Monday, August 03, 2009
A return to tradition
I'm reading De Tocquevilles 'Democracy in America' at the moment. What is vividly apparent is how far America in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries drifted from its traditions. The kind of fractious and robust interaction between represented and representative you can see in this video is normal for the mid-nineteenth century. By the end of the twentieth it had virtually disappeared. The rough-and-tumble of the traditional way of American democracy had been replaced by a pallid and wizened faux-politess.
The same bloodless and dreary atmosphere dominated (and still dominates) American newspapers as well. I think of it as the victory of the school-marm over the working stiff. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Americans felt completely free to get in the face of their representatives and tell them how it was using short and brutal words. And those representatives took it for what it was- the electorate making sure the elected knew what was expected of them. The more vigorous the exchange, the harder the representatives listened- these were the people they were doing the job for. That attitude is long gone.
The doddery old farts and plastic fantastic used-car salesmen who currently occupy positions in Congress do not feel it is part of their job to have to listen to disgruntled voters. All those hicks and NASCAR watchers should know their place and leave governing to the professionals! Look at the enormous response to Joe the Plumber during the 2008 election. Upstart! Ignoramus! Yokel! How dare he intrude into our choreography and myth-making exercises!
Joe the Plumber may well have planted the seeds for the Tea-Party uprisings. His was the only truly revelatory question of the entire campaign. He did what the massed legions of drudge journalists wouldn't- he asked a question Obama didn't want to answer, didn't have the wit to dodge, and revealed for the only time in the campaign his real thoughts about taxation and the redistribution of wealth by government diktat. Joe the Plumber knew Americas traditions, and kept to them in the finest way imaginable.
Politicians in America had almost managed to invert the true intent of democracy- the working slobs worked for them, for their perks, for their grandiosity, for their glory. Right now, at this very moment, they are being brought down to earth with a bump. They are getting the truth right between their eyes. Many of them can't handle it, apparently. Hopefully at the next election, they will be replaced by people who not only can handle it, but who see that as 'business as usual'.