Etcetera

When I was younger, I was incredibly–embarrassingly–patriotic. I regularly got goosebumps when I heard the national anthem. Granted, my understanding of the nation’s history was very incomplete–but I think it’s fair to say that the nation itself was stronger. it was certainly less polarized–most Americans shared a belief in both the country’s essential goodness and in a “can do” American spirit. 

Yesterday, I posted about what I now fear is our national disintegration–a multitude of thorny problems, most of which appear to defy that “can do” ethic. 

Remember this rant from the first episode of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom?  When anchor Will McAvoy responds to a question about what makes the U.S. the “greatest country in the world?

And you—sorority girl—yeah—just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. 

Every issue McAvoy addresses in that now-famous rant could be ameliorated by sensible public policies. As I regularly note on this platform, we haven’t enacted those policies. The reason we haven’t is the same reason I am increasingly depressed–significant aspects of the Constitution–the Constitution that I have celebrated, defended and taught– are obsolete.

Max Boot recently made that point in a column for the Washington Post.

Sounding a lot like Will McAvoy, Boot began with a recitation of America’s dreadful vaccination performance, and the deaths of more than 660,000 Americans thanks to the some 80 million eligible Americans who “stubbornly, stupidly refuse to get vaccinated — and there is almost no way to force them to do the right thing.”

With just 63 percent of the U.S. population having received at least one dose, we now lag behind every Group of Seven country in vaccination rates. We have even fallen behind countries such as Brazil, Mongolia and Cambodia, which are nowhere near as wealthy.

As he says, this isn’t a problem with democracy.

Other developed democracies work just fine. It’s not a question of democracy vs. autocracy. It’s more a question of the United States vs. the rest of the democratic world. Look at Canada: Its covid-19 death rate is one-third of ours and its vaccination rate is 12 percentage points higher. We have a uniquely dysfunctional political system — and it’s not clear that it can be fixed.

Our failure to manage the pandemic is of a piece with our failures to manage many other endemic ills. We have the weakest gun regulations among wealthy democracies and the highest level of gun violence. We are the only advanced democracy without universal health care — and our infant mortality rate is higher than in comparable countries. We have the weakest welfare state and the highest income inequality and poverty among G-7 countries. No wonder Europeans’ life expectancy is increasing while ours is declining.

Boot attributes our problems to a political system that he notes “was brilliantly designed for 1787 but has failed in 2021.”

In 1790, the largest state, Pennsylvania, had six times the population of the smallest, Rhode Island. Today, the largest state, California, has 68 times the population of the smallest, Wyoming. Yet California and Wyoming have the same number of U.S. senators…The overrepresentation of rural, conservative interests in the Senate is stunning: The 50 Republican senators represent nearly 40 million fewer voters than the 50 Democrats. Ending the filibuster can ameliorate this inequity, but there is no way to end it when just 13 states can block any constitutional amendment.

There is more, and you really need to click through and read Boot’s indictment in its entirety. It is particularly pertinent as we watch efforts by Democrats in the Senate to enact what ought to be considered minimal safeguards of the right to vote–and the adamant refusal of the minority White Supremacy Party to even consider them.

We can’t solve our multiple problems, or unleash the energies we need to confront global realities like pandemics and climate change, until we reform our creaky, undemocratic and increasingly counterproductive framework–and those reforms will be resisted by the minority of Americans that they privilege until the bitter end.

The question is: will the “bitter end” be the passage of democratic reforms? Or the final passage of America’s claim to national greatness?

 

21 thoughts on “Etcetera

  1. Can you imagine writing about the indictment of the USA while living in the least progressive state in the USA? I guess you can.

    Our Commander in Chief, who recently bragged about his “righteous drone strike” which killed 10 innocent civilians, has picked up the prosecution of Julian Assange for telling the truth about our military excursions. He also prosecuted Daniel Hale, a whistleblower who came forward to the world that our drone strikes aren’t ever righteous because they kill more civilians than our declared enemy.

    These are moral and criminal acts. But the truth-tellers are being punished.

    Our issues are much deeper than an old piece of paper. We spent $2.3 trillion in Afghanistan and NONE of it went to improve the country. We had a Special Inspector General report about it and nothing was ever done about it.

    Within a few days, the same Commander in Chief, reports that he’s sharing knowledge about our nuclear submarine program with Australia, breaking a deal between Australia and France (a European Ally), so we can have nuclear subs in the South China Sea to attack China.

