20 November

How Beautiful To See Democracy Work

by Jon Katz

I’m rarely on the good side of power, but I see the headlines and big stories quite differently than most of our media, left or right or middle.

The headline for me this week is that democracy works; it is a beautiful thing to see. If you follow our mass media, digital, cable, or print, the big story is that democracy is under attack and is being damaged beyond repair.

As a dyslexic, I often see things backwords, especially words, so beware of my beliefs.

Even as I see the country beginning to come together, some can only see it coming apart. Today, I saw this headline in the New York Times digital edition: “After Trump Meeting, Michigan Lawmakers Say They’ll Honor State’s Vote.”

I wanted to cry. My headline is: “How Beautiful To See Democracy Work.”

Soon enough, we’ll return to the divisions, the refusal to negotiate, the lack of co-operating, the paralysis of government. “Democracy,” said H.L. Mencken, “is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.”

Maybe so, but at least we can come together to protect the American experiment – the dream of free and equal people.

We aren’t there, we have never been there, we may never get there. But it’s a wonderful goal, and it lives in many hearts and dreams.

President Trump suffered yet another devastating blow to his effort to steal the November election when a delegation of Michigan Lawmakers, after a long meeting with the President at the White House, said that they would “follow the normal process” in certifying the vote results and honor the outcome.

The legislative leaders, all Republicans and strong supports of Donald Trump, said in a joint statement that they had not been made aware of any information that would change the election outcome.

In plain English, they called the leader of the party a liar and refused to participate in his brazen and wicked scheme.

I did close my eyes and give thanks. It takes a strong legislator to sit in the White House for hours being slobbered over by a President and walk away and do the right thing.

How sick they make our Republican lawmakers look; they shamed the cowards and the sunshine soldiers. The legislators from Michigan stood up for us.

Earlier in the day, the Republican governor of Georgia, another strong supporter of Mr. Trump,  certified that Joe Biden won the election in that state. Figures don’t lie, said the secretary of state.

Before that, a string of judges from every part of the country drew a line and said flagrant lies don’t work either, not in our legal system. You can’t s steal elections, not even in such partisan times.

People who have worried and suffered and ached about what was happening in our country might consider pausing, as I did tonight, and giving silent thanks for our democracy, which President Trump has taught me to cherish more than I ever had.

Democracy is fighting back, it is holding steady. Politics is war without bloodshed, says the old saying, while war is politics with bloodshed.

We have been at war and won. No bloodshed.

I appreciate what a gift democracy is, and I will not ignore it or walk away from it again. Neither, I suspect, will anybody reading this.

How humiliating and painful a day and week for Donald Trump, who hates losing more than anything other than the truth.

He has lost more this week than in all of his previous life combined, suffering defeat after defeat from both Republican and Democratic judges.

As his niece Mary prophesied in her book, Trump is a mess; he is no seer, prophet, or competent dictator.   Up (or down) wherever he is, Chairman Mao must be rolling his eyes.

In 1927, Mao wrote this about revolution: “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

Revolution is not a tweet.

I confess to smiling at the thought that Mao would ever go to war with Rudy Guiliana as his General with his shiny World Series ring flashing in the lights.

And what, exactly, was Trump’s revolution about? It wasn’t about overturning the wealthy class, quite the opposite.

It wasn’t about overthrowing the powerful; he fights for both, not for the common folk.

His fatal flaw turned out to be his greatest if fleeting, strength: he dazzled and danced, but it was all about him, his family, and his money.

Trump was the Rainmaker, selling miracle juice to needy people. Like all the Rainmakers in American history, a lot of people bought his potion. They all eventually wanted their money back, but when the Rainmaker returned, they bought more potions.

Trump divided us, and enraged us, and seduced tens of millions of us.

But it turned out that democracy, America’s imperfect gift to the world, was and is a lot bigger than him and his message of grievance and hatred and greed.

The center held, Trump is shrinking before our eyes, he will soon be the size of a snail, another voice railing in the wind.

One has to be a very selfish and lazy American to love what this man has done to our country; yes, some things really are bigger than a good economy.

Still, it was almost miraculous to see judge after judge, governor after governor, secretary of state after secretary of state, legislator after legislator stands up for our country and its better angels.

The headline is that democracy is winning and will win.

