Government By And For The People Or Government By And For A Select Few?
In truth the unspoken desire of much of White power America, including much of corporate America, would like to turn Lincoln’s ideal government flipped on its head: a government by and for the people spun over to a government by and for the dominant few. This latter situation is basically where we are today in America with the potential for things becoming much worse for the average American citizen if the nation’s prevailing interests continue pushing their Republicans shills to corrode our democratic institutions.
Before, however, exploring the political ideals of Lincoln and the hopes and dreams of America’s Founding Fathers and how our democracy has evolved over time — in search of that illusive “more perfect union” — we first need to drill deep into the basic workings of the human mindset, a mindset that feels a need to design governments in the first place.
As I see it the human mind can be explained as three primary parts. There is that which IQ measures — efficiency of thought — the speed at which one learns, retains and recalls information. In computer language this would be referred to as clock speed. To be good in this aspect of the mind sure makes life much easier, but certainly by itself it doesn’t necessarily signify quality of character nor wisdom. It would, however, be impossible for, say, concert pianists having to digest and interpret numerous notes of the musical scale at once; or typists being capable of flawlessly banging out dozens and dozens of words per minute; or world class bridge players having to make many subtle mental computations while at once remembering all the bidding that has transpired and what cards have been played, if such folks were not naturally strong in this mental department.
The second part is what might be termed neutral reality or pure unbiased intellect. This is what quality learning tries to teach and what political propaganda is want to destroy. Good judgment is dependent on a well developed intellect, as detached from personal bias as humanly possible.
The third segment of the mind, and by far the most powerful, which at times can also be the most destructive element, is egocentricity — I want what I want when I want it. All living creatures have as the foundation of their survival mechanism egocentrism. It’s a naturally imposed impulse pushing one to seek advantage at every opportunity, either individually or via group means, (the tribal impulse) in order to persist and thrive as a living being. This egocentricity might also be looked upon as the God impulse, as well as our longing to wish to live forever. Indeed, the ego survival urge is what pushes many to seek out a life beyond the flesh, and therefore is the inspiration for certain religious sects to conjure of fables that purport to teach their flocks about how such a formidable desire can be attained.
But in the end it is our egocentrism that propels the need for government with all its rules and regulations so that one person’s egocentricity doesn’t run roughshod over another’s needs, resulting in non-stop fighting and endless war. Indeed, family feuds, rebellions and wars are always the result of some person’s or groups lawless — unmodified egocentrism getting out of control, for when folks think that their survival is being messed with they react violently.
In America many people have come to confuse liberty and freedom with an overly childish, unmodified egocentrism. “You can’t make me take that vaccine,” some will say, as if their egocentrism had some natural right to threaten the welfare of others during a pandemic, which it does in a purely natural, uncivilized world. In their selfish ignorance they refuse to comprehend that liberty without civic responsibility is nothing more than juvenile selfishness. As it has often been said, freedom of action ends when your fist reaches the end of my nose. And so humans long ago came to reason that society needed regulated leadership and agreed upon rules in order that reasonable social discourse might transpire.
The founding fathers consulted the wisdom of the ages from Plato to Adam Smith in their search for the best possible form of government, one that would protect individual freedom as well as the nation’s collective security. Their immediate objective was to do away with the notion of hereditary rule and the divine right of kings and queens. They insisted that America should be a land of laws, with no leader above the law. Unfortunately this notion runs headlong into the human tribal impulse to seek out the most dominant personality as leader — the chief. Would be dictators always try cashing in on this chieftain leader imagine that is so strongly imbedded in the human psyche by projecting a strongman persona — I can do it all. This was one potent reason why the founders wished for a republic over a pure democracy. They saw democracy as an easily manipulated system that could quickly be taken over by nefarious persons when conditions were ripe.
Moreover, United States founders opposed the creation of political parties. They were keenly aware how wrangling by political interests in Europe affected nations across the Atlantic. In his farewell address George Washington warned: “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
But, alas, men are eager to search out likeminded allies, a process that inevitably leads to the formation of formal political parties. One might convincingly argue that such a corruption of party is exactly what happed to the Republican Party when it knuckled under to the unprincipled character of Donald Trump and endures to magnify Trump’s authoritarian vulgarities while running roughshod over our democratic norms and ideals.
But if having to deal with individual and collective human egocentrism was not enough complexity in trying to build a just national system of governance, our nation’s builders had the additional thicket of slavery to get through. Most government designers including likes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, slaves owners themselves, knew that slavery made a mockery of their dreams of justice and freedom for all. Still, they reasoned they had to start somewhere, compelling most to hope and pray that in time the peculiar institution would fade away. For the moment, however, slavery was too tightly woven into the economic and social fabric of a large portion of the future nation. And so the founders ideals had to be twisted into a bitter pretzel upon their start for a more perfect union.