    He never went to Congress or the American people. He answered the calls of the Military-Industrial Complex – a group of CEOs controlling war profiteers for the Pentagon. Where’s the outrage from our other branches of government? Where’s the outrage from our free press in this country and Britain?

    Our ills are long from the local level all the way to the federal level. Kakistocracy and kleptocracy in one and there is no accountability except for the courageous ones holding them accountable and our immoral government calls them “spies” for telling our secrets since it may harm national security. It’s laughable if it weren’t true. They cannot even see their own hypocrisy.

    After writing articles about the unlawfulness and treacherous deeds, I always feel dirty. I feel like I need to take a shower. Ignorance is bliss.

  2. I simply cannot fathom how Manchin and Sinema could accept the end of the American experiment as we know it as their legacy. I do understand the political position they’re in and can accept their commitment to finding 10 GQP Senators to go along. They’re both from, at best, purple states and enjoy all the security in their Senate seats that Joe Donnelly did in our state.

    Only 7 GQP Senators voted to impeach a President who blew up a 200+ year tradition of the peaceful transfer of power and incited an insurrection on the US Capital. Under WHAT POSSIBLE CIRCUMSTANCES do they think they’ll get THREE MORE votes that will likely diminish the power of the GQP for a long long time?????

    It defies all reason but that’s where we are in US politics and it isn’t just Republicans drinking the Krazy Kool-Aid.

  3. Three American citizens just returned from 3 days in space; this is considered a leap for the space program. Like the two Billionaires who took solitary, brief rocket rides into space recently, I’m wondering Why? Do they see this as an escape route? Where are the benefits of these space trips at this particular time when we are fighting a Cold Civil War, thousands still seriously ill and dying from Covid-19, the jobless are not applying for the hundreds of thousands of job openings posted in all businesses, children are forced to return to unsafe/unprotected classrooms and we now have thousands more coming across the Rio Grande River to hover in under that Texas bridge in filth, excrement with no source of food, water or even port-a-johns. If they had access to our daily news broadcasts; would they still come?

    This country has never been less polarized; it just wasn’t publicly acceptable till 2016 when Trump unleashed racism, bigotry and violence as the solution to personal problems of the have-nots and paid for by the untaxed 1% of which he is a charter member. President Biden is struggling valiantly to restore some form of sanity, protection of democracy and Rule of Law and Constitutional control to those with higher standards, morals, logic, decency, rational priorities, respect for others as well as self-respect, etc., etc., etc.

    “The question is: will the “bitter end” be the passage of democratic reforms? Or the final passage of America’s claim to national greatness?”

  4. I’m not sure just what sort of wake-up call is necessary for America to adjust its course and move toward sanity. If the 45 years weren’t enough to scare any good small d democrat, what would be? Oh, That’s right! There aren’t any Rs who are small ds. Some are nihilists, some are oligarchs, and NONE have the best interests of this country at heart. The only way we change things is to vote them out and by wide margins. Give a 63 vote majority in the Senate to the Dems and dare them to ignore the will of the people. As incompetent as they may be, even the Dems will get that message.

  5. I don’t know why people think Manchin and Sinema are the only two Democratic Senators against ending the filibuster. They’re the only two speaking out about it, but reporters say there are several more Senate Democrats who oppose ending the filibuster. They’re just letting Manchin and Sinema take the heat for that position.

  6. Peggy…don’t act like them and lump all members of a group into the “enemy”,

    Having reviewed the campaigns of at least a hundred GOP US House primary candidates in the last two elections, I can tell you there are “red dog Republicans” out there. We, CommonGoodGoverning, actually helped five of them in 2018. They all lost, mostly due to the gerrymandering of the district and the party money and assistance going to the extreme candidate.

  7. As an evolutionary biologist, I am prone to dig into the history of things. In my opinion, this slide into autocracy began with Ronald Reagan/Donald Regan. Ronnie was the dupe of corporate/banking America. Don Regan jerked him around like his puppet… which he certainly was. Add in all the other Republican-based screw ups like Citizens United v. FEC and you have what we have.

    George W. Bush appointed the former school superintendent from Houston who fiddled numbers to make the misbegotten and idiotic “No Child Left Behind” program look good for the then governor. That program not only wasted billions of education dollars, but diluted the teaching of critical thinking, civics and science to the point where our adult population now has little or no idea about those topics – clearly!

