred the Democratic party because it was for state's rights

    Yes we have bridges cracking, poor health care and poor education, but if the parties can learn to work together for the common good, we can heal ourselves.
  • I have to disagree with @Marvin the Martian - in my admittedly anecdotal experience, in Canada, I've noted considerable Venn intersection between the traditional "no tax/small government" conservatives and "plandemic" (or its variants). It's as though pandemic conspiratorial thinking or denial has found common cause with, or become a magnet for, 'objectivists', racists, survivalists, gun-overly-enthusiasts, anti-feminists, the radical reactionary movement, and those who generally cannot comprehend this society and feel dispossessed by it. It really is a messy grab bag of inchoate ideas. The aspect that I find most threatening to democracy is not the ideas themselves, but the otherwise intelligent people who hold them.
  • Isn't the problem bigger than the GOP in that behaving this way seems to be very popular with about 40% of the voting public. Plus any democracy where Liz Cheney, renowned warmonger and homophobe, is considered one of the sane ones is in trouble already.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited May 18
    The idea that conservative economics is as dangerous to democracy as the notion that Trump won the 2020 election is very worrying for the future of democracy all over the world. It shows that people are unwilling to distinguish between matters which go to the integrity of the institutions of democracy and those which don't.

    The trouble with Trump and the toady GOP is that they do not baulk from attacking the institutions of American democracy. They refuse to accept the authority of state electoral institutions to deliver free and fair elections with reliable results; they refuse to accept the authority of executive officials whose role is to oversee those institutions; they refuse to accept the authority of courts who have authority to declare results valid not, and to order appropriate remedies; and they refuse to accept the authority of Congress to perform its role of receiving those results and approving them.

    These are political actions which go to the heart of representative democracy. If these institutions are damaged, democracy is damaged.

    However, arguing that trickle down economics works when there is no evidence it does is a completely different thing. Democracy does not require that people tell the truth, or that people vote in ways that are in their interests or that they vote on the basis of a false belief. Democracy only requires that their vote is made in accordance with the law, that it is counted in accordance with the law, that votes are tabulated in accordance with the law and that the candidates who win positions are able to take up their office in accordance with the law.

    There are grey areas. Is a law that purports to place conditions upon exercising a vote to protect election integrity actually doing that, or is it an effort to rig an election by "lawfulish" means. That should be a matter to be determined by the courts in a good system. I'm sure there are other examples.

    But there is no doubt in my mind that a politician arguing that people should keep all their money and just look after themselves is putting a legitimate position in a democracy. That the politician is elected after putting such an irresponsible position does not herald the death of democracy.
  • Democracy relies on an informed electorate. Democracy based on lies is no democracy at all. In any case the systematic abuses and gerrymandering long predate Trump's involvement in Republican politics. That Trump is worse shouldn't lead us to forget Mitch McConnell's abuses of process to swing the supreme court to the right, or the roll back of Voting Rights Act provisions by that court.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Democracy relies on an informed electorate. Democracy based on lies is no democracy at all. In any case the systematic abuses and gerrymandering long predate Trump's involvement in Republican politics. That Trump is worse shouldn't lead us to forget Mitch McConnell's abuses of process to swing the supreme court to the right, or the roll back of Voting Rights Act provisions by that court.

    Oh yes. Trump started as a symptom, not a cause. But the symptom took over the party and is pushing it even further into very nasty territory.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    These ideas, that both have little grounding in reality

    I think the idea that people in a democracy should be able to vote for their preferred policies on taxation and government expenditure is firmly grounded in the reality of what democracy is supposed to be all about.

    Aye, that's its greatest weakness. The democratic right... to be anti-democratic.
  • These ideas, that both have little grounding in reality

    I think the idea that people in a democracy should be able to vote for their preferred policies on taxation and government expenditure is firmly grounded in the reality of what democracy is supposed to be all about.

    I would agree that people should be able to vote for their chosen ideas. But that people should also accept that the majority view - however that is determined - is accepted.

    The fact that what I want should be national policy is not democracy. That fact that what I want should be taken into account is.
  • edited May 18
    I have to disagree with @Marvin the Martian - in my admittedly anecdotal experience, in Canada, I've noted considerable Venn intersection between the traditional "no tax/small government" conservatives and "plandemic" (or its variants). It's as though pandemic conspiratorial thinking or denial has found common cause with, or become a magnet for, 'objectivists', racists, survivalists, gun-overly-enthusiasts, anti-feminists, the radical reactionary movement, and those who generally cannot comprehend this society and feel dispossessed by it. It really is a messy grab bag of inchoate ideas. The aspect that I find most threatening to democracy is not the ideas themselves, but the otherwise intelligent people who hold them.

    This is my observation also. In western Canada we have premiers actually cultivating these people. Locally "Buffalo Party" (formerly WEXIT). Conservatives spawn this stuff every generation, c.f., Dick Collver. Brad Wall, prior Sask premier has a role with these Buffalo extremists and the current premier is cultivating them: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-scott-moe-addresses-comments-about-an-independent-saskatchewan/

    These people scare me. The Republicans scare me.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited May 19
    Democracy relies on an informed electorate. Democracy based on lies is no democracy at all. In any case the systematic abuses and gerrymandering long predate Trump's involvement in Republican politics. That Trump is worse shouldn't lead us to forget Mitch McConnell's abuses of process to swing the supreme court to the right, or the roll back of Voting Rights Act provisions by that court.

    Democracy works best when an electorate is informed and listening. Democracy only requires institutional integrity.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited May 19
    Institutional integrity is primarily a function of the legal and political elite.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited May 19
    bugger keep missing the edit window.

