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"The Hapsburgs were plenty happy enough. Their ungrateful peasants, not so much."

Some insist that we have the best democracy money can buy, though our Founders did not originally intend our Big D Democracy to belong within the set of purchasable things. They'd naively intended it to be differently participatory, open to all free, landowning white males. Oh, sorry. They designed it as a plutocracy, ruled by the wealthiest, which historically has usually translated into a de facto kakistocracy, government by those least suitable and capable of governing. The majority who might actually depend upon what a Big D Democracy might deliver, those not male, landowning, or free, could go piss up a tree to realize their liberty, or so sayeth our heralded Founders, who turned out to be more eloquent than prescient, for their declarations out-stretched their designs. Later generations interpreted their intentions much more broadly than they had. Landless males would gain franchise, then former slaves, then women, as our original demo-aristocracy struggled to become an ever more-perfectly liberal democratic union.

We're still perfecting.
We've demonstrated that extending franchise hardly levels the field. The landless might struggle to declare a permanent address when registering. Former slaves might find their local municipalities subjecting them to tests specifically designed to disenfranchise their Federally-granted voting rights, calling the subjugation States Rights, a novel concept in a country founded upon the notion that people held the rights and states only granted them with the people's permission. Males might fight back against any threat diluting their privilege and unduly influence dependent wives' opinions. Corporations, pretend people, could contribute vast sums to influence who runs for office and what an incumbent supports once elected. Democracy might be unique among forms of governance in its inherent tendency toward corruption. It features so many moving parts, so very many potential points of influence, its high ideals always remain easy prey to powerful forces more interested in swaying the machinery than in accepting any will of any so-called people. Kings and potentates don't need bribery to thrive. Poorer politicians might. Corporations seem to feel that they definitely do.

The delicate and high-minded originating idea proposed that the people might govern themselves, knowing full well that the majority might never qualify as nearly wise enough to actually pull off anything so Utopian. Every citizen seems rightfully self-interested, and shuffling any deck never changes the faces on the cards. Some decks might hold more than the regulation number of jokers and others extra aces, but shuffling the collective decks might reasonably produce some semblance of normal distribution, possibilities more resistant to the influence of gamblers and card sharps. The Ancient Greeks are said to have successfully achieved this end, though we only have fragmentary evidence to defend this history. We fully acknowledge that we pursue an ideal without actually anticipating that we might ever actually capture it. Lincoln prescribed a more perfect union, never a perfect one.

More than half my incoming email features beg letters from various politicians. Our elections occur earlier than any designated election day. They begin years before, with the chore every politician insists that they abhor, with fundraising. Letters and phone calls, speeches and ghost-written biographies, each tightly focused upon first achieving some fiduciary majority. The practice seems to justify itself, since money does, after all, still make our world go around. Most of the much-revered electorate won't contribute a damned dime to this contest, but perhaps only because their circumstances preclude their participation. The majority can't cover a four hundred dollar surprise expense with ready-to-hand cash, and so cannot afford to ship anything off to the preliminary fiduciary primaries. They easily find the proceedings boring in the way that concerted disenfranchisement has always exhausted the polity. In the land of the free it takes little bravery to opt out of engaging in any game clearly intended solely for moneyed aristocracy.

I've never contributed a dime to any political campaign, and I deeply resent the implication that my viability as a citizen might be contingent upon the depths of my pocket or my public profligacy. Citizens United, like so many so-called conservative public policies, was never intended to support either citizenship or unity, but to legally segregate the electorate. Those with means might conveniently purchase a passable majority and thereby inflict their minority perspectives on a decidedly penny-wiser majority. It takes not a village but a railroad to effectively railroad anything, so the railroad magnates rule. Common sense seems about as valuable as a faux copper penny once the de facto monopolies start writing checks. Corruption only influences absolutely and so cannot be countenanced within any aspiring democracy without creating its absolute opposite, a Demoncracy, governance by absolute demons.

Wall Street seems all up in arms that any politician might propose responsibly taxing their sacred revenues for The Public Good. Did these Democrats not get the memo? Do they seek to disenfranchise themselves from this benovelent spigot? It's a Trickle Down Democracy, where wisdom is pegged to the current discount rate and the volume of securitized debt derivatives. We're the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. Who must a democracy become to question the wisdom of a market benefitting almost no one? The have-nots have not yet earned the rights guaranteed them in our blank check Declaration of Independence: Life, liberty, and promise to allow the pursuit of a happiness never guaranteed, not to ever actually achieving happiness. The Hapsburgs were plenty happy enough. Their ungrateful peasants, not so much.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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