Has anyone noticed something strange lately? The Constitution clearly indicates that US democracy should operate on the principle of majority rule. This means that, when it comes to running the government, any idea that’s supported by 50% + 1 of the voters is declared the winner. Or, at least, that’s how it used to be.
Ever since the Republicans became the Party of No, they have made it impossible for bills to make it through the US Senate with fewer than 60 votes!?!
Yes, you read that correctly. Technically-speaking, it should only require a simple majority (i.e., 50% +1) of senators to pass legislation. However, Republicans have been in such a snit since Barack Obama muscled healthcare reform through Congress that they have decided to filibuster every piece of legislation that comes down the pike. As a result, instead of majority rule, a mean-spirited Senate minority has derailed the democratic process. So much for responsible governance.
If political gridlock were due to nothing more than a sustained Republican hissy fit, there would be little need for concern. We could simply wait out the problem. Spoiled children who throw temper tantrums eventually run out of steam. Once they have calmed down, responsible adults can usually induce problem children to straighten up and fly right. That, or we could vote new kids into office. Either way, the problem would be solved. Unfortunately, the spiteful numbers game that is increasingly becoming the bane of US democracy is but the tip of a much larger and nastier iceberg.
Due to the immensity of the crises that he inherited, the jury will be out on Barack Obama’s performance as a US President for a long time. Though he has weathered political storms that would have laid low lesser presidents, Barack Obama is not loved by all. In truth, Barack Obama could be the most polarizing president of modern times.
People either love or hate Barack Obama. The people who hate Barack Obama do so because they are convinced that Obama is not a “real American.” This poisonous sentiment has manifested in repeated efforts to cast aspersions on Barack Obama’s birth records. The whole business would seem silly if it were not for the staying power of the indictment, and for the venom of the attacks.
You wish you were President, boy! Show me your ID ‘cause I don’t like the way you look.
Of course, even though hateful cowards like Ted Nugent and Rush Limbaugh deny the charge, their antipathy for Barack Obama derives from the President’s ethnicity. Back in the good old days, majority rule meant that good old boys were guaran-damn-teed to come out on top every time. How’s that for an illusion of democracy? In the good old days, the Constitution explicitly denied women, Africans, Native Americans, and a variety of other non-people legal recognition. As a result, in the good old days, the only “real Americans” were, by definition, self aggrandizing white guys. Heck, the law practically required white guys to exploit Others.
If you really were one of God’s children, then he’d be on your side. But he ain’t, so quit yer bitchin’. It’s not genocide, it’s destiny. Manifest Destiny!
Barack Obama’s detractors claim that they hate him because he’s not really an American. In fact, what they’re actually saying is that, not having been charter members, black guys will never be welcome in the old boys club. Don’t get the wrong impression, though. Grumpy old white guys aren’t racists, they’re traditionalists.
In the good old days when white guys ruthlessly denied citizenship to women and people of color, the old boys were perfectly content with majority rule. Now that white guys are having a tougher time contriving false majorities, they have lost their appetite for majority rule. Instead grumpy old white guys have become determined to assert a new form of tyranny: the tyranny of the minority.
If you can’t beat “em, cheat “em.
It eats at the vitals of grumpy old white guys that hard-working, gifted politicians like Barack Obama and Angela Giron can breeze into office by forging rock solid majorities among formerly disenfranchised Others. Gone are the days when grumpy old white guys could win elections by doing nothing more than securing the votes of other grumpy old white guys. We live in a new era of political plurality. But that’s the last thing that grumpy old white guys want to hear. They want to go back to the good old days when “real Americans” ruled, and Others had to content themselves with table scraps and brutalization.
Ah, the good old days. May they be good and gone forever.
What lies ahead? It would be wonderful if grumpy old white guys could find it within themselves to forego their age-old prejudices, but that’s about as likely as a white Christmas in hell. No, being died-in-the-wool miscreants, as their influence diminishes grumpy old white guys are probably going to become even grumpier and more intransigent. Let’s not forget how malicious South Africa’s minuscule white minority became during its apartheid years.
Expect grumpy old white guys, purely out of spite, to do everything in their power to hamstring popular, but “non-traditional” leaders like Barack Obama and Angela Giron. In a democracy that was predicated on unvarnished slavery and genocide, one should always expect a measure of hypocrisy in the political arena. It may be naive to hope that there is any room for idealism in American politics, but, if we’re going to be honest, we need to acknowledge that politics is first and foremost about winners and losers.
For too long, grumpy old white guys rigged the political game to their distinct advantage. Even though they have now become an increasingly fractious minority, grumpy white guys would like nothing more than to continue scoring political victories–no matter how underhanded. It’s up to the supporters of America’s new breed of politicians, like Barack Obama and Angela Giron, to show grumpy old white guys that their days of political ascendancy are over. As are their days of unfairly rigging America’s democratic political system.
Tim McGettigan is a middle-aged cuss who teaches sociology at CSU-Pueblo.