“Democracies Don’t End Well”

That pearl of wisdom, democracies don’t end well, came from none other than renowned political philosopher Rob Schneider.  I came across this nugget in my twitter feed about two and a half years ago from a radio interview that Rob Schneider was doing to promote a stand up bit in Philly.  I moved it into long term storage and only recently had time to go back and look at it; to remind myself why I was saving it in the first place. Long time readers of this blog may know that one of the first posts I did when starting this blog was a review of Rob Schneider’s then new TV show, ¡Rob!  The review wasn’t exactly a kind one and the show lasted only 8 episodes before mercifully being put down.  However the review I wrote lived on.  For years, it showed up as my second most popular post (beaten only be the one I wrote on my first time with a male dental hygienist) and low carb frozen Lean Cuisine meals.

But getting back to Schneider’s observation; no, it’s by no means original.  In fact in an earlier age (meaning virtually every other time period until the modern era) it was considered a truism.  Other thinkers had expressed the same thought.

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”  Alexander Fraser Tytler

Of course, this wasn’t merely an enlightenment sentiment.  The ancients thought much the same thing.

Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.”Plato

The founding fathers were explicit in their disdain for democracy.  They intended to create a Republic, not a democracy.

“Democracy is the most vile form of government. … democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property: and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”  -James Madison

“We are a Republic. Real Liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.”  -Alexander Hamilton

“A simple democracy is the devil’s own government.” –Benjamin Rush

Can you imagine a contemporary American political figure making such an observation in public?  He would be outside the bounds of decent conversation.

That’s unfortunate because now seems like a good time to have a public conversation about it. I’ve never, in my life time, seen the Democrats in general and liberals in particular, reject the outcome of an election and plot to overturn it.  Starting with the rubric of fake news, the Russians-did-it, Calexit, The attempted Electoral College coup, boycotting the inauguration and now CNN gives a step by step guide on how to assassinate Trump and keep Democrats in charge.

This is CNN.

If ever there was a news story that perfectly expressed the wish that the heart makes over at CNN, it’s this one; explaining how they could  overturn the election and keep the Democrats in power for the next four…ah who am I kidding?  To keep them in power forever.  In fact, I was very nearly holding my breath until the inauguration was over, thinking that a CNN cap wearing assassin might try to do some damage.

We’re in uncharted territory here.  Half the country, including its major institutions such as the media and academia, flat out rejects the results of the election.  The last time Democrats rejected the results of a Presidential election we had a civil war.  Although I don’t see one on the offing yet, the precedent being established here is a dangerous one.

For all of his flaws, Obama was not the guy to tap his scepter and decide to remain in power “for the good of the country.”  But  we’ve just raised a generation of snowflakes whose political identity has been inculcated in an environment in which every authority source in their world (the media. social media, and academia mostly) have spent the past two months telling them that the election was illegitimate and concocting schemes to try to subvert it.

So would the next Democratic President (and there will be one) give up power to a non-establishment Republican?  Or establishment one for that matter? Would the country follow him, or reject him as an American Caesar, trying to overturn a Democratic government?  There is every reason to think that our peaceful transfer of power days are coming to a close.

Well Mr. Franklin, and Mr. Schneider, we’ve had a Republic, and it looks like there is a possibility we won’t be keeping it after all.

Kathleen Parker Crossing the Rubicon

On December 19th the Electoral College votes for President.  This is the real Presidential election, so believe it or not, it’s still not over. And until it is, we’re going to be subjected to #nevertrump antics to keep pulling out last ditch efforts to rewrite the election. To that end, electors are getting death threats and many more are being tracked down for intimidation efforts.  This seems to be rather unprecedented and I can’t recall electors being under quite this much pressure, even during 2000’s Bush-Gore slugfest.

Enter “conservative” columnist Kathleen Parker.  As a card carrying member of the establishment, her version of conservatism is s showing “growth” by rejecting bit by bit, conservatism.  However the rise of Trump and the establishment reaction of #nevertrump gives an opportunity to give a clean break.  Give it a few years and formerly conservative columnists will be cranking out columns indistinguishable from their leftist counterparts.  Did George Will write this or Eugene Robinson?  I can’t tell any longer.

But worse than the ideological evolution of #nevertrump is the frantic nature of it, as Parker demonstrates in her column, “The Electoral College Should be Unfaithful” in which Parker argues that faithless electors should overthrow the results of the election:

“Most important among the founders’ criteria for a president was that he (or now she) be qualified. Thus, the electoral college was created as a braking system that would, if necessary, save the country from an individual such as, frankly, Trump.”

That’s not why the founders added the Electoral College.  They actually remembered that the United States is a federation, not a unitary country.  But we’re talking hysteria here so never mind…

“It is worth noting that 50 former Republican national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter saying that Trump would be a “dangerous president.” Do we simply ignore them?”

Yes we do.  These are mostly Bushies who have been wounded by Trump’s rejection of their Iraqi Invasion.

