Those dusts brought these muds

Those dusts brought these muds  muds[*]

Under Trump’s chaotic administration United States are heading towards an authoritarian, non-representative, and sloppy regime that will end up in a categorical division between states and regions. The dysfunctionalities of a constitutional model designed for another time and currently exploited by just one bi-cephalous party (plutocrats together with low reactionary sectors), have made a dictator apprentice climb up and perch onto power.

 

Abreast of the times, we know that democracy is a long process, with ups and downs, that at regular intervals tends to replace arbitrary and despotic leaders by others fairer and more rational and, at the same time, enlarge and guarantee the participation of the people in this rational evolution.

We also know that today this process is in full regression in many countries. Some of them were newcomers to democracy. However, what is most alarming is to verify the same setback in the so-called “advanced” and/or “consolidated” democracies.

Tolstoi wrote that all happy families look alike, but the unfortunate ones differ from one another, each one with its own different way of living their disgrace. Among “mature” democracies, the most remarkable and frequently commented is the American democracy—allegedly winner of the minds and hearts of a humanity that would aspire to imitate it.

Until recently, Americans saw themselves as a beacon of light that could lead a universal process of democratization. At the same time, those same Americans considered themselves satisfied with their democratic achievement as something unique and exceptional in the annals of political and social history. In such zenith of self-satisfaction, they did not notice an elemental logical mistake: by definition, an exception cannot make a rule. However, by the end of XVIII century, in the midst of Enlightenment, philosopher Kant could do such observation. It was not like that for another German philosopher in the second and third decades of the XX century. For Carl Schmitt, every rule is born out of an exception, that is, from an abrupt change of course done by someone who imposed by force. That was his answer to Kant’s rationalism in Hans Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law. That is how Enlightenment cycle ended, as democracy’s cycle did as well, because Schmitt was an enthusiast of Nazi authoritarian decisionism.

With the “democratic” election of Donald Trump, it is also the end of the rational and democratic cycle in United States. The new president acts as an arbitrary despot and takes pride in that. However, he got to power not through a coup d’état or a violent revolution, rather through the interstices of a defective democratic system which believed itself as almost perfect and automatic. Americans did not notice that the exception was precisely in its defects[1] or that those would eventually bring the erosion and collapse of democracy. In more simple words: those dusts brought these muds[2].

To avoid the risks of demagogy (popular and direct election of a presidential candidate that was not considered fitted for the job), the patrician founders of the North American republic established an indirect election system in Article 2 of the Constitution. Thus, in a presidential election, citizens do not vote for their preferred candidate but rather for electors, who are committed to such candidate in the state where they reside, and that is usually done through lists of electors of each party. In its original intent, the founders of the republic wanted electors to be selected by each state legislature, but today the election of electors is done by direct vote of the electors. The idea is the same: to “filter” popular will through the deliberation and reasoning to choose a gifted one. The number of electors is proportional to the population of each state. This automatically generates a fight for the numbers: electors from many citizens concentrated in few states versus electors from fewer citizens dispersed in many states. That is how it is possible to conceive a situation in which a candidate can be elected without the majority of the popular vote. In other words, it is possible to obtain proportionally more electors in the Electoral College without having obtained the majority of votes of the citizens. Moreover, even in other words: it is possible to get to power as representing a minority of the population. It is perfectly constitutional and at the same time it is an upside-down world. None other than Joseph Stalin concisely stated it with perfect cynicism. The saying that in a democracy voters do not count but rather how those votes are counted is ascribed to him.

This magic of numbers also works in the Senate of the republic. According to the Constitution, each state has the same number of senators, without considering the current size of its population. Only in the House, the representatives are elected in a proportional way. In sum: presidency and senate can represent a minority of the population. President electors as well as Senate ones today represent states with a deficit demography: rural over urban people, white over colored people, the elderly over the young, those with lower education level, downward social mobility, frightened and angered of losing steps in the general social ladder, that becomes more and more distant and alien. They have sympathetic governors, sympathetic senators, sympathetic representatives and a president that promises them salvation against the “zoological alluvium” of immigrants, intellectuals, urban snobs, foreigners, statelessness capitalists and state bureaucrats.

They managed to have their leaders climb up and perch onto power and, from the won positions, consolidate their control and brake every shelf of the up-to-now liberal and democratic empire. The three branches of state power are in the same hands. Democracy has regressed towards absolute rule. Through another path, but also beginning with democracy, another ridiculous-looking leader arrived to absolute power eighty years ago and from there he launched a war and genocide. Just one leader, just one nation, just one people: ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer. And the rest? For them, who would be the majority in a rational system, first is exclusion and then persecution.

In United States, the House of Representatives selects their representatives through proportional, direct vote. How can we obtain the overrepresentation of some and the underrepresentation of others? There are two procedures, or tricks, to foul the will of the majority. One is done from the state legislatures by redistributing electoral districts to favor one party (such who dominates governorship and legislature). Majority of population is concentrated (which in many states coincides with poor and colored people) in few districts and the others are distributed (whites and wealthier) in the largest possible quantity. It is an elegant way of practicing ethnic cleaning. It is called Gerrymandering. Both parties practice it, but currently such distribution favors republicans. The other trick is to prevent lower sectors of the population from voting, by requiring of them rigorous identity checks (in the USA there is no unique ID or universal and mandatory enrollment book) with pictures, details and other procedures that dissuade those who have few means to obtain them. This suppression of the popular vote is done cynically with the pretext of avoiding an alleged fraud (which does not exist).

In this way and with these contrivances we arrive to a situation in which a minority governs as if it were a majority. Real majority today is concentrated in the coasts and large cities, and in more buoyant states, better educated, more “liberal” (cosmopolitan, with ethnic and religious diversity, and progressive attitudes). If we add to this explosive mixture the case that political parties are no longer what they used to be, multi-sectorial and local, but rather ideological, intransigent, and national, then we have a country divided in two—situation that did not happen in United States since 1860, when it resulted in the Civil War. We are in the prelude of another one, but in the XXI century way: chaos and confusion instead of armed conflict.

If this situation continues, the social, ideological, and national division, with a majority of voters excluded from power and without chances of a new reform, eventually will explode in a new secession. That is my outlook for the medium term for the remaining future of a once great country.

[*] . N.T. This is an old Spanish proverb. It implies cause-effect, dust by just adding water turns into mud, so it is not surprising to have mud where you had dust. In English, equivalent sayings are “The chickens have come home to roost,” “you reap what you sow,” “if you dance you must pay the piper,” or simply “you are suffering the consequences now.”

[1] . These result from the overlapping of a modern and illuminist constitutional document over a repressive and slavery society.

[2] . For a detailed discussion about these deficiencies, see:  “American democracy’s built-in bias,” The Economist, July 14-20, 2018.

 

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