For several months now I’m been struggling to come to terms, literally, trying to find the right terminology for the political realities we have experienced during the last forty years. A term-limited, rotating regency is my latest effort to find a descriptive definition.
I think what we missed in looking at the history of American democracy was that prior to the civil rights era, despite all the good words in the Constitution and the checks and balances of the governmental framework, the reality was that the principle of “sovereign immunity” left us with a defacto rotating and term-limited regency. And that’s what conservatives are aiming to restore.
I’ve been referring to it as a demonarchy–an amalgamation of monarchy and democracy in which the latter is merely a selection process.
The term limited aspect of the demonarchy is interesting because it actually permits the figure head regent to be totally irresponsible, especially when impeachment is taken off the table. The term limit guarantees that the deluge of mismanagement will be inherited by someone else. What we’ve just witnessed is the total abdication of responsibility–the exercise of power without having to pay the consequence.
That Barack Obama is willing to assume responsibility is both praise-worthy and un-surprising. African Americans have a long history of cleaning up the white man’s messes.
And a significant mess it is, in large part because it’s been so long in the making. Moreover, in this case, the amalgamation hasn’t produced something that’s stronger than the original parts. Rather, it’s combined the weakest aspects of dictatorship and democracy by not only blurring, but eliminating the lines of responsibility. Where a dictator risks being over-thrown if the affairs of state go awry, the democratically selected and term-limited regent is protected by the automatic termination of his rule–i.e. not only has Bush Two been a lame duck for his entire second term, but the country has been content to just wait him out, not wanting to upset the apple cart. And who’s to blame? Why, it’s the people who elected him, knowing full well that a figure head isn’t qualified to fix what got broken on his watch.
Bush Two claimed a mandate, but he hadn’t a clue what to do.
McCain/Palin are just the same. What’s different, we hope, is that the electorate has awoken to the fact that the country can’t be fixed by a couple of empty figure heads. Que sera, sera is not a good slogan for a nation of three hundred million and pride is not a good substitute for action.
Anti-intellectualism has long been identified as a recurring American trait. But what does it actually mean? The answer, I think, can be found in the McCain/Palin campaign. It’s a matter of instinct being preferred over intellect. Mainly, because the latter implies responsibility for consequence and that’s what’s being avoided. Or perhaps more accurately, what’s being avoided is the potential for making mistakes or error. And that makes it preferable to make no choices at all and just act on the basis of gut reactions. The automatic versus the considered option.
Oddly enough, the preference for the automatic also informs the commitment to the self-regulating market as the model of economic behavior–another example of responding to the uncertainty associated with choice by declaring the aegis of choice to be null and void. Que sera, sera.
How did so many Americans, most of whose ancestors braved the wild seas to get here, become afraid of making mistakes? How did they get to be so insecure? Or is it just a matter of their fool-hardy genes getting lost? McCain’s maverickness, by the way, is really just fool hardiness. He uses the word “think” but there’s no evidence that he knows what it means.