16 October 2013

King Barack

Last week, I described the US Government Shutdown as a breakdown of the pretence of separation of powers — a seizure by the president, with the support of the Cathedral, of the powers that were theoretically supposed to be reserved to the legislature.

Then, in the following post, I claimed that the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature is the worst idea of the world.

So, if Obama is grabbing absolute power for himself, like Charles I did... am I not a supporter of Charles I? Should I not be raising the standard and the cry, “God Save King Barack”?

Up to a point. There are two, related, differences between King B and King C. One is that Charles was open about what he was doing. He didn’t resort to procedural fiddles, he said he was King by divine right and was entitled to raise taxes without the say-so of any parliament. Maybe some of his historical justifications were not quite honest, but he was fighting not just for the practice of autocratic rule, but for the principle of autocratic rule. The second is that he actually was the rightful King of his people. (As an aside, I must recommend the Address to the Russian People by Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, an excellently well-reasoned defence of monarchy). There are relatively few people in America who believe in the idea of monarchy, and I suspect that approximately none of them would recognise Obama as King.

Remember that Charles I lost. It would have been better if he had won, but since he didn’t, it would possibly have been better if he had been less ambitious, and laid the foundations for a later consolidation of royal power. If Obama could command with Royal authority, that might be OK, but he can’t, so that’s that.

What next, then? Over the twentieth century, American democracy provided government that was, by the standards of its time, better than average. True, by historical standards it was disastrous, but as the twentieth century goes, it functioned relatively well. Like any functioning democracy, it relies on two things: the people believing they are in charge, and the people not really being in charge.

As I explained, the root of the current troubles is that from 2008 onwards, the illusion of the voters actually having control has been grievously damaged, and the result of that damage has been the Tea Party. The pieces in Salon that @Outsideness describes as really going over the edge come over as perfectly reasonable if you take the basic assumption that the Cathedral has a right to rule unimpeded by mid-continent know-nothings.

“Even if these organizations lost their funding from Wall Street or the Chamber of Commerce, they could rely on donations from the Tea Party base, the vast mass of conservative voters and activists throughout the country who don’t share a scintilla of big business’s fondness for the status quo.” — Elias Isquith

As much as such a sentiment, from a soi-disant “democrat”, utterly begs to be mocked without reservation or mercy, a reactionary has to admit that it is a plain and accurate description of a disaster in progress. For all the problems that the establishment‛s rule has produced, giving more power to the voters isn’t really a solution. It might produce short-term benefit by curbing the current fiscal insanity, but what next, once the voters realise they can genuinely make demands of the government? What happens to all the rest of the empty rituals of a two-party system, if enemies of the establishment really control a party? The democratic institutions are not robust enough to handle actual conflict. They depend in every case on “gentlemanly” cooperation between the parties, and would crumble under the pressure, as they do when installed in countries without a local Cathedral to run them.

The system can fail in two ways: the voters could actually take power, or they could learn that they cannot take power. Either way, the sole virtue of democracy — that it pacifies the mob with the illusion of power — will be lost. Some of the establishment are realising that: Democracy After the Shutdown

It’s by no means a likely outcome, but the dropping of the pretence of democracy could be the way out. Certainly not in the form of King Barack I, but it is conceivable that the Democratic Party and the moderate rump of the Republicans could merge into a kind of “Committee of National Unity” (for the duration of the emergency, natch) that would eliminate Tea Party votes through some procedural mechanism, rule unopposed and evolve into something like the modern Chinese Communist Party.

The one-party state is not an ideal form of reactionary government, but if we allow the claim that fake-democracy was one of the more successful governing structures of the twentieth century, then by the same standard the Chinese model is about the best of a bad lot for the twenty-first. There is always the possibility of it developing further into some kind of monarchy.

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