Monday, September 14, 2020

Stiffing the Social Contractors

Image via National Compass.

Steve M
has brought up this Atlantic essay by Shadi Hamid ("The Democrats May Not Be Able to Concede: If Trump wins, especially after losing the popular vote, the left may draw the wrong conclusions"), which offers a curious kind of funhouse mirror image of what some of us fear might follow Biden's likely victory in November, a "populist" rejection of the results by some of Trump's fanatical armed white followers, Proud Boys and Bikers For Trump, Three Percenters and Patriot Prayer, the Minnesota Patriot Alliance and the Michigan Militia, while Trump himself dithers in the White House and refuses to accept that he's lost the election denouncing its imaginary "rigging" by an army of millions of ballot forgers stealing people's ballots out of their mailboxes, a possibility of real violence. 

To Hamid, bothsiderist compulsion suggests a comparable rising of fanatical Bidenites:

A loss by Joe Biden under these circumstances [combined with a popular vote victory, because it's clear Trump won't obtain that] is the worst case not because Trump will destroy America (he can’t), but because it is the outcome most likely to undermine faith in democracy, resulting in more of the social unrest and street battles that cities including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle have seen in recent months. For this reason, strictly law-and-order Republicans who have responded in dismay to scenes of rioting and looting have an interest in Biden winning—even if they could never bring themselves to vote for him.

This may be meant as a sort of arch, amused way of urging proper, non-fanatical conservatives to vote for Biden (unnecessary; all 14 of them, writing for The Bulwark and appearing nightly on CNN and MSNBC, are backing Biden already), but it's pretty offensive, to both parts of the Venn diagram covering Biden-supporting Democrats-as-Democrats and protesters under the general Black Lives Matter umbrella, which is not engaged as such in electoral politics. Nobody who's been smashing shopwindows and setting fires in Minneapolis or Kenosha or the Bronx or anywhere else is either voting for Biden or accepting BLM nonviolent discipline, let alone both. The most politically conscious troublemakers, the guys who get into fistfights with white nationalists and regard themselves as "antifa", are neither, and they don't tend to do anything so counterrevolutionary as voting.

I have no doubt but that Joe Biden would concede if Trump were to take the Electoral College with his minority of the popular vote, because that's the way Biden and his own brand of Americans are, with their literally boundless faith in America and American institutions, so like the faith Nikole Hannah-Jones described in her father and so many African Americans throughout the centuries:

despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals. And not only for ourselves — black rights struggles paved the way for every other rights struggle, including women’s and gay rights, immigrant and disability rights.

Without the idealistic, strenuous and patriotic efforts of black Americans, our democracy today would most likely look very different — it might not be a democracy at all.

The very first person to die for this country in the American Revolution was a black man who himself was not free. Crispus Attucks was a fugitive from slavery, yet he gave his life for a new nation in which his own people would not enjoy the liberties laid out in the Declaration for another century. In every war this nation has waged since that first one, black Americans have fought — today we are the most likely of all racial groups to serve in the United States military.

My father, one of those many black Americans who answered the call, knew what it would take me years to understand: that the year 1619 is as important to the American story as 1776. That black Americans, as much as those men cast in alabaster in the nation’s capital, are this nation’s true “founding fathers.”

He would do it not in the belief that the election was legitimate—it won't be, between the Russian efforts and the locally-made disenfranchisement—but "for the sake of the nation", which overrides personal or partisan considerations, or even the needs of the American citizenry for the government actions that won't happen as long as Donald Trump is president—just as Al Gore did 20 years ago.

And then Trump would in fact destroy America, not out of any plan to emulate Mao or Mussolini, Putin or the Saudi crown prince, attractive though he'd certainly find the prospect, because he's not capable of formulating or carrying out such a plan, but just by being his habitual criminal self, stiffing the social contractors, and getting away with it, because it turns out we have no constitutional defenses against that; defying statutes and Constitution to do whatever he wants, exploiting the office to siphon money to his businesses, selling policy to his cronies, denying due process to anybody from asylum applicants through peaceful protestors to criminal suspects, evading judgment for serious crimes from rape to bank and tax fraud, loosening the creaky old joins that hold our system together, already under terrible strain from the Nixon and Reagan and Bush II presidencies, until it just falls apart.

Exactly: though that's not what Haddad means to say, it's been delegitimized pretty much all the way, and it really doesn't have enough legitimacy left to last for four more years. Hamid blames this on the Democrats:

In addition to all of Trump’s norm-breaking, the GOP is gerrymandering, purging voter rolls, and shutting down polling places in Black neighborhoods. Yet Republicans wouldn’t have been able to do these things if they hadn’t won enough statewide and local offices in the first place. 

But there's Murc's Law again: they wouldn't have been in a position to cheat if we hadn't let them get there, so it's our fault if they're cheating.

As we've watched Trump and his minions cheerfully breaking law after law right out in the open for the past 44 months, the talking heads keep telling us that the remedy is in democracy; but if it turns out in November that no, as a matter of fact, the Constitution doesn't in fact allow us enough democracy to do that, if the Electoral College prevents us from getting what we asked for for the third time in 20 years, and the promised remedy isn't there, then it's clear to me the Constitution will have really failed. And we won't do anything, uprisings or whatever; it'll just be over.

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