Tuesday, July 2, 2024

#184 / Sometimes Lucky, Sometimes Not


That is Margaret Chase Smith, pictured. She was formerly a United States Senator representing the State of Maine. The image was captured from a column by Lance Morrow, which appeared in yesterday's edition of The Wall Street Journal. The title of Morrow's column, "Margaret Chase Smith for President," was a piece of wishful thinking, since Smith died in 1995. 

Morrow's column commented on the current presidential race - and on past presidential races, too - and among other things, Morrow said this:
Sometimes things turn out all right and the country gets lucky. Sometimes not. Some say that America elects the president it deserves. It's shaming to thnk of what the country must have done to deserve this year's choice.

The disheartening presidential debate held on Thursday, June 27th clearly prompted Morrow's column, and generated the observation just quoted. As anyone reading this blog posting probably knows, our current president, Joe Biden, performed abysmally in the debate, leading to many suggestions that he withdraw as the Democratic Party candidate, or that the Party find some way to replace him. The other candidate, former president Donald Trump, lied, dodged questions, and acted with savage meanspiritedness. That debate really was disheartening, and as Bob Dylan might say, "the wheel's still in spin." It's not clear what may happen now. 

I know that one friend of mine has suggested that Biden may well have been drugged by some infiltrator into his "Green Room," just prior to the debate. Comparing Biden's performance in the debate to the speech he made just one day later, touching on all the same themes, makes it easy to see where this hypothesis comes from. You can click right here for a video of the entire debate, and you can click right here to see Biden's speech at his North Carolina political rally, held on the very next day. The differences are startling, and the "he must have been drugged" idea is an explanation that could, actually, "explain" what happened in the debate. In the debate, Biden seemed "out of it," to be charitable. There was a different presentation one day later.

My point in this blog posting is not to endorse such speculation, or to take a hard and fast position on what should happen in this year's presidential race - and particularly about who the Democratic Party candidate should be. I do want to be clear that I think that it is imperative that the people of the United States not elect Donald J. Trump to the presidency in November of this year. That would be a huge mistake and a setback, but if Trump were elected, that's not the "end" of democracy, or of self-government in the United States. Trump's election would just mean exceedingly hard times ahead in almost every part of our national life. 

My point is this: The idea that a presidential "debate" is a good way to decide who to vote for, an idea more or less implicit in Morrow's column - reinforces the erroneous thought that, really, the only thing that truly matters is who the president is. 

This is just totally wrong. If anyone thinks (or "assumes" may be a better word) that the entire future fate of the United States of America depends on which person is president, please pick up a copy of the Constitution, and read a little American history, and understand how our government is actually intended to work. The president plays an important role in our system of self-government, but it is an "administrative" role. It is the president's job to "see that the laws are faithfully executed." That is, in fact, pretty much "it." Making sure that the laws are faithfully executed is really the president''s main assignment, and this means that the future fate of the Republic is, emphatically, not dependent on who the president is.

The president is not supposed to be deciding what the rules are, what our goals are, what the budget  is, whether women have a right to make their own decisions on the issue of abortion, or whether or not the United States of America goes to war. Just to name a couple of high-profile questions. 

All the most important policy questions, including questions of war and peace, are supposed to be made by our elected representatives, "in Congress assembled." 

The key word is "representative." If you have a legal representative, a lawyer, who doesn't advocate for the positions you want your lawyer to advance, or who is otherwise ineffective, you replace that lawyer. You should do the same with your elected representatives in the United States Congress. Impossible? Hardly! Easy? No. 

When the world is getting fit to be fried, when the threats of nuclear war are sounding more like real threats, instead of bluster and hype, and when income inequality has reached such massive proportions that the word "oligarchy" doesn't do justice to the economic status of the billionaires and the corporations that are currently controlling everything, it is obvious that things have gone, and are continuing to go, seriously wrong.

In such a situation, it is absolutely a mistake to think that what will happen in the future will depend either solely, or primarily, on who gets elected president. That is Mr. Trump's erroneous claim, of course (his statement that "I alone can fix it"), but it's not true. WE have to fix it, and that means everyone. 

"Something is happening here." We are coming to a decision point. Who gets elected president is one important question. 

But the more important question is what the people of the United States of America are going to do, regardless of who gets elected. It's "shameful," to use Morrow's word, that we would so denigrate our own power and ability as to think that who the president is has become the only really important question.

Sometimes, we're lucky in who our president is. Sometimes, not so lucky. 

What's important isn't a question of "luck." It's whether we are willing to pledge "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" to insisting that a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people," will not perish from this earth. 

BY the people is the most important part of that phrase from the Gettysburg Address. That means you. That means me. That means us. 

It's time to reallocate our time, and to reestablish self-government in the United States. Whoever the Democratic Party candidate turns out to be. Whoever wins in November.

Our role is not to sit in the rally stands and cheer the performers onstage. Our role is not to go home and seek to divert ourselves from a spectacle we can't stand to watch.

Our role is to run our governments, from local, to state, to national. 

And we'd better get to work on that, right now!

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