Some make a superficial argument that the American Civil War was not over slavery, but deep down it was always about slavery, even when not so stated. The ideals of Liberty and justice for all needed to be rectified with slavery one way or the other, and when too fiercely apposed ideas clash it usually ends in war. In this instant a bloody civil war was unleashed in which 600,000 Americans died at a time when the nation’s total population was only a fraction of todays. It was a rare family that didn’t have a father, son or brother wounded or killed in action or had died from some camp disease.
Lincoln feared that freed Negros could not intellectually compete for jobs and positions of power with European heritage, White Americans, even though by the 1860s a significant portion of the colored folk carried 50% or more of their master’s White blood. With the War of Rebellion (as the South liked to call it) raging on with no end in sight, Lincoln racked his brain in vain, but found no solution for how the two races could coexist in a free and equal society, if and when victory and peace were ever restored.
Personally Lincoln hated the dehumanizing and brutal features of slavery, and the way that families could be split apart and sold off to other slave owners separated by hundreds of miles. His first priority, however, was to save the Union, but when the war dragged on and the Radical Republicans relentless prodded him to make freedom of Negros a war aim and pointed out that by attacking the institution of slavery it would impinge upon the Rebels ability to wage war, Lincoln finally relented, ordering that slaves in states currently at war with the Union would be forever free. In other words he didn’t wish to provoke the slave states that had remained loyal.
When the South was finally beaten down and made to summit to the period know as reconstruction the horizon began to look bright for freed blacks. The 13th and 15thConstitutional amendments were passed technically freeing blacks and giving them political power. But well after the assination of Lincoln and his modifying personality, destructive political deals were cut with the former Confederate state politicians during the 1870s that quickly, with help of Klu Klux Klan intimidation — lynching — a period of virtual slavery know as Jim Crow soon settled upon old Dixie, sort of what Republicans are trying to return to today with all their anti voting rights legislation.
Then in the mid 1960s Democratic Presidents Kennedy and Johnson gave backing to civil rights laws that returned to folks of color real freedom. This terrified corporate America. Vast numbers of Democratic minority voters could now seriously jeopardize the good old boy, White power structure. And so the traditional rulers “of the home of the free and the brave” settled on a four-pronged attack to hold their place at the top.
Since the drive for a multicultural democracy was on the rise, they would work to undercut the people’s faith in the Federal Government where sentiment for a fully integrated society was the strongest; next they would move to take control of rural state ligatures and the courts; additionally they would pepper government offices with lobbyist who would virtual write federal legislation on their behalf; and lastly they would stir up White tribal resentment fear of the “other” among lower class, less educate White voters — Regan Democrats. This overarching strategy was designed both as an offensive political weapon carried out by their partisan Republican shills in Congress and individual state elective offices around the nation — and just as important — the gambit would act as a protective smokescreen for their predatory business practices.
The basic structure of the American government does not lend itself well to majority rule, starting with the United States Senate. California by itself. with its huge population and land mass, is the 5th leading economy in the world. It has two senators. North Dakota having one thousandth the economy of California and more coyotes than people also has two senators. Moreover, gerrymandering causes Republicans in many rural states controlled by them to elected twice as many US Representative as Democrats even though they often receive less total votes for those offices. In America it is the few who rule the many — tyranny by the rural minority. And then of course there is that anti democratic gentlemen’s agreements in the Federal Senate, the Filibuster, that further stifles majority rule of the people. And so, my friends, you can see how complicated and fragile is the democratic process when having to contend with human egocentricity where the rich tend to get richer and the poor get poorer — a yachts and rowboats culture.
There was, however, a relatively brief thirty-year period (1950 to 1980) when a majority of Americans (except for some minorities) did quite well. Following the massive destruction of World War Two the world’s manufacturing capacity, except for the United States, was in a shambles. Corporate America could afford to be exceptionally generous to American workers as the world was hungry for American manufactured goods. No matter how much business paid its workers, corporate bosses continued stuffing their own pockets with wads of bucks. This triggered an explosion of the American middle class with folks buying houses, cars and household appliances as never before, being also extended enormous amounts of credit to do so.
But, alas, all good things must come to an end — balance. The world’s manufacturing capacity recovered, and so to keep up their extravagant profits American corporations began the dastardly business of outsourcing their manufacturing needs to low cost countries. It was the beginning of the end for lower middleclass Americans. Those that had once done fairly well fell into the category of what Eric Hoffer once defined as the “new poor,” the most destabilizing sector of society. That is to say those having always been poor are often satisfied with their lot in life, while conversely those having once lived reasonably well off and then finding themselves rather deprived become society’s most dangerous misfits — Trump voters for sure.