    The actions of the American political and legal elite is what endangers democracy there. It has always been so, from Boss Tweed in New York to the people upon whom Boss Hog is based in the American South. The battle between the elites is fought in the public square, itself not a neutral space. The battle is only ever won provisionally. The emergence of African American political action over the last few generations has been helpful to the cause. African American elites seem to understand that the interests of the poor are enhanced by strong public institutions.

    All is not lost. Trump is a sign that the almost unconscious ideology of White Supremacy in many Americans of European heritage is in its death throes. The trick is to protect the Democratic castle from the whip of the monster's tail.
  • TheOrganistTheOrganist Shipmate
    American democracy is fine now they have the wisdom of Prince Harry to draw on 🤣
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    Democracy relies on an informed electorate. Democracy based on lies is no democracy at all. In any case the systematic abuses and gerrymandering long predate Trump's involvement in Republican politics. That Trump is worse shouldn't lead us to forget Mitch McConnell's abuses of process to swing the supreme court to the right, or the roll back of Voting Rights Act provisions by that court.

    Democracy works best when an electorate is informed and listening. Democracy only requires institutional integrity.

    I pretty much agree with this and your earlier post. Policies I think are stupid are not a threat to democracy, and if they get implemented because lots of other people don't think they are stupid, then so be it.

    This is very different to attacks on basic things like rule of law, separation of powers and free and fair elections. Trump was dangerous because of the way he threatened those things.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Democrats: Let's investigate what happened on 6 January.
    Republicans: Okay
    (A day late)
    Republicans: Wait a minute
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    The idea that conservative economics is as dangerous to democracy as the notion that Trump won the 2020 election is very worrying for the future of democracy all over the world. It shows that people are unwilling to distinguish between matters which go to the integrity of the institutions of democracy and those which don't.

    <snip>

    However, arguing that trickle down economics works when there is no evidence it does is a completely different thing.

    I'm not sure that these are entirely unrelated ideas. The anti-democratic notion that a wealthy minority should hold all political power seems intrinsically bound to the idea that the state should actively work to shovel as much of the GDP into the pockets of a wealthy minority. If it's alien to you that the poor should hold any political power then it's probably also alien to you that the poor should hold any economic power.

    That's one of the key objections the wealthy have to democracy. The poor are, by definition, more numerous than the rich, which the latter regard as an unfair advantage.
    orfeo wrote: »
    I pretty much agree with this and your earlier post. Policies I think are stupid are not a threat to democracy, and if they get implemented because lots of other people don't think they are stupid, then so be it.

    This is very different to attacks on basic things like rule of law, separation of powers and free and fair elections. Trump was dangerous because of the way he threatened those things.

    I'm not sure there's as clean a line as you indicate between "policies" and "basic things". The idea that only white men should have the franchise is a policy (and one the U.S. has only re-examined relatively recently). Having one polling station per county, regardless of population, is also a "policy". So are "rule of law" and "separation of powers".
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    I'm not sure there's as clean a line as you indicate between "policies" and "basic things". The idea that only white men should have the franchise is a policy (and one the U.S. has only re-examined relatively recently). Having one polling station per county, regardless of population, is also a "policy". So are "rule of law" and "separation of powers".

    The examples previously given were about economic policies, not electoral ones.

    To the extent that rule of law and separation of powers are "policies", they are generally written in constitutions and so not up for debate within the parameters set down. Your mileage may vary if you live in a country that sometimes says how wonderful it is to not have an unwritten constitution because it makes things so much more "flexible".

  • orfeo wrote: »
    To the extent that rule of law and separation of powers are "policies", they are generally written in constitutions and so not up for debate within the parameters set down.

    Does everywhere that has a written constitution not also have a process for amending that consitution? Not to mention the actions of the courts that interpret that constitution (US Supreme Courts, for example, have from time to time taken rather expansive readings of the US Constitution that I am certain weren't intended by its authors.)
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    To the extent that rule of law and separation of powers are "policies", they are generally written in constitutions and so not up for debate within the parameters set down.

    Does everywhere that has a written constitution not also have a process for amending that consitution? Not to mention the actions of the courts that interpret that constitution (US Supreme Courts, for example, have from time to time taken rather expansive readings of the US Constitution that I am certain weren't intended by its authors.)

    Yes. Perhaps "not up for debate" was not strictly accurate. Not up for altering in the normal course of politics.

    Or maybe I just live in a country where we're still fairly good at respecting these things, and there hasn't been a successful referendum in ages. Amending our constitution has proven rather difficult.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    @Crœsos I take your point that both sets of ideas are related to the funneling of wealth and power to an elite. They are different ways to achieve control perhaps.

    But the ideas of trickle down economics, small govt and low taxes et al are ideas that don't attack the integrity of the system. People still have to be convinced that the politicians who espouse these ideas are the ones to vote for. Presently the GOP is doing that in another way. They are effectively shouting "squirrel" to their supporters and pointing at group identity. None of that endangers the underlying fundamentals of a representative democracy.

    The groups of ideas condensed in the pithy "trickle down economics" are not new and are, I think, well supported. That's why labor politicians around the world were convinced of them in the 1980's (here at least). These politicians, very smart people, believed that opening up our economy (here in Australia) was necessary to generate wealth not just for one sector of the people, but for all of us. Our labor politicians used the private sector to try and create long term benefits for everyone. Our superannuation system, funded by employers, is the biggest outcome.

    So trickle down economics isnt some sort of conspiracy designed to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. It reflected leading economic opinion at the time, and was rigorous enough to convince labor politicians in my country, life long unionists many of them and deeply committed to progressive politics, that it was the right policy setting for Australia.
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