America stands more than two months after Election Day, and yet tension remains in the air over the outcome of the presidential race.
Legally, not much has changed. The hope should be – as he’s had from the start – that Joe Biden ends up being ushered in later this month. Appropriately, the event will be very limited for the public.
Even still, despite Joe Biden’s obvious legal advantage, the behavior of the various institutions of power is a growing unease. Understandably, Donald Trump remains a populist political figure eager to dismantle any political leader – regardless of his party – who does not stay true to his beliefs of having been the victim of a fraudulent election. As a result, a staggering number of elected Republican officials kept in touch with the president and his team to challenge the results. We are witnessing an unprecedented collapse of political norms, and those who have long enjoyed unchallenged true power do not respond well to even a minimum of uncertainty.
The answer to all of this is predictable. The corporate press has been firm that any skepticism about the legitimacy of this election is beyond the realms of acceptable opinion. They made direct links between the questioning of the election and their current boogeyman QAnon. Democratic politicians are calling for all fellow Republicans loyal to Trump to be treated equally with members of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Establishment Republicans whose political relevance has long since faded attempt to remind those who still hold positions of power that the proper role of political conservatives is to politely surrender to their ideological enemies or risk the GOP losing. the approval of voters who are increasingly beyond persuasion.
While it is fair to question the significant bumps the Trump administration has left on politics, the importance of this backlash deserves to be highlighted. What we’re seeing is a major power shift within the GOP in which Republicans elected in Washington actually fear the Trump base more than they fear names like McConnell, Ryan, and Cheney. While this was long clear during the primaries, it was less the case in terms of votes in Washington. It took a large class of Tea Party freshmen less than two years to bend their knee in front of many of these same types of actors.
The funny thing is that Very Serious People’s benchmark criticism is that the actions of Trump’s Republican Party pose a serious threat to American democracy. In reality, what we are seeing is the exact opposite. Republican elected officials choose to place more value on the demands of their own constituents, rather than on abstract concepts like “the national interest.” The process is complicated, but it gives American voters the illusion of representation and self-governance.
Given that the American Empire has long enjoyed democracy as a purely ceremonial act, it is not surprising that the Beltway is not well suited to see it in action. As a result, the arrogance of Washington politicians may end up doing more to undermine DC’s perceived legitimacy than any legal option Trump has ever had on the table.
For example, one option that has been proposed by Senator Ted Cruz is the creation of a commission to review the 2020 elections and propose measures to improve electoral security in the future. Historically, commissions in national controversies have been an obvious step. By their very nature, the political powers that are ultimately decide what is and what is not written, and so in practice they effectively serve to reinforce – rather than undermine – the official narrative. This is true even if you have individual investigators who are genuinely interested in the truth.
As such, Cruz’s proposal should be seen as an obvious and moderate position. Instead, it has been described as a sweeping attack on democracy.
The reason is simple. Elections have become a part of our civil religion, and the “popular will” has been increasingly seen as more important than pesky drawbacks like constitutionally protected rights. Allowing a commission on election results is to standardize questions about how our politicians are chosen in general.
So instead of trying to treat the concerns of tens of millions of American voters with respect and empathy, tomorrow we will see a bipartisan effort to dismiss those concerns altogether.
The consequences of this could end up having a remarkable impact on politics for the remainder of the decade. We have seen the difficulty Congress can have in the face of simple political polarization. What happens when the federal government tries to rule a country with tens of millions of people knowledge lack a legitimate democratic mandate?
More interestingly, what happens when the federal government tries to intervene in a state where a majority does not believe it has democratic legitimacy?
Once upon a time, those in power were smart enough to recognize the importance of popular support and went out of their way to help ensure a level of general consensus. While technology has made the fabrication of consent more difficult than ever before, it is ultimately the arrogant behavior of those in power that sows the seeds of true subversion of federal authority. Washington is today an increasingly isolated imperial city, occupied by legions of mediocre and arrogant dunces unable to understand the sincere concerns of average Americans. Ultimately, it is a recipe for political instability and decline.
At a time when there are many reasons to predict many dire economic outcomes in the years to come, this is a political development that deserves to be welcomed.
Just as Murray Rothbard understood.
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