It’s never easy. Especially in a democratic system of government, whether it is working on all cyclinders or a royal mess.
Democracy is “government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” For those still hung on “We’re a Republic, not a democracy” a Republic is “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them,” so it’s still a democracy. There are several types of citrus fruit, but they’re still all citrus.
The opposite of democracy is where government is not by the people. Aristocracy, plutocracy, auotcracy, and, our current very real risk, kleptocracy. Kleptocracy is “a government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal; rule by a thief or thieves.” Clearly our current cacaphonic administration is doing its best to establish a kleptocracy. Trump et al is like the Sopranos, but nowhere near as smart.
There are several kleptocracies we can view at this point in time. Russia is the top of the heap, along with North Korea, Brazil, Equatorial Guinea, Turkey and more. Once a democracy is “drowned in the bathtub”, as our anti-tax fellow citizens loved to say, and replaced with a kleptocracy, the road back to democracy is not guaranteed, at least not in our lifetimes. Especially if the kleptocrat is clever, like Putin.
In Russia today there is no free press, there is no authentic voting, and there is no Rule of Law. For this piece I’ll define Rule of Law as we are all equal under the law. In Russia the Friends of Vlad get away with murder (literally) and those not his friends get life imprisonment, or they lose their business (which is then given to one of the Friends of Vlad), for trumped up charges. The path back to the all too brief Spring of a free Russia is difficult to discern.
Some say we don’t have the Rule of Law either. Just look at the recent events, not to mention the long term events from our entire history, that led to the Black Lives Matter movement. And I get the objection, but I nevertheless disagree. A Democracy based on the Rule of Law is always a Work In Progress (or WIP as manufacturers call it). It involves Politics. Politics is the non-violent alternative to effecting change. Without politics (the good, the bad and the ugly) it heads towards violence, and it’s easy enough to get there. Many Trumpistas are planning for a Civil War 2. The Bugaloos. The fraudulent militias. The white nationalists, nazis and KKK.
Short of that, we have politics. Politics allowed FDR to build an alliance of sorts with the southern white Jim Crow era racists, which led to him getting so much of what he wanted with the New Deal. I’m sure a lot of that stuck in his craw. Politics allowed LBJ to ram through the Civil Rights laws of his term, an amazing step forward. Of course, political gains don’t stay frozen in time. American racists began almost immediately to undermine LBJ, just as the John Birch Society (led by the Koch brothers’ father) a generation earlier began almost immediately to undermine the New Deal. Evil can play a long game, it seems, and our advances, although in the books, were constantly undermined by states that were in thrall to the autocratic right. Eventually a Supreme Court filled by Republicans decided that the Voting Rights section of the Civil Rights laws passed under LBJ was no longer needed. Which leads us to here and now.
Politics is a long game. The right-wing strategy is a 50 to 100 year strategy. It is to name the Supreme Court vacancies. It is to undo advances in civil rights, justice, education, the rise of income for all, and health care brick by brick. Think of it: the Koch brothers’ father was a John Birch Society leader who swore to kill the New Deal no matter how long it took. (No quote, sorry). That was 90 or so years ago.
On the liberal and Democratic side it is however too often the case that our victories and our advances are often and quickly forgotten. It is our scourge that the drive for perfection obscures the good that has happened. (More in Part 2).