Saturday, June 11, 2005

Power to the People?

Mainline Democrats are only slightly more democratic than their Republican opponents since a strongly egalitarian politics threatens the prerogatives of professional people as well as billionaires. Certainly, none of the relevant elites is about ready to let the mass of the population have a decisive say in foreign policy. The democrats really do have a different take on the proper use of power, but liberal imperialists who wish to rule through consensus are still imperialists. Which largely explains why the Democrats have been so helpless in confronting the Iraq war. Many of them more or less openly endorse the notion that we have a right to unilaterally impose our system and its values on others by the application of deadly force. The Weapons of Mass Destruction scam didn’t just provide cover for the right. The moderates that went along with Bush may have thought that Saddam had some mustard gas, but they also knew perfectly well that the WMDs were utterly inconsequential, the merest red herring. They knew, but they were as willing as Powell and the rest to use this phony excuse to manipulate the public because they have no scruples whatsoever about lying to the people. Whatever you think of their motives, that is what ruling classes do.

My point is not to suggest that the world would automatically be better or safer if the wishes of the public were seriously consulted, though I think the European public at least has been far wiser than the American Neocons about the Middle East. There are a great many things that should not be settled by a vote, indeed a great many things about which people in general have no right to an opinion. The problem is that our nation endlessly proclaims its democratic principles but denies them in practice in areas—war and peace, wealth and poverty—where everybody really does have an existential stake and therefore a right to be heard and listened to. Since democracy on these matters would interfere with the wishes and interests of the rulers, we get democracy where it doesn’t belong by way of compensation. The courts will become collection agencies for the corporations, but we will tenderly protect the people’s right to impose their sexual morals on everybody. We’ll steal your pensions and your social security contributions to pay off our political supporters, but you’ll be able to decide scientific issues like evolution by a show of hands. You want to pronounce it New-cu-lar, you go right ahead. See, we’re populists.

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