06 January 2007

Still Thumbing His Nose at Democracy

I mentioned a couple of days back that I've been reading Roberto Unger's recent What Should the Left Propose? in which he argues for a robust experimental approach to democracy. "A sleepy democracy, woken up from time to time by military or economic crisis is not good enough." I think Unger is correct. But it is crucial to understand just how distant we are from what he calls the "the institutions of a high-energy democratic politics." This may seem odd given recent events. You know, we had a relatively fair election and it sent a pretty unambiguous message, the Democrats have taken over the House and Senate, Rumsfeld got the boot, the Iraq Study Group report suggested that some re-thinking might be in order, ... and all that stuff. You might have been lulled into supposing that BushCo might start to recognize fundamental aspects of reality such as the rule of law. Well here is a story from the (hardly pink or green) New York Daily News that should dispel your misconceptions. Here is the synopsis. Congress passes a bill (a "a postal reform bill") that, among other things, says the government cannot open and read mail without a warrant. At the point where, as president, Bush has to sign the bill into law, though, he issues a "signing statement" that basically says "Yeah, right ... I can open your mail if I want and you can forget about that warrant business." Bush is simply thumbing his nose at even the "sleepy" democracy we have here in the U.S.

PS: (Added about 30 minutes later.) It is my nature to be skeptical, sometimes downright pessimistic, about politics (and other things too). That is something I am trying to change despite familiar adages about old dogs and new tricks. So this PS is a step in that direction. Despite what I said above, it also is crucial that we recognize that "high energy democracy" is both possible and effective. As a reminder, have a look at this end of year assessment by the ever perceptive Rebecca Solnit on Alternet. While it sometimes is difficult to see the duplicitous actions of the powerful, Solnit reminds us that it also is difficult to see the struggles and successes of the relatively powerless. As she concludes, however, if you look closely you can see in recent events the "message that the grim superpowers of militaries and corporations can be resisted, and that the power of small activist groups, of workers, of citizens, of indigenous tribes, of people of conscience matters." Just so.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up on the Solnit piece - I read the blog posts that accompany it, a number of which dispute facts/points and disagree with Solnit's views. I find this fun - not least because it changes the subject of the debate and forces the skeptics to think about things they ordinarily would not!

I find your blog thought provoking in numerous ways too, in case you were wondering!

06 January, 2007 14:55  

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