Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On the Petitions

Folks, stop.  Just … stop.

The Electoral College is not going to pick Hillary over the Donald.  You signing a petition is going to do exactly nothing of any value to anybody other than perhaps making you feel better for a tiny little space of time until you realize that you’ve been had. 

Plus now you’re on the watchlist of troublemakers when the transition to full-blown right-wing insanity is complete at the federal level in January.  Don’t believe me?  Ask those of us who signed the recall petition against Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) here in Wisconsin.  Once the recall was declared to have failed and the party in question continued in power, that petition was used as a handy checklist of people to strip of appointed positions, refuse to admit to taxpayer-funded functions, and otherwise deny political freedoms to here in the land of the free.  It’s a vengeful and petty lot, over there on the far right wing.

And Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) is a reasonable man compared to what’s coming down the pike.  Bear that in mind as well.  I’m already on enough of those lists, I suppose – that’s why I continue to write here, and will continue to do so until the First Amendment is repealed in practice or in actuality.  I’m not very bright that way.  You may or may not want to join me.

Look, I get it.  Handing over the most powerful office in the world to a man who is grotesquely unqualified, who has promised to destroy the global financial system, who has worked – to the extent he works at all – to weaken our national security and strengthen our enemies, who has never read the Constitution let alone has any intention of following it, who seeks to impose religious tests on both citizen and immigrant alike, who was publicly endorsed by every major neo-Nazi group in America and the KKK, who has already named a flat out white supremacist to lead his transition team, whose followers are even now harassing and bullying anybody who isn’t Just Like Them, is a frightening proposition and you’re grasping at any straw that provides hope.  I feel your pain.  I’ve spent the last week with a hole in my gut the size of the number of ballots that Hillary won the popular vote by.  These are dark times.

But this isn’t helping.

First of all, the whole idea is based on irrational thinking.  There aren’t that many faithless electors in the world.  Electors are chosen by the parties on the basis of party loyalty, and the GOP caved in like a cardboard submarine when it came to supporting a nominee that every living American president and ex-president including two of their own – three if you count their last unsuccessful nominee – publicly declared to be unfit for office.  They’ll line up, bend over, double-check the logo on their party membership cards, and shit out their vote for the guy holding their testicles in hock, and that will be that.

Second, it’s a stupid idea even if it works.

Yes, the Electoral College can vote for anybody they want.  They can vote for Hillary.  They can vote for Bernie.  Hell, they can vote for Cher, Madonna, or any number of people even if they have more than one name.  Having two or more names is not a disqualification under the Constitution!  They can do it!  They have the power!

But can you imagine the result?

There are no possible circumstances under which a president can come to power with less chance of preventing national collapse than those.  If the oil supply ran out on exactly the same day that everything and everyone in the capital were swept out to sea by a freak tsunami leaving only the Junior Undersecretary of Agriculture to lead this once-great nation in its darkest hour, that person would still have a better shot at putting together a functional government than a president chosen at random by the Electoral College.

That president would have no – zero, zip, nada – legitimacy whatsoever.  Nobody believes in neo-Harringtonian republicanism anymore.  Damned few people have ever even heard of it.  To overturn the results of an election that was decided by the rules of the game at the time the game was played and justify it by appealing to an ideology that died out in 1820 would just be inexplicable to most and flat usurpation to some.  The “most” would regard the new president as an interloper to be ignored and that president’s party and agenda would be destroyed by association.  The “some” is the same group of violent small-minded thugs who were already threatening revolution if the Donald lost normally.  This would just send them over the edge.

They’re not that far from the edge at the best of times.

The best a president chosen under those circumstances could hope for is a government meltdown that would make the last eight years of GOP-imposed obstruction, subversion, and stagnation look like the golden age of politics.  The worst would be straight up civil war.

What’s your Plan B for that?  Everyone has Plan B for when Plan A fails, but what about when Plan A succeeds?  What then?

There are people out there who think this is acceptable.  Who look forward to a meltdown, a crisis, a cleansing that would sweep out the old and leave a space for a new and brighter future.  Who want to see it all come crashing down so they can build something else back up that will meet their exacting specifications.

Those people are all over the internet.  And they are idiots.

Once you start a meltdown you have no control over it.  Once the cleansing begins you have no say over where it goes and who it declares to be in need of cleansing.  Once the violence starts you have no idea who will die – and die they will, make no mistake – nor do you have any idea when, if ever, there will be any semblance of stability afterward.  One of the great lessons of history is that things can get very ugly, very quickly and stay that way for a very, very long time.

And when that elusive stability is achieved?  Good luck telling me what it will look like.  Those who live by the crystal ball learn to eat ground glass.  The odds, however, are that it won’t be anything good.  Liberal democracy is a rare and recent idea, and the chances of it emerging spontaneously from a meltdown are slim indeed.

We have forgotten how fragile this all is.  How close it has come to collapse over the course of American history – more times than most people realize.  How easily it can still.  There is nothing inevitable or necessary about the United States.  Nothing at all.

It is easier to tear down than to build.  Never forget that.

I have no solutions to offer at present.  The next four years will be a time of trouble and tribulation for all who value the United States, the world, and the human beings who live there, and there is very little that I can see that brings me any consolation right now.

But frittering around with petitions to the Electoral College is just pointless and distracting.


Beatrice Desper said...

It would be a "coup d'état." But signing the petition made me feel better, and I knew there was no snowball's chance in hell.I'm on that troublemaker's list alreay.

Beatrice Desper said...

The more interesting petition would be to get rid of the Electoral College. Would be as much work as the ERA.

David said...

It wouldn't be a coup, simply by virtue of being legal, though it would certainly be perceived as such - the niceties of legal argument would probably be lost in the general outrage. And the consequences laid out here would follow.

Getting rid of the EC would be a way to solve this particular problem - and in a political culture that has become entirely Lockean liberal and a technological age that can handle things like long-distance communication it would make sense. It does raise practical issues, though. The EC privileges rural states over urban ones, and I don't see those states being willing to lose their special snowflake status, particularly since the GOP has become the party of white rural males and you add a partisan layer to that divide. The Constitution is deliberately difficult to amend, to avoid the kind of ignorant, heated changes that would otherwise result in monstrosities such as the flag-burning amendment that was popular among the uninformed about a quarter century ago. It does make useful amendments harder too, though.

Glad to know you're on the troublemaker list with me. :)

LucyInDisguise said...

'Nuther troublemaker signing on.

"Down with Something"

"Up with everything"

Annnnnnd, at least we here in the soon to be higher than normal state of Nevada legalized that much maligned weed for use to abate the incoming nightmare.


David said...

Good for Nevada, I say. At this point, I might even be tempted to try some.

(I have led a very boring life, pharmaceutically speaking.)


"What do we want?"
"Reasoned discourse and respect for evidence!"
"When do we want it?"
"Anytime would be good!"