    I know we’ve posted this before, but what we’re seeing is the culmination of unregulated capitalism destroying the society that made it work. FDR saved capitalism from itself by instituting the socialistic mechanisms necessary to perpetuate wealth. Republicans fought, and still fight, against all of it. Their corporate/banking donors WANT to destroy democracy. Throw in the evil of Koch Industries and the “think” tanks they’ve funded and you get a population who thinks governance is evil and have been brainwashed into thinking that authoritarianism is good.

    Well done, GOP. Your messengers did a fine job of abetting this failure. The Lincoln Project is an example of former Republicans having their “holy shit” moment and are trying to save what’s left of our democracy. I think it’s too little too late. With 25% of our population screaming and yelling against their own best interests while the media covers every idiotic demonstration, how does a handful of recanters save the country? Stay tuned.

  8. We are apes with a bit of extra brainpower acting like apes. The root problem is that the science and technology that underpins our society is changing so rapidly that our ape brains can’t deal with it. There is no way through, around, over, or under this predicament. Science and technology will keep advancing, and we will keep focusing on “red herring issues” while the world burns. I suggest getting in shape physically and mentally, love the ones you are with, ignore the “soap opera,” and stay safe and healthy as long as you can.

  9. Bob – Your Sunday sermon? Well it is always sad to hear from those (unfortunately) who want to give up on “we”, in favor of “me”.

  10. Lester – I do not want to give up on “we” in favor of “me.” “We” is all I have to live for. However, I see the increasing separation of various “we” groups without a mechanism for finding common ground that can compete with those growing in power and separating us. In the meantime, the world is growing hotter and more dangerous literally, socially, politically, and technologically. This would only be an obstacle if it weren’t for our shortcomings as a species. I believe our ape brain cannot deal with this rate of change. However, I find myself to be far from the brightest or most well-informed ape in the tribe. I hope I am wrong. What evidence do you have that I am wrong?

  11. America at it’s founding was flawed as many here have stated so in postings past. The Constitution was written to preserve slavery, so a minority could own and traffic in slavery. It took a Civil War with hundreds of thousands of casualties on the Union side to finally crush slavery.

    Even though elections are decided by the most votes an Electoral College was established which perverted the whole idea of the most votes wins.

    Today, the GOP actively and aggressively is pursuing what ever tactics they can to suppress the votes being cast. Not satisfied with that maneuver they also want to control the counting of those votes.

    Trumpism played out actively and physically aggressively as the Capitol Coup. The GOP wants to “Move On” and forget it, or excuse it. Others in this minority of maniacs view the violence at the Capitol as a justifiable action to “Stop the Steal”.

    Goldwater in a sense has provided the ideological underpinning for this minority of maniacs when he said, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!” “And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

    Given the twisted version of “Liberty” by the minority of maniacs the Capitol assault was justifiable, refusing to have children in school wear masks or get the Covid vaccine is a defense of “Liberty”. Any effort at compromise or moderation -“is no virtue”.

    The GOP has placed itself in the position of having to please the Extreme at all costs.

  12. Vernon, I have to agree with you.
    We are quite hairless apes, controlled by the amygdala driven emotional brain
    “Identity Protective Cognition,” as per Yale Univ. psychologist and law prof., Daniel Kahan, the apparent basis for tribalist thinking, is evolutionarily important for social grouping species, such as humans. “In effect, what matters most is not what I believe, or what you believe, but what we believe.” “We have hundreds of thousands of years of practice at believing whatever will keep us in good standing with our tribe, even if that means denying, discounting, rationalizing, misperceiving and ignoring the evidence in from of our nose.” this comes from Jonathan Rauch’s “the Constitution of Knowledge….” pgs.30-33
    So, ever since the Reagan/Gingrich days the GQP has been feeding misinformation to its adherents, at an increasingly intense pace, with increasingly bizarre claims, and has driven an epistemic, tribal wedge between increasingly disparate views of reality, and taken us back to something like the stone age, well, maybe the bronze age.
    “The question is: will the ‘bitter end’ be the passage of democratic reforms? Or the final passage of America’s claim to national greatness?” I submit that any remaining claims to America’s greatness are, and have been, for some time, bogus.
    To go to Todd’s apparently favorite source of quotations: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Albert Einstein And the GQP, especially since the advent of Trump, has made ample use of the latter.

