American Democracy in Play


Stuart Lyle

Commentator Stuart Lyle writes about the “game” of democracy.  There are plenty of instances in recent history of democracy being “gamed.”  The mechanisms of electoral democracy were used by the Nazi Party in pre-World War II Germany to gain power, as by the fascists in Italy.  When one of the dominant US political parties successfully ignores the rule book – the Constitution – refusing to confirm Supreme Court justices, it illuminates how fragile democracy is.  Will US democracy withstand the likes of probable Trump appointees, Palin, Guiliani, Gingrich, or Christie?  Lyle argues that it is up to progressives to seize the initiative, harnessing the forces of discontent that have been unleashed. – Ed.

Like boxing or football, democracy is a dangerous sport.  Outcomes can be unpredictable or easily corrupted.  With Tuesday’s outcome so unexpected, many progressive friends are in despair.  All that they have worked for – civil rights, woman’s rights, a brake on corporate power, etc. – appears in tatters.  Some have rushed to call the outcome of the Presidential election, “unthinkable,” because their team lost.  Now, a pussy-grabbing, authoritarian real-estate con artist is President Elect.  Hard to imagine a worse scenario…

It would have been better if the election had gone to someone who resisted the elitist steamroller of trade pacts that have eviscerated the American middle class.  Someone who, unlike Clinton or her ilk, forthrightly called NAFTA, TPP, and TIPP out for what they really are: give-aways to international capital.  Heartily supported by the Republican and Democratic establishment, only a few have been willing to voice criticism.  Bernie Sanders comes to mind, as does, er, Donald Trump.

Yes, Trump.  He may be a misogynistic devil, a racist, and proto-fascist bigot, but he also articulated some things that all too few in the mainstream have been willing to say.  Will he support abortion rights, as in the past he has said he would?  Will he really work to undo NAFTA?  Will he take on the gun lobby (again, in the past he has not shied from such a stance)?  Will he work to reform election financing rules (remember, he is not beholden to the “big-money” interests that invested so heavily in Clinton and Trump’s Republican opponents) and introduce Congressional term limits as promised?

He may or may not do any of these things, but there has been an undeniable anti-establishment, even progressive, thread to his rise.

But whether or not the older, more liberal Trump emerges in the White House, there is at least one thing for progressives to celebrate: a non-establishment candidate just wiped the floor with the establishment shill.  That is democracy at work.  The outcome, and the eventual downstream impact, may be painful and anything but progressive, but for anyone paying attention to the political dynamic at work, it shows that Bernie Sanders need not be just a glitch in the unrelenting forward march of the Clintonites to turn the Democratic Party into a cash machine for wealthy “liberals.”  Trump, even more than Sanders, has shown that there is an opportunity to overturn the elites’ dominance of the political process.

It is a dangerous game, however.  Whining about the Clinton loss and blaming all things bad on Trump is a losing strategy.  It leaves the initiative with the most retrograde on the right who have supported Trump all along. Even worse, demonizing Trump supporters, as with the parallel attacks on those who supported Brexit in the UK, shows a profound misreading of the underlying political currents.

But with the likes of the Democratic National Committee’s former Chairperson – and Clinton campaign co-chair – Debbie Wasserman Schultz, finally shunted out of the way, it is high time to clean house in the Democratic Party, and the progressive left in general, by bringing in a new team that is not afraid to articulate the hopes of the disaffected, many of whom are bound to be disappointed by the lack of progress during the Trump reign.

This latest election has temporarily untethered democracy in America from the grip of Wall Street and the global elite.  Where it goes from here is a game yet to be played.  Time to support those, like Elizabeth Warren, who have signaled that they are ready to take to the field to push for a fairer deal for a larger proportion of the population.  Others have already taken to the streets in what will hopefully be a sustained movement to deaden both the impact of forthcoming assaults on civil rights and the efforts by an emboldened and regressive Congress to tip the balance further toward the wealthy.

7 thoughts on “American Democracy in Play

  1. I do not think “democracy’ can be likened to a “game” particularly when the chief player, Trump, is more like a megalomaniac Mousselini than a Steph Curry. ( Oakland Warriors basketball). When one looks over the list of retrogrades that Trump seems to be considering for top posts in his cabinet. Sarah Palin for Interior, Chris Christie or Rudy Guiliana for DOJ or Homeland Security, Newt Gingrich Secy. of State,etc. A rogues gallery ready to trash what is left of a rational civil society in our country.

    Pre WW II France, Germany, Italy all had experience of democratic elections putting people into office who played the system to destroy the system that put them into temporary power to turn it into an authoritarian system that kept them in power permanently.

    Trump is a real danger to our democracy who has used ‘populist’ issues to fool those most effected by the injustices v oted in by both of our parties. Make no mistake, the real Donald Trump revealed himself as a single minded autocrat in his primary performance that brooks nothing in achieving his goal of total power. He has no moral or political agenda other than achieving his own dominance. He will betray any and all of his stated positions to maintain his power. After all, we saw this in our great “Hope and Change” president who killed Hope and doubled down on war and supporting the moneyed rather than fundamentally changing anything..