“At least one Republican elector, Christopher Suprun, has decided to pay heed. In an op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times, Suprun, a paramedic in Texas, outlined all his reasons for not rubber-stamping Trump, saying he owes a debt not to his party but to his children. He urged others to join him.”

Suprun may not be the greatest example of principled opposition.  In his Op Ed, he listed Trump’s attacking of Saturday Night Live as a sticking point with him.  Talk about a superfan!  But Suprun seems more like a ringer as his PR firm is the one founded by communist and former Obama administration green jobs czar Van Jones.  So maybe not the best example to use…?

“Electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 19 in their respective states to cast their final ballots. If there are 37 Republicans among them with the courage to perform their moral duty and protect the nation from a talented but dangerous president-elect, a new history of heroism will have to be written.  Please, be brave.”

So there you have it.   A call to overturn the elections, but I wonder, oh fair Kathleen, what will that “bravery” cost the country?

The odds of this are extremely low of course, but think what it would mean to have electors threatened, bribed, or intimidated into changing their votes so that it alters a Presidential election?  Whoever the electors anointed as President would have no legitimacy, and Trump supporters who always thought that the “establishment” would never let a real swamp draining reformer into office would be vindicated.  But the damage would exceed whatever happened over the next four years.

It would be a permanent scar on the body politic. Presidential elections would become meaningless since anyone who can get to the electors can anoint the next President.  When governments lose all political legitimacy, crazy things can happen. With the Soviet Union, and the Eastern Bloc nations, it was relatively peaceful.  For Yugoslavia, it was not.  But in any case, our government would lose legitimacy. To paraphrase Hemmingway, gradually, then suddenly.

So a warning to Parker and other shortsighted pundits, who on November 4th insisted that everything will be fine no matter who wins, and now want to overthrow the government, once you pull out that particular string, it will never go back in.

 

 

 

 

 

Florida is Glowing Blue on the Electoral Map

Michael Tomasky had an interesting piece in The Daily Beast called Is Florida Even a Swing State Anymore?

“You will also hear them say a kajillion times until Election Day that Florida is a swing state. Well, yes. It has been historically. But the combination of massive demographic changes since 2012 and Trump’s anorexic performance among college-educated whites makes me wonder if Florida is a swing state this year at all. And while the Republicans might nominate a normal candidate in 2020, the state’s demography is galloping away from the GOP.

In sum, 2016 could be the year that Florida stopped becoming a swing state.”

Blue Florida

Although it’s more bad news for Trump in particular and the GOP in general, it’s more confirmation for me that I was right on that particular score.  As I wrote back in February:

“Florida went for Obama twice in a row; in 2008 and 2012.  Is there something that’s going to break that pattern?  A lot of things could, except that the State used to be a red State, now, according to Gallup, it’s “competitive.” But there are trends that are moving Florida from red to blue, and that’s demographics. As NPR helpfully points out, Puerto Ricans have been pouring into Florida.  Although it’s part of a long term trend, it’s exacerbated by the financial crisis in Puerto Rico.  Although Puerto Rico can’t vote in a Presidential election, Puerto Ricans can, the minute they leave Puerto Rico.  And again as NPR hopefully shows, Puerto Ricans predominately vote for Democrats.”

But I think Florida has had a couple of things going for it that made that less obvious.  First, an unusually large retired population.  Old people vote at a higher percentage and they tend to skew Republican. This has been a buffer against the 40% minority population of Florida, which otherwise should have thrown Florida into a permanent blue zone years ago.

Of course that 40% isn’t as clear cut.  Tomasky is right that younger Cubans lean strongly Democratic and Puerto Ricans lean about 80% Democratic, however election time in Florida usually leads to some interesting radio ads, in which a Spanish surnamed Republican may find himself opposing a Spanish surnamed Democrat for the same local seat.  Although I’m a firm believer that demography is destiny, there are some local gator sized hiccups in that.

On the state level, the timing of Florida elections leads to some counterintuitive outcomes.  As I noted in reference to the Medical Marijuana Amendment:

“Florida’s governor’s race is on what are nationally off year elections.  Although nationally this is an off year election since no President is on the ballot, in Florida, we elect governors.  Since the turn out for off year elections tends to run older, whiter, and more Republican, it’s no surprise that Florida gets a bit schizophrenic, turning red and electing a Tea party backed governor and senator (Marco Rubio) during off year elections like 2010, and re-electing President Obama and Democratic senator Bill Nelson during a Presidential election year.”

Of course this year is no off year election.  This is a full on Presidential year which means at least 50 million more voters will turn out; the classic low information voters who only turn out in Presidential years because that’s the only race they are aware of, and that’s only when one of the NCIS shows gets pre-empted for a Presidential debate.

So I find it hard to imagine a scenario in which Florida goes red for Trump this fall.  There may be one, but the default for 2016 for me was always that Florida was going blue in 2016 and right now I see nothing to change that.