  13. Bob,

    Don’t give up. The “mechanism” is the vote. Unfortunately, those who wish to divide us and simultaneously grab power understand this and use it as their incentive to go to the polls – especially in primary elections.

    Those most hurt now – the economically disadvantaged, and those who will be hurt most in the years to come – young people, are the least likely to vote. They don’t trust “pols”, parties or ideologies. None of those are seen as anything to do with their lives, needs or dreams.

  14. Calling the GOP the White Supremacist Party is unfair. They should be called the Nazi Party, or perhaps the Super Nazi Party.

    I know that one should never invoke Hitler and the Nazis, but if I’m being unfair to anyone, it’s the Nazis. The GOP (or SNP, for Super Nazi Party) wants policies that oppress and immiserate people, especially people of colour and other minority populations. If you are not a white man, you are out of luck, and even they don’t get a lot of help (unless they are rich). If the SNP are given the power to enact their policies related to health, climate change, and social programs, millions of people will die as a direct result in the coming decades. They wish to put our entire species at risk, along with most others.

    It’s hard to imagine a worse or more evil group.

  15. For the long term, a two important steps would help – in no particular order
    1) an electoral blow-out leaving the Trump Party demolished and allowing “rational conservatives” to reclaim the GOP (or they could appeal to a wider swath of the populace like they did when there was a Rockefeller wing)
    2) adding more small, populous states, like DC (taxation without representation) and Puerto Rico

    In the first case, too many people will vote “R” no matter what, even electing wacko neo-nazis, so I don’t foresee any blow-out elections
    In the second case, few senators would accept diluting their power by adding more Senators to the mix

    Manchin and Sinema (and their ilk) suffer from one or both of the following in terms of new states and other progressive voting measures
    A) they don’t want to cede power and like being the center of attention with everyone begging for their votes
    B) they think that Americans are to the right of Reagan and in order to win they must look and smell like “right of Reagan” Republicans – It didn’t help Donnelley – Why elect a pseudo-Republican when you can have the real thing – besides, if Arizona gets their way, Sinema will be out regardless of any votes she gets because the State Legislature will void her election

    Our only hope is that people vote and realize that we don’t need more Trump, Reagan, or Clinton – rather we need the next leap forward with another FDR

    Articles of Confederation –> Constitution –> Lincoln –> T Roosevelt –> FDR –> LBJ

    As bad as Max Boot points out things are, looking at the punctuated progress we have made, there is hope for the future – not a lot, but some

    Repeating one of my favorite Talmudic quotes that Sheila knows well:
    “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it”

    Joe Hill put it more succinctly – Don’t mourn, organize!

  16. Maybe some fine contributor to this blog can answer the burning question I have….. is et cetera formally related to former Chicago singer/bassist Peter Cetera?

  17. Re “We can’t solve our multiple problems, or unleash the energies we need to confront global realities like pandemics and climate change, until we reform our creaky, undemocratic and increasingly counterproductive framework–and those reforms will be resisted by the minority of Americans that they privilege until the bitter end.”

    No, “reforms” means rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic. A sick evil system remains in place no matter how many “reforms” you enact upon it. History is the proof of that FUTILE meaningless approach. THAT is why it is so popular — it KEEPS the rotten system in place.

    A real understanding of the true issue starts with recognizing that a bunch of psychopaths rule. But that is only ONE part of the equation. The true, WHOLE, but “politically inconvenient” and “culturally forbidden” reality is more encompassing. Read “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room –The Holocaustal Covid-19 Coronavirus Madness: A Sociological Perspective  & Historical Assessment Of The Covid “Phenomenon”” by Rolf Hefti at www dot  CovidTruthBeKnown  dot com

    Without a proper understanding, and full acknowledgment, of the true WHOLE problem and reality, no real constructive LASTING change is possible.

  18. Actually, the way I read it, the filibuster was created by congressional rule, but dropped by the house, and changed several times since. So, let’s not talk about a constitutional amendment, but probably will have to wait for Senate rules changes to be enacted the first of the year with only a majority vote.

  19. Hi, Sheila—I couldn’t find a less public mode of contact, but I wanted to let you know: I’m a long-time subscriber to your blog (love it!), and last week I myself went live with a blog. The subject of yesterday’s post is the redistricting maps that Indiana Republicans have just released and what they mean to Democrats. I thought you might enjoy it. The link is https://www.kthxwms.com/ .

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