When I think of democracy this week, I think of those hundreds of blacks in Detroit who took to Zoom to fight for their right to vote and beat back the craven politicians who wanted to steal it from them.

This was the power of the people, they make every revolution work.

If their victory didn’t stir the heart, democracy has no meaning for you, the lamp has gone out.

That was the beginning of the great turnaround, the roar from people fighting for democracy, an old idea given new life.

Trump proved himself to be ignorant of us as well as contemptuous. He doesn’t really know how to do anything but lie and think of himself.

It is well known that when you do anything, ” wrote Chairman Mao in 1937,” unless you understand its actual circumstances, its nature and its relations to other things, you will not know the laws governing it, or know how to do it, or be able to do it well.

How fitting that Mao wrote an obituary for Donald Trump’s war on democracy in 2020. This emperor had no clothes.

What Mao wrote is well known to any political philosopher or true revolutionary. It wasn’t well known to him, a man who has, say his biographers, never read a book in his life.

Trump had evil in mind, but his mad ambitions never meshed with his fractured self; broken men don’t lead successful revolutions.

Trump never understood his actual circumstances, the nature of a democracy, its relation to other things in the world, or the laws of governing.

He staged the most bumbling and pathetic coup in the history of coups and brought upon himself the thing he most dreads: failure and rejection. he didn’t do his homework or even understand the monster he has created.

And you may remember the story of Frankenstein. Monsters always turn on their creators.

Mao could have told him you have to do more than tweet and lie from your golf course and bedroom to stage a true revolution. You actually have to do something.

Trump has transformed and energized our sagging democracy in a hundred ways.

Women, African-Americans, trans and gay people, refugees and immigrants, working people, people who wish to fight for Mother Earth, the young, union people see the world differently after four years of Trump.

Black and brown and yellow girls will see their faces in their new vice-president.

This week, our better angels emerged and just said no.

To me, this was a coming together, a victory for the middle, not the edges.  The left couldn’t do it alone, neither could the right.

We can work together; we do have common values; we appreciate our democracy; men and women will risk their careers to do the right thing.

This week, I believe hatred is in retreat if by no means defeated.

I haven’t gotten a death threat all week. The self-righteous conspiracy peddlers and white nationalists who have been messaging me angrily for months seem to have fled back into the shadows.

May they wither and die there.

Donald Trump has taught us many things. We are not as great as we thought we were; we somehow have let an enormous chunk of our country to slip away and left them behind.

But tonight, I’m thinking of small things, things he grievously misread or misjudged.

The Dreamers can stay in the home of their birth. The tired and poor can come here again, to the flaming torch. The parks and birds and animals will be spared bulldozers and greedy companies again.

Native-Americans can protect their sacred land again. Instead of hiding from climate change, good jobs and new ideas will heal our broken planet.

Nurses and health care workers may soon get the tools and support they need to fend off this awful virus and save some lives, rather than abandon them to their own fate.

It is almost an article of faith in politics that nobody ever wins fights with the media, once called the press. Reporters are smart, determined, devious, and nasty. At first, Trump paralyzed them with venom.

Once they got over their awe of themselves, they started to fight back, and for a lot of the country, there was no safe space for him to be. Those politicians were right.

It would be smart to be realistic – we are battered and, in some ways, a broken country. But somehow, and against all odds and likelihood, Trump is raising the specter of healing.

In his desperation, he has gone from bombast to pure evil. We are responding by going from shock and helplessness to imagining good once again.

Truth and facts made a big comeback this week. No, you cannot simply lie your way to power. Tweeting is not really connecting; it is not really communicating.

Look how many things Donald Trump misjudged this week: Like his Federalist judges, who, it turns out, really don’t like big governments that steal authority and people’s rights.

I think tonight of the many humble Republican and Democratic clerks and vote-counters who stood their ground, even in the face of awful pressure and threats.

Joe Biden, who didn’t take the bait.

The power of democracy, which, when all was said and done, brought a divided country together for a common purpose. It is possible. No one can predict the future, but hope shines bright.

I don’t know how much humiliation and defeat our sociopathic President can endure, but I see that it is healing and uplifting and unifying.

Soon, we can all wake up without dreading what our President has said and done to us today. That will be a miracle in itself. He will go where losers go, the dustbin of people who failed.