There is a wonderful conservative writer, Andrew Sullivan, a real conservative, not a Trumpist insurrectionist type, who honestly searches all angles of political questions. He freely admits, to his credit, that he has gotten issues terribly wrong at times. Unfortunately Mr. Sullivan continues to bill himself as a small government, Regan conservative. Should he ever (unlikely as that may be) read this article before your eyes, I hope that he would drastically reevaluate his opinion of President Regan and his ideas of small government. For one thing, dear reader, the size of government is far less important that the quality and intent of government. Yet there is a much larger problem at play with the Regan’s philosophy of government: a factor that has directly lead to Trump and Trumpism and the collapse of the GOP as a sponsor of democracy.
It was when — gee whiz, oh golly — happy-go-lucky President Ronald Regan said, government is not the solution; it’s the problem. This simple statement started the ball of democracy rolling in the wrong direction. To be sure, it was beautiful music to the ears of White, corporate America that so much desired a weak national government as it might then retain a free hand for fleecing the general public. Just think about how investors in the America medical establish — health insurance, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals — are currently bankrupting folks into homelessness.
It might be fair to claim that the presidency of Saint Ronald was the perfect marker for the beginning of America’s dangerous slide away from Constitutional democracy and toward the viper’s nest of autocracy. Undermining the people’s faith in their government has always been a necessary precursor for a national takeover by some demagogic, dictatorial personality. From the days of Regan’s disparagement of government to present times, the people’s faith in government expertise and its ability to provide important services for average citicens and also their view of our national representatives capacity for getting things done right has been continually undermined. In fact it has become something of a political sport, since Regan’s day, for politicians to run as Washington outsiders because of the central government’s poor standing in the eyes of the electorate.
Naturally when red state politicians arrive in Washington they are eager to please their know-nothing constituents and fat cat donors by insuring that their backers’ expectations of a poor quality of government are endlessly made manifest by themselves deliberately acting to gridlocking government operations (except for backing legislation that push more wealth to their greedy donors.) And thus when running for reelection they can brag about how they have keep dangerous, socialist Democrats in check. Meanwhile, with the deliberately sabotaged central government paralyzed by Republican corporate shills in Congress, the middle class has been melting away with average citizens coming ever closer to living on the streets.
It was in large part the electorate’s ever diminished opinion of the national government that flung open the door for someone the likes of the despicable, moronic Donald Trump to occupy the White House, a dangerous, reptilian brained monster who then willfully tried to permanently hold onto the nation’s top seat of power via insurrection. The January 6 attack upon the nation’s capital was a well-coordinated affair that with a little more Trump subversion of the US Justice Department and the Pentagon could have succeeded to kill off 245 years of American democracy.
There is always a natural tension between capitalism and a well functioning democracy. This is because pure capitalism (predatory capitalism) is an egocentric form of economics that ends up benefiting a rich and powerful few, whereas democracy is (there is no getting around it) a socialistic device meant to try and protect average citizens from the excesses of the dominant class.
At bottom neither pure socialism nor pure capitalism is a good social/economic system. In the end they both stifle competition and stagnate the general welfare. Balance works best for the vast number of citizens. The northern European and Canadian models of social democracy work much better for average citizens that the Darwinian system that most Americans are subjected.
In this land of often times predatory capitalism, a right wing authoritarian rule is far more likely than some left wing coup. This nbeing much like the road Germany went down during the first half of the last century when its industrialists threw in their lot with Hitler, thinking that they had the political muscle to control him. This of course ended up with Sixty millions humans slaughtered and German cities and industry turned to demolished ruins.
After America’s better angels had elected a black man of high personal character, Barack Obama, twice to the nation’s top political office, the country’s destructives came roaring back with perhaps the worst example of their own kind, joyfully propelling Donald John Trump to the presidency and flinging open the doors to his control of the Republican Party — providing him the political clout to roll over any in the GOP who dared stand in his way.
Trump soon demonstrated that he was much more adept at undermining Americas institutions of democracy than when playing at being a supper business executive, having in reality left in the wake of his commercial ventures a long backwash of business fiascos — Trump water, Trump Ties, Trump Steaks Trump Airlines, Trump University (for which he was forced to pay his swindled victims 50 million dollars) and of course squandering his father’s 400 million dollar nest egg, along those numerous grand casino bankruptcies. Flimflamming the gullible with fake reality TV shows and plastering his brand name on any place or product that would it was truly his only actual success.
You might think that such a string of business failures would discourage his fanatical supporters — not at all. It only warmed their hearts evermore toward him, his shortcomings seeming making him one of their own, especially as he appeared to possess an invisible magic that relentlessly propel him to the top of the national political heap — on their behalf, he would tell them. And like with any effective grafter-con man, his flock ate up his revival style rallies as he would continue to scam his devotes no less so than the nation in total, all the while moving dangerously against the foundation of America’s experiment in democracy.
