An Article of Confederacy
Each of three stunning events in the last several days of our collective American experience brings individual and profound significance worthy of a future college text. Taken together, the confluence of Cliven Bundy’s epic rise and fall, the high court’s clinical rejection of affirmative action and the Princeton/Northwestern study on modern oligarchy make for a mighty flood imperiling what’s left of polity and democracy in our beleaguered republic.
He Wished He Was in the Land of Cotton . . .
Heading to points west first, we find newly-minted right-wing American hero Cliven Bundy waxing philosophical on what’s horribly wrong with a government he refuses to acknowledge in the first place. For those who missed Bundy’s arrival as libertarian performance artist, this is the pot-bellied, bellicose Nevada frontiersman and father of 14 who essentially stole nearly $1 million from the US, brazenly defied numerous proceedings and court orders and forced a standoff and stand down with federal authorities to the delight of the right.
In short form, Bundy had grazed his sizable herd of cattle on federal lands, refused to pay the same modest fees 16,000-odd other law-abiding ranchers across the country routinely remit and continued his bovine trespass on said lands once they were set aside for preservation. Ignoring his mail because it’s apparently contaminated by “statism,” Bundy chose to forgo any and all exercise of his own rights to due process, and the feds essentially obtained a reversible repo order on his cattle.
So when it came time to act on valid court orders, Bundy’s sense of patriotic narcissism compelled him to make a stand against the entity he purposefully robbed and cheated. Bravely surrounding himself with a real and virtual honor guard including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, all five of The Five, scores of heavily armed and deluded “militiamen,” and women and children marked for martyrdom as human shields, the mooching rancher actually succeeded in forcing the US government to temporarily back off, making the aforementioned confederates complicit in what amounts to sedition.
Please note that the folks at Fox, EIB, WND, Newsmax and their ilk had no issues fanning dangerous flames, thus aiding and abetting in the commission of numerous state and federal felonies; indeed elected officials including two sitting US Senators and the chief law enforcement officer of Texas hailed the armed and dangerous show of “patriotism” and endorsed the right wing range war against Obama and the forces of evil. But just when the myth-making was going so well, video and reports of Bundy’s daily briefing emerged, a daily briefing opened by the statement “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro.”
Yes, he went there, and even further, dispelling all our misunderstandings about slavery and race in America by explaining “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?”
And it was finally this cartoonish revelation of corn pone racism that woke the more visible members of Bundy’s honor guard; realizing far too late they’d jumped into the signature white sheets with this knight errant, Bundy’s theorem sent them running for the hot showers. Truthfully, they likely knew of the man’s imperial wizardry all along, but took a flier on him hopeful that he wasn’t quite the despicably prideful ignoramus he turned out to be.
Valuable lesson learned? Not bloody likely.
Old Times There Just Got Forgotten . . .
Meanwhile back east, the Supreme Court ruled a state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in university admissions and employment. The 6-2 ruling in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action emanated from the temple which bears the inscription “equal justice under law,” with an amnesiac Justice Kennedy penning the plurality opinion. Siding with Michigan voters whom he said had undertaken “a basic exercise of their democratic power” in approving the affirmative action ban, Kennedy opined “racial division would be validated, not discouraged,” by permitting non-quota preferences in higher education. Somehow, Kennedy failed to cite the abrupt 25 percent drop in minority admissions since the 2006 ban took effect, but who’s counting?
In a scathing dissent longer than the lead opinion itself, Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ginsberg, acknowledged the ban was adopted democratically, yet went on to state “But without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups.” Citing the profound and potentially devastating effect of the ruling, she continued by observing that Michigan’s voters had “changed the basic rules of the political process in that state in a manner that uniquely disadvantaged racial minorities,” adding judges “ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.” And lastly as for our beautiful Constitution, Sotomayor concluded that while the document “does not guarantee minority groups victory in the political process, it does guarantee them meaningful and equal access to that process. It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently.”
Predictably concurring on behalf of the country club set and all who seek to worship there, Chief Justice Roberts was notably tweaked by his Latina colleague’s dissent, and flatly stated “There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this court’s precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.” This continues themes from his previous musings on race and justice in which he’s held “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” and “Things have changed dramatically.”
In short, sports fans, what he’s saying is discrimination’s been cured, and/or you can’t fix it anyway, and/or the voters have spoken, and/or this Mexican broad’s got more nerve than a bum tooth. Notably absent from Blue Eye’s opinion was the quixotic reliance on the voice of the voting public simultaneous with the gutting of voting rights, the stark history of the promotion of whites over blacks as the oldest and most prolific affirmative action program ever and the fact that his logic runs deep in “scholarly” Confederate writings justifying the start of the Civil War.
Cliven Bundy would’ve been proud.
Look Away, Look Away, Look Away . . .
Rounding third and headed for home, we find a fairly obvious yet solidly credible study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities telling so many of us what we already knew: The U.S. government does not represent the best interests of the majority of us lowly citizens, but is instead wholly owned and operated by the rich and powerful. The report entitled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” drilled deep into policy data accrued from 1981 to 2002, using plain old math to illustrate the frail health of polity in the US.
Peer-reviewed and premised on the examination of 1,800 policies enacted over 21 years as against the preferences of the average versus affluent among us (50th and 90th percentiles,respectively), the study concluded “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”
But fear not, as the data demonstrate “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.” Witness the failure of a weak assault weapons ban favored by 90 percent of Americans last year.
Of course, the report was commissioned in the wake of the SCOTUS decision to permit the pumping of ever larger anonymous billions into our politics from Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission, and emerged the same week as the announced decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, two pro-elite rulings with strong majority and concurring opinions from Justices Roberts and Kennedy. Surprise.
So then, from just our brief spin around the states we now know: we continue to be filled with hate and fear; the current majority on the high court couldn’t care less and will shamelessly protect the dominance of elites at the expense of the rest; the tactic of divide and conquer never fails, to the delight of those wealthy, white and craven enough to enjoy it.