When all is said and done, Trump was not nearly as big as he pretended to be. He thought too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. If he had ever come up for air and surfaced, he would have seen the world in an entirely different way.

I have so far underestimated Joe Biden; I was never a big fan, who was?

But he is wise and patient to move forward and stay focused on the work that needs to be done, especially as the death toll mounts and our President can do nothing but play golf and fight for his own ass.

Biden is pulling the country along with him. Sometimes less is more, quiet better than noise Right now, he is good for the idea of democracy.

But Mao, the master of revolution,  gets the last word: “The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.”

 

16 Comments

  1. Hi Jon, thank you for your latest thoughts – once again, very reassuring. I do have to take umbrage with one point. It’s this idea, that I’ve seen touted by you before now, that America somehow invented – and ‘gifted’ democracy to the world.

    I know you don’t actually believe this, as a keen follower of Greek tragedy. So why do you perpetuate the idea. Even beyond the Greeks, who did invent it, what about credit where credit is due – the Brits?

    From Heather Cox Richardson, in today’s very post, on the importance of a robust opposition in a functioning democracy:

    “Until the early 1700s, in Europe, the monarch was the state. Either you were loyal to the king, or you were a traitor. Gradually, though, the British political thinkers from whom Americans drew their inspiration began to object to the policies of the British monarchy while remaining loyal to the government. They developed the idea of a loyal opposition. This was an important development in political thought, because it meant that a person could be loyal to the country (and keep his head firmly on his shoulders) while criticizing government policies.”

    I know Americans are proud to be so. But you didn’t invent, not gift, democracy to the world. And nowadays, many of us are doing a much better job of it. 🙂

  2. Jon, once again, you have written an uplifting, unbiased, to me anyway, reflection of thought. You have allowed me to see things more clearly, to breathe a sigh of relief that democracy which those who travelled many years and centuries ago in the hope of experiencing and finding freedom, freedom from control of governing ‘ kings and princes ‘, to a new land. May God give Biden the years to bring the United States back together again. To heal democracy. Yes, perhaps a person like Trump was needed to remind us all, Americans and Canadians alike, that there is honour among the thieves of those who would try to run the country, the world, self-serving idols do have clay feet. You have been open and honest in your assessments, guiding readers along the path towards a clearer understanding of recent White House ‘events’. I believe there may have been a reason for a ‘Trump’ in our lives to bring the country together in honouring their laws set down years ago in the hopes of a democratic process. Good over evil can exist. May the politicians remember this. May the world learn from being Trumped.
    Sandy Proudfoot

  3. With respect Jon, I could not disagree more. I don’t however cast blame. It’s difficult to know the truth when being lied to at every turn by the main stream media and Democratic Party.

    There’s too much ground to be covered here so I will simply say first, the numbers Biden pulled in from many states are a mathematical impossibility, unless he cheated. 100% turnout? Hundreds of thousands of votes magically appear in various states at 6:30 am and they’re ALL for Biden?

    Trump had upwards of 65k at his Rally’s, Biden barely filled 12 circles at his. Over a million people showed up in D.C. last weekend to show Trump their support. He is cherished by the informed American.

    Trump legally won the election by a landslide in all 50 states which will be proven and he will go on to four more years.

    Keep your eye on Sidney Powell.

    Happy Holiday’s to all.

    1. Karen, thanks for the message. Like your leader, you are not at ease with the truth. I don’t argue my writing on social media, I wish you well. Supporting the theft of an election is not something I want to discuss with you here or anywhere We all have to answer to our own conscience.

    2. To reach a valid conclusion you must begin with valid premises. Yours are fact free.
      Try again using logical reasoning instead of fallacious nonsense.

  4. As I commented recently, it is time for some Republicans to come out of their closets and denounce this charade and be remembered in history for making the right decisions. The Republican Lawmakers from Michigan are two heroes for defying Trump, along with Republican Governor from Georgia and other honest judges – they correctly called ‘a spade a spade’ and did not bow down to pressure from their leader and his enablers – and reminding the world that common sense and decency still exist. As Trumps’s castle and dreams crumble, hopes for a better America is getting closer. In a twisted way, besides testing democracy, this unfortunate journey has provided lessons of what pit-holes to avoid when choosing a leader in the future.

  5. Jon…
    I agree with Isobel that America did not invent democracy. But America has made our attempt a long-lasting one.

