Thursday, June 24, 2021

Dictatorship and Democracy

It is possible that a dictatorship is a more efficient way to run a country. You put one guy in charge, he gives orders, and everybody does what he says. There is no red tape, no endless discussions about alternatives or what is "fair" or environmentally friendly or any of that. People who resist or complain can disappear, no problem. There is no point in listening to them or arguing with them.

When you hear Joe Biden talk about democracy, he often looks at it in terms of efficiency, his question is the practical one of whether a democratic government can be competitive, and that is his goal. The idea of the people governing themselves sounds inherently better, but if it doesn't work, it doesn't work.

The Republicans don't think that a democracy can work, so when they get in power they make sure it doesn't work. We just had Republican control of the executive and legislative branches of federal government, they filled the judicial branch with their unqualified judges, and the result was inefficiency, greed and corruption, nepotism and cronyism, breakdown of public services, a freakin' plague fer cryin' out loud. Of course it's possible that a competent strong-man would have done a better job, but unfortunately this is how it works. The kind of people who prefer an autocratic leader want an authoritarian, not an expert. You get a tough guy who doesn't know what he's doing.

Democracy draws its power from the full breadth of the population. Some businessman or professor might have the perfect solutions to society's problems, but we don't just run out and adopt those, we put them before the people. And that means every idiot in the country gets to have an opinion, and they can vote against ideas that they are incapable of understanding. Also, they might have a weird but good idea that nobody else thought of. You might think you know more than the next person, and you might, but his vote cancels yours. It is a terrible process, and also the best.

Some countries have violent revolutions, where some subset of the population thinks they know so much more than the others that they are justified in taking over. In our country that is white people, at least those white people who think white people are special and better than everybody else. They have tried to overthrow democracy a couple of times, and certainly will again, but it's going to be pretty tough to do it that way. You take over a Capitol building, execute a couple dozen politicians, smear your poop on the walls, then what? You still gotta run things, and that's hard.

The sly way for white people -- white supremacists, actually; most white people do not want a revolution -- to take over is to modify the voting process. That way they don't have to come out against democracy, they can claim to support the right of the people to determine their own fate -- they just make sure that their own people are more likely to vote, and that everybody else will have a harder time.

In our present time there is a two-prong attack on democracy. For one, the white supremacists are saying that the last presidential election election was rigged, that the other side cheated. This is called the Big Lie, in reference to a technique promoted by Adolph Hitler, you tell a lie so big that nobody can argue with it. So for instance, on the night that he lost the election, Trump tweeted: "I WON THE ELECTION!" This was so obviously false that you could not refute it with facts. All you can say is, "No, you didn't," then you're out of arguments. And now, half a year later, most Republicans still believe it. That is one Big Honkin' Lie.

While the Big Lie revises the past, the other prong of the attack is future-leaning, with white supremacists changing the rules of democracy, making it easier for "their people" to vote, changing the voting districts and locations and definitions and rules and methods. Between these two kinds of attack, white supremacists can claim to support democracy while making sure it doesn't work. One person equals one vote, that's a pretty straightforward principle, but if one of the people can't get to the polls, or can't get the necessary ID, or their signature is ruled to look "different" from the official one, then that one person equals zero votes.

There was a big foo-foo in Michigan this year, where white supremacists alleged that a number of voting irregularities led to Biden winning the state. So a Republican-led state commission went through all the evidence, listened to many hours of testimony, brought in experts. Yesterday they issued their finding: Michigan Republicans eviscerate Trump voter fraud claims in scathing report. They found two examples of dead people voting: "one was a clerical error while the other was a timing issue." That's it. A timing issue, I love that: huh, he wasn't dead when he voted, but it looks like he is now. That's a timing issue, all right.

The foundation of democracy is that the minority has to accept things they don't like. Those other idiots can outvote you, just because there are more of them. But in an autocracy it's the majority of people who have to accept things they don't like. White supremacists might think they are right about everything but they are a minority in this country, and if they succeed at revolution, either by violence or by degrading the voting process, the government will run badly for most people. Now, it might be that they don't care about "most people" as much as they care about themselves: that's the real problem.