Trump’s autocratic personality finally came to head with the big lie that he actually won the 2020 election — and bigly so. Using that preposterous lie to ferment the January 6 attempted coup at the nation’s capital building –-a Trump inspired event, a version of Nazi Brown Shirts in action.The Proud Boys and other “patriotic” insurrectionist groups threated the lives of Congressmen and Senators gathered to confirm the election of Joe Biden as the nation’s 46 president.
The 64 thousand dollar question now is will corporate America decide to save the nation’s democratic institutions or allow the country to drift into some sort of loose collection of outlaw oligarchs? As it stand in the summer of 2021, Trump and his destructives remain barely off stage threatening to turn America into just one more authoritarian dictatorship. In the end it will be the ultimate influence of American corporate power that will decide whether or not it thinks a proper multicultural democracy, or instead a sham authoritarian governmental system, best serves its long-term interests. At present I would guess that it’s a 50/50 proposition that some reasonable and workable form of democracy will be sustained within the boarders of our disparate gaggle of America states.
With, however, global warming raging evermore out of control, such a question may end up being strictly an academic exercise of no practical importance. And if the global warming threat is not daunting enough situation for humanity to grabble with, there is always the ever dangerous factor of thousand of nuclear tipped missiles on hair trigger alert beneath the sea and within land silos patiently waiting for some human miscalculation or technical flaw to let them fly. Therefore wiping out all traces of humanity upon the globe, first via a massive sheet of flame followed by years of nuclear winter, an overpowering combination that only the most primitive microbes deep underground can hope to survive — oh, happy day.
For those of you who have followed some of my numerous articles over recent years, you are likely aware of how all this potential destruction fits my pet theory of universal balance. If not, here is how it goes: at some point in time creation within the universe will always be offset by destruction — balance. Stars are born and stars die. Usually the seed of destruction is already imbedded within the creation process. In the case of humankind our potential destruction has been a byproduct of humanity’s spectacular run of scientific and technical advances over the last few hundred years. Indeed, along with this marvelous progress has come suffocating pollution, causing the planet to commence a dangerous rise in temperature while our super science has also brought fourth the power of the atom that seems to be aimed like a gun pointed at our heads.
As a sort of subconscious human tell to this balance phenomenon, have you ever known someone that was on the edge of a significant accomplishment, but then, at the very last moment, shied away from completion by refusing to carry out a relatively easy task, ending forever their original goal — like the boy scout that needs one more merit badge to become an Eagle Scout or a PhD candidate that simply needs to present their thesis before earning an advanced degree but never gets around to it. Do you suppose that subconsciously some have a dread of a terrible offset? In other words are humans at some deep level aware of a universal balance law always in play? You know, like the great political and economic wealth of the Massachusetts Kennedy clan being haunted by a string of deadly mishaps.
On the other hand, if you can manage to stick your head in the sand in the fine tradition of religious true believers, there is always that heavenly experience to look forward to. Hope never dies it just melts away in the end to nothing, but the universe goes on its merry way just as it has done long before the end of the age of the dinosaurs.
Now what was I talking about before I sort of digressed? Oh, yes, something about the fate of capitalism and American’s multicultural democracy. But once again when talking about the survival of American democracy we must circle back around to the will and intent of American capitalism and those corporate powers of maximum influence. After all the Republicans in Congress and in the various state governments work at the behest of such mega powers of the land, including the majority of conservative judges of the United States Supreme court.
Too often we get distracted by the shiny object that is Donald Trump and his cult following, the latter a mishmash of dangerous thugs and misinformed malcontents. However, I’m fairly certain the that the big boys on Wall Street still hold enough high cards to decide or not if they desire risking going down that same disastrous road that German industrialist did in the last century. But make no mistake about it; American capitalists are playing a dangerous game around the edges of a dictatorial black whole from which there may soon be no return if they do not put a stop to the avalanche of anti-voting legislation.
I mean, how much pounding can the pillars of our democracy withstand? How many right wing lies from prominent Republican politicians and how much disinformation flowing out of the right media and falsehoods feed through slick algorithms on social media does it take to sink a free nation? Or what about top Republicans carrying water for Putin and other national authoritarians that are avowed enemies of our nation can our fragile republic endure?
The hope is that enough young and older persons of wisdom in positions of corporate influence will decide that their GOP shills drive against a modern, multicultural democracy possess an existential threat to all Americans — including themselves — so that in the end they, too, will act as the nation’s better angels, and thus government by and for the people will remain the primary tenet of the land.