  2. Unless you are soothsayer dire warnings on President-elect Trump are vastly premature while we have abundant facts on Hillary Clinton’s reckless conduct while in government that may have crossed into criminality. Also we are now witnessing the irony of the Democratic party’s concern over their opponent’s accepting the results of the election when it is now Democrats and their supporters who are whining and complaining about the results of a legitimate election. We have now in our midst a major political party-Democratic party- which is overlooking and disregarding political violence by their supporters as President and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton remain silent by not condemning the political violence erupting in cities protesting the outcome of the election- in some cases destroying property and harming political opponents showing intolerance and bigotry.

    • Henry.. Doesn’t a mans grabbing a woman’s private parts with out her consent cross your threshold of criminal behavior? Both of these candidat3es were unfit for the office they were running for and both would be dangerous in office but for different reasons. Since Clinton is gone the other one is the threat that those who want to defend our already savaged democracy should be concerned with. For anyone who spent more than fifteen minutes watching Trump in his primaries and see the clear signs of a dedicated narcissist who demeaned ‘others’ claimed that only he could “fix” things while offering no
      facts. Who without a wince would state a “fact” one day and the next day just refute what he had said the previous day.

      I was eleven years old when Hitler took power and clearly remember seeing him and Mousellini in the movie newsreels speaking with the same bombast as Trump.I didn’t understand what they were saying but their body language carried the same insane certitude of Trump. Later, by 1937, in my teens, we would hear translations of their speeches and it was the same hate and divisiveness we heard from Trump.

      I paid the price with three years of my youth for the fact that the West chose to “give them time”.. They used that time well to start destroying the world. Heed history. .

  3. I very ardently hope that a progressive insurgence crushes Democratic Party establishment neoliberal economic insanity, and the clueless Party leadership which devised and implemented it, and that following the 2017 reorganization elections the Party is returned to egalitarian economic goals for the USA. It is always about the money. Bill Clinton and the rest of the New Democrat bozo’s failed to realize policies which create and then exacerbate societal economic inequality always prove, eventually, unsustainable, despite any social policy goals simultaneously accomplished.

    I very much do not expect Donald Trump to reincarnate in the Oval Office into any earlier version of what he ever claimed to be prior to 2016. I think he is a chameleon, and if he changes colors at any point in his presidency the rest of the reptiles in his cave will instantly turn on him en masse and with murderous intensity. He is bound and chained now — as are we — to the legislative proposals approved and sent to the Executive for signature by the most right wing Red Congress imaginable.

    Two extreme ideologies now comprise the entirety of the Republican party: libertarian economic doctrine & fundamentalist/scriptural literalist doctrine, the latter tempered only somewhat: when simply too insanely incompatible with contemporary law to ram down America’s collective throat. Unlike Islamic countries, our Enlightenment history makes imposition of an absolute Christian theocracy not impossible, but extremely unlikely (see most of Leviticus and quite a bit of the rest of OT scripture, and not an insignificant portion of the NT also). Still, any theocracy is totalitarian, and don’t Pence, and Cruz, and frankly all the rest of the GOP presidential hopefuls this year, except for maybe Bush and Trump, talk like Christian theocrats? IOW, pretty much the entire leadership of the GOP.

    Neither of those two factions, libertarian or ultra-conservative Christian, can succeed in a democracy without the other, as neither is able to muster more than about 30% of total public support. Together they can’t even reach 50%, but 47 or 48 was enough against waning neoliberalism. They know this, and because of it and many shared social/economic conservative ideals they are able to coexist, for the past 36 years and (at least) for the present.

    The Republican Party 2016 campaign platform, which is essentially the 1980 Libertarian Party platform merged with Tea Party conservatism/Christian fundamentalism, is what all Trump presidency era legislation will originate from and be rooted in. Trump may do some independent things in areas where the Executive can act without any brake applied by the legislative or judicial, like ruin (again) an Iranian nascent populist democracy movement by rescinding the nuclear armaments treaty Obama signed. He may even come up with other US treaty moves or Exec Orders which are not lock-step with the two Republican Party ideologies, but I would not bet on it.

    Trump is essentially a thirteen year old rich boy who has seldom failed to have every whim instantly gratified, has been treated with nothing other than obedience and deference every day of his life and has no intention of settling for anything other (I don’t think military school had any impact here), and he is incapable of imagining why he should not take any action whatsoever, against anyone who acts to constrain him, that will enable him to either achieve his ends or exact retribution for being thwarted.

  4. By putting forth such a tired-assed Neo-Lib/Con, the Dems buried themselves IMO. If Trump genuinely wrecks the economy, the electorate will return the Dems to office in 2020. But I see no one on the horizon with the desire or capability of re-molding the Dem Party into some kind of FDR social-welfare-is-a-needed-and-good-thing organization. (And, sorry, Elizabeth Warren fans, I don’t see her wielding the needed influence either.) When I heard Palin mentioned for Interior I said to a friend “Surely that came off ‘The Onion,’ right?!?” But in retrospect, sure, who better to appoint than a climate-change-denying idiot?? Trump said just the other day abortion rights should be decided on a state by state basis (positing successful overturn of Roe v. Wade), which would yield many, many states outlawing it again. Gun control? Trump dares not “turn on” his “Second Amendment people,” lest they turn on him!!! Trust me on that.

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