Is democracy a process or a purpose? As a process, democracy is simply a set of rules by which decisions are made. A traffic code of sorts which places no value on the outcome of its code: of where the traffic winds up. If the majority votes to ban flag-burning or gay marriage, so be it. Unless, of course, banning those activities proves to be unconstitutional (which has been the case so far, by the way). As a purpose, democracy is a different animal. It assumes that there is moral capital on which it relies, and to ignore the essential rightness or wrongness of an issue – say, freedom of speech – is to submit to the Tyranny of the Majority. The majority can vote that saying “poo-poo head” is to be prohibited, except that we’ve already established that saying whatever you want, even if it’s stupid or offensive is a moral imperative. So even if the majority wants it, we’ve already decided that they don’t know what’s good for them.
Jeffersonian democracy had two advantages over the kind of “democracy” (I mean “plutocracy”, but I’m too polite to point that out) we have today. Back then, America was a small place, sparsely populated, with people residing in communities which were pretty close-knit, where they could carry on conversations which included most of the community. Back then they also had a fairly coherent vision of their purpose. That purpose was in some part reactionary insofar as “We the People” codified that which they had been denied by King George of England. This is important because nowadays this “We the People” are reacting to a different set of audacities – obviously since now we have a newer (and improved? You tell me.) King George – which require a different set of constitutional amendments to make everyone feel like they can support the state: the vision, the often fumbling, often bumbling, flawed and corrupt bureaucracy which sucks but is still ours.
The religious right sees today’s democracy – I’m guessing here, since I’m neither religious nor right, but I think its an educated guess and so I’ll forge ahead – as too process-driven and would like to assert that a few more things than ‘freedom of this and that’ to be moral imperatives. Like, for example, a “thou shalt” here and there. Unfortunately for them, our huge, sprawling community of 300m or so – ‘tis of thee!’ – can agree that moral imperatives exist; we just can’t agree on what they are. My thou shalt is your thou shalt not. Others object to the process-orientation of today’s ‘democracy’ not because of moral proscriptions but because of the Tyranny of the Majority: it should be more than two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner.
Since our purpose is not as unified as it was in Jeffersonian times, perchance there’s a cogent argument for de-federalizing. A smaller country or two or three – or 52, if you want a full deck – might have an easier time agreeing, especially since smaller communities have a better opportunity for discussion, and thus for coming to consensus. This is not to say that the lamb will necessarily volunteer to be dinner, but still. The problem with de-federalizing should be obvious if you’ve watched what went on in the Balkans, and what is now going on in Transcaucasia. We in the not-so-United States of Whatever have failed to cluster ourselves into neat, territory-based enclaves of belief. After all, I live in a Red State (in more ways than one, now that our banking industry is being or soon will be nationalized….Go! Pinko-Commies! Go!) and I’m not willing to move to Berkeley or to the East Village, no matter how much you pay me. No, wait…how much? Have your people contact my people…No, really, I like it here.
In the hallowed and oft remembered words (er, well, sort of) of one time Manager of The Ramones: “The best years of my life were spent in places that were damp, dark and disgusting”, even though in my experience, that may be true, the best years of my life are probably behind me, so I’d jut as soon stay here in my dry, bright and enchanting place, right here in my Red State, provoking my neighbors. Logistics aside, there’s no reason the US shouldn’t follow the same route the USSR did in the 80s – after all, we already have state spying on citizens (can you say “patriot act”?), a quagmire in Afghanistan (only we have one in Iraq, too), nationalized banking, loyalty tests, enforced patriotism (if you aren’t for us, you’re agin’ us, hombre!), financial disarray with an unacceptably inequitable distribution of wealth and a disproportionate amount of spending on the military, just like the Soviets, so why not?
If we keep on going down this path, it won’t be long before Sarah Palin could, in fact, be ascending the dais of Sovereign, just as so many worry she will, but it won’t be because of the untimely demise of a putative President McCain, but because she’ll have her very own Republik of Alaska, much like the Republik of Georgia, nee the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republik. Of course, the Aleutian Islands might opt to secede from Alaska and join whatever the future version of the Warsaw Pact will be, since Russia is, as a matter of fact in viewing distance!!! from the Aleutians and then Washington could intercede to “protect” the Aleutians, who prefer freedom of religion over the Evangelical State Palin had imposed, and then Moscow would send humanitarian aid to Alaska via the Bering Sea, which by this time have had their own version of the Montreux Convention, giving Canada control over all passage through the Bering Straits, just like Turkey had control over the Bosporus and the Dardanelles waaaay back in 2008.
Wow, that was confusing. Did I get it all right? Alaska will be Georgia, the Aleutians will be Abkhazia and S. Ossetia, while Russia does what the US did…oh, you get the picture. It could happen.