Sunday, July 09, 2006

How the Boston Globe Attacks the Idea of Democracy

How the Boston Globe Attacks the Idea of Democracy
by John Spritzler []

Here's how American elites (and their loyal pundits) attack the substance of democracy while substituting for it mere trappings.

The headline on Eileen McNamara's column today, on the first page of the "City & Region" section of the Boston Globe, reads: "Constitution trumps all."

McNamara argues that "Lawmakers should not be cowed by cries of 'let the people vote.' Fundamental civil rights are not a matter to be put to popular referendum."

Democracy, implies McNamara, is actually a bad thing. She writes,
"If we had just 'let the people vote,' black children would have been confined to segregated classrooms, wives would have remained the property of their husbands, and the slaves the chattel of their masters."
Wow! Talk about specious backwards logic. These problems were not caused by those who said "Let the people vote"; they were caused by those who said "Don't let the people vote." Slaves were not allowed to vote and they should have been. When women were treated as property they were not allowed to vote and they should have been.

We're always taught that poor whites are the source of racism, and letting them vote policy would mean terrible things for black people (and women too, I guess.) This view is the big lie that elites indoctrinate us with, to make us fear democracy.

The fact is that in the 1930s throughout the South, especially in Mississippi and Arkansas, white tenant farmers united with black tenant farmers in the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. Together they fought the big landowners, who backed the Ku Klux Klan. When white and black members of the STFU met together in churches they were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan (fronting for the large landowners) for "violating" the racial separation laws. Nor did these united white and black tenant farmers get any real help from the "enlightened" liberal upper class who ruled the nation. As Robert MacElvaine writes in The Great Depression, "Organizers complained that the New Dealer 'too often . . . talked like a cropper but acted like a planter.'"

But that was long ago. What about during the near race war days of Boston's school bussing crisis in 1974-5 when white leaders like School Committee President Louise Day Hicks, from one of South Boston's wealthiest families, told her followers to throw stones at black elementary school children in school busses? That was when the oh so liberal Federal Judge Arthur Garrity teamed up with Hicks to foment a race war. He did this by ruling that the only way to integrate the schools was with a plan that maximized long distance bus rides for kindergarten children; he refused to consider integration plans, brought forward by integrated working class groups, that proposed building schools where the checkerboard white and black neighborhoods met, so that the principle of integration would not be confounded with the idiocy of hour-long bus rides for little children. But no! Garrity realized that Hicks needed the idiotic long-distance bus rides to foment anger against blacks, and he was determined to help her succeed. This is how real life works. But McNamara wants us to think the problem is people who say "Let the people vote."

McNamara dismisses, as irrelevant, the views of Massachusetts citizens, arguing instead that, "In the end, what the state Constitution says matters more than what Bob Kraft or Sean O'Malley think." McNamara goes on to argue that John Adams, who wrote the Massachusetts Constitution, is the real authority over our lives.

In this fashion McNamara attacks the very idea of democracy, the idea that the people living under the rule of a government are themselves the supreme and sovereign authority, above the government and above the Constitution. The idea of democracy is that the authority of the government and the Constitution comes from the consent of the people, not the other way around.

"Consent of the people" means consent of the people who are currently alive, not consent of people who are long dead, not even consent of people who are long dead and who wrote the Constitution.

Even the founding fathers who wrote our state and federal constitutions acknowledged the principle that the people alive at the time are the supreme sovereign authority. Otherwise they would not have felt obliged to conduct popular ratification votes for the constitutions they wrote, would they?

Democracy is the same principle that operates when people get together to play a game like baseball. They agree on the rules (i.e. the constitution) that they will play under. If next week at the same ball field the players are different people, or if they are the same people but for some reason they have changed their minds, they have every right in the world to dump the old "constitution." They are not slaves to their previous selves or to the previous people who played on the ball field. John Adams and the other "founding fathers" of the old Constitution have no more formal authority over us today than anybody else. We may read what they wrote and be influenced by their arguments, but it is up to us and us alone to decide how to live our lives.

Since our state constitution was ratified (i.e. granted authority) by people who lived hundreds of years ago, McNamara's obeisance to the Constitution amounts to granting those long-dead people the power to rule over people living today. Talk about being anti-democratic! If Eileen McNamara wants to practice ancestor worship, that is her right, but she should do it in private.

Furthermore, McNamara should get off her Constitutional high horse and admit the truth, which is that the issue she is so concerned about was simply not addressed by the founding fathers and our Constitution has no language about it one way or the other. McNamara just happens to agree with the Massachusetts Supreme Court's current interpretation of the Constitution on this controversial issue.

Now, you might be wondering, what is this issue about which McNamara is so frightened of letting the people vote? It is same-sex marriage. Beware how the elite will use this issue to attack democracy. The issue is designed for this role. With it, our rulers accuse ordinary people of being wrong on so fundamental an issue as sexuality that they cannot possibly be entrusted to run society. Better leave that to our enlightened, wiser, concerned-for-minority-rights, upper class "superiors."


Post a Comment

<< Home