Polycentric Wanderings

Keith's random and sundry thoughts on the challenges of working together.

Month: April, 2016

Subverting Democracy Through the Two Party System

We’re in the midst of a fierce primary season. Considering the legitimate rise of Sanders and Trump, we’re seeing a great deal of pushback from partisan stalwarts who seem more concerned with party loyalty than principles of a truly vibrant and competitive (and some say cooperative) democracy.

Sanders and Trump supporters -many of whom are decidedly not from the ranks of the two party cloth- have been calling fraud on the primary system. Party loyalists are correct to note that this is not fraud, but instead the rules of the game. The problem is that the rules are not shaped in an open forum, but instead interpreted by a set of entrenched insiders. Here is an anonymous quote in favor of the New York partisan rule-making:

The rules about primaries have been the same for a long time. Clinton had nothing to do with the rules about voters only being able to vote in the primary that corresponds with the party they have registered in. That particular law is meant to prevent people from crossing party lines in order to vote for the weakest candidate. If Bernie is trying to prove that he would be a good CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the United States, he really should try to do a better job of making sure that his followers understand the rules.

This argument is not so much about defending democracy, but instead about supporting fealty to the two party apparatus. My response:

The only pathway to running for office legitimately in the USA is through the two parties. They can easily make it harder and harder for regular citizens to access the party apparatus. And they do.

It’s simply not justifiable to say “the party rules say this…” Break the two party hold on the system, and make it easy to run for office (by the way, neither party is advocating for this, which is absolutely anti democratic), then the whole “follow the rules” argument carries weight.

So long as the two parties are allowed to create the foundational rules for running for office, we will have to deal with capture and partisan control. And anyone who challenges those rules will in essence be labeled a traitorous interloper.

That is why for those of us who care about living and operating in a functioning democracy we must break the stranglehold of the two party system on the electoral system.

Corporate Activism and the Religious “Freedom” Movement: On the Use of Deplorable Equivalences

North Carolina’s Republican Governor and Legislature have received enormous pushback in the form of corporate activism for their roughshod passage of the aptly-named “bathroom bill,” HB2. HB2 is a blatant attack on the civil liberties of the LBGT community with emphasis on trans-folks. HB2 plays up on one of the worst myths about LBGT folks, namely that they are sexual predators necessitating segregation from cisgender folks (never mind that LGBT folks are more likely to be victims -not perpetrators- of sexual assault).

What are defenders of HB2 saying? You might surprised that instead of defending the substance of the bill, they are instead going after the right-side-of-history corporations. An exemplary quote from commentary by the Republican Washington Times:

Whether it’s Apple opening stores in Saudi Arabia or American Airlines looking to dominate the Cuban travel market, many of the companies that have threatened to cut business ties to North Carolina over its bathroom bill are eager to do business in countries with regimes far more repressive of gays (and everyone else).

What are HB2 supporters telling us? Let us parse this out, shall we?

  1. The bill is acceptable. That means they support the discrimination of an entire class of their fellow American citizens. History will not look fondly upon this,
  2. The most egregious inference here is that “hey, we let other countries oppress folks! Why can’t we?!”

Ya, that’s right. Remember in high school social studies when your teacher would talk about American civic virtues and living up to higher standards? Remember all that claptrap about American “Exceptionalism” which is in part supposed to be about American equality, liberty, and democracy? Apparently the champions of American Exceptionalism -adults, elected to represent the fundamentals of American Constitutionalism- believe we should lower our standards because “…hey! They allow this in theocracies!”

I don’t know about you, but I like to promote my democracy and civil liberties, and encourage others everywhere to embrace liberty and equality for everyone. Myself, I care not to compete with Saudi Arabia human rights.

One would think the North Carolina Republicans -and their supporters in the media- were better than this. Apparently Saudi Arabian values trump American values.

At least they’re on record.