    Yes, it’s fragile and will continue to be. The founding fathers understood this. They had studied other democratic systems, their flaws, and their failures. They knew the risks: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

    Imagine fashioning an intricate mechanical timepiece with many interlocking mechanisms, all pushing against each other, while at the same time, working together. And then implementing this, not with interchangeable manufactured parts, but with unique human beings. And building such a system that could adapt to change for over 200 years.

    Yet the Roman Republic, with a lengthier duration (509 BC-27 BC), was well-conceived but flawed. And over time, flaws will wear through. Rampant corruption led to murderous mobs. And, Roman generals with armies at their disposal were simultaneously political contenders.

    The US Constitution is neither self-actuating nor self-correcting. It requires the constant attention and devotion of our citizenship. Republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people; they are also dependent upon their active and informed involvement.

    In 1852 Wendel Philips elaborated, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few.” Now, we too understand this.

    1. Sorry but the U.S. invent this form of Republican democracy, Greek and Roman democracy was nothing like it..check your history..https://www.history.com/news/what-is-the-worlds-oldest-democracy The Greeks described their city-state system as self-rule, it was not a constitutional democracy in any sense of the world. Large portions of Athenian society – women and slaves could not participate, just like in the United States.

      Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the Isle of Man all had local elected parliaments in the ninth and 10th centuries, but none of these “democracies” advance the idea of equal rights for all. Finland has claimed the title with their meaningful democracy established in 1906, when they became the first country in the world to abolish race and gender requirements both for voting and serving in government. But out system of checks and balances and the limites of power was quite unique, and in many ways, still is, there were probably kinds of democracies around long before us, but historians mostly agree that we introduced this broad idea of equality under the law first.

      1. Jon…
        I agree that America invented this form of democracy. To my understanding, it is unique. In the Roman Republic, their Executive Branch was headed by TWO Consuls who could veto each other. Imagine how that would work today.

  6. Nice blog. Lying that’s Trump’s territory. He’s so good at it, that it’s terrifying. We have well over a quarter of a million Americans dead, and it’s getting worse. Yet, as you said, Trump is on the golf course and usually not seen wearing a mask. If he would have been truthful about the virus from the beginning (something unknown to him) he could have saved countless lives. The one thing I learned from writing is to tell the truth. It’s practically stamped on our foreheads by English professors and in journalism school and related studies . The truth can be proved. Lies can’t. And unless you want to get sued and sued badly write a lie in a story. Our media failed in not calling Trump out from the beginning on his lies.

  7. I’ve started e-mailing Republicans. Let your voices be heard via e-mails and phone calls and tell the Republicans to quit kissing Trump’s ass. Trump’s attorneys are not calling the election a fraud for legal reasons they are just stirring up trouble and making Joe Biden’s transition harder. Enough is enough. Flooding the Senators and Congresspeople may make them think about their re-election prospects.

  8. What was wonderful for me was the poll workers and counters right after Nov 3 doing the most tedious work , many who a week before were proTrump and voted for him but we’re hell bent now on making sure the tally was accurate. So too the Ga. gov. And many,most others. The details of democracy lives strong in the election officials + line workers, pulling off the paper cups, sorting each section of ballots, doing the boring admin stuff accurately…. That’s the proof of democracy. It was as if the prior politicking was just a show, and now let’s see what the votes are, “that’s the important thing.” It’s almost comical: Trump’s campaign posturing and storytelling was all for naught. He must have been surprised these workers didn’t manipulate the results for him but went to work immediately to do the right thing. They were past the spectacle now. Carnevale is over.
    It was as if Trump’s efforts to undermine the election were cometely ignored even by his own supporters. It’s like jurors who know their job is to find the TRUTH no.matter their prejudices once they walk back into the jury room. That duty we all feel (except the lunatic fringe who will believe any false thing, and get them thrown off the jury or cause a mistrial) to uncover the truth of every citizen, voter, party to a lawsuit is a deeper “democracy.”

  9. After four years of worry and dismay, it is wonderful and calming to again have hope for our democracy! To see the Judges and courts, state officials and election workers step up and stand up for the truth helps us look forward to the future of our country . . . thanks for the encouraging article, so good to see it in print – I don’t know how you find time to write so much and so well and do all your other activities too!

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