When I’m Queen…

I think that it’s a pretty natural human impulse, especially when times are tough, to just want someone to tell you what the fuck to do, to make unilateral decisions, especially ones that bypass the rules in order to get things done. I mean, shoot, I can remember arguing, probably in this very space, that Bush had a moral obligation to bypass state and local officials and get into New Orleans and rescue some people.

I still believe that’s true.

But watching Obama go into Libya without congressional approval or watching Haslam trying to turn the making of our drug laws over to a commission and out of the hands of the legislature, I’m feeling like the most dangerous impulse leaders in a democracy can fall prey to is the desire to short-circuit democracy for the sake of expediency.

I still believe that, when it comes down to American lives, as it did in New Orleans, that impulse is correct. But when it comes to making war or… well, it’s a war on drugs, right? So, when it comes down to making war, that impulse is always wrong. You should be accountable to voters, especially because you will be risking the lives of some of those voters.

I honestly don’t think this is something Democrats have been better on than Republicans. It’s a non-partisan issue–people with that much power have to be on-guard for the scary ways it corrupts you. And acting, even in what you believe is the best interests of the People, like a dictator?

That’s corrupting.

That’s corrupt.

14 thoughts on “When I’m Queen…

  1. …Bush had a moral obligation to bypass state and local officials and get into New Orleans and rescue some people.

    I would argue that Bush had a legal obligation not to bypass state and local officials, but to step in and organize their resources, supplementing them as necessary. There was a wealth of personnel and equipment being volunteered from across the nation and the world, and the Bush administration (I would say intentionally) dropped the ball when it came to organizing and implementing it. Doing the right thing to prepare for the incoming storm, and then to deal with the aftermath, would not have been dictatorial on the part of the Bush administration. It would have been good government, and it could have been accomplished by following existing laws. I don’t see that wanting Bush to do his job was somehow circumventing democracy; on the contrary, it would have been expecting an elected (however fraudulently) government to execute its lawfully required duties.

    I agree that the impulse to war is always anti-democratic. But I would argue that the reason Democrats and Republicans are equally bad on this is the same reason so few people vote Green. Either we have an overwhelming majority of citizens who have no problem with these wars (and other bipartisan, anti-democratic impulses), or we have a majority who aren’t willing to do what’s necessary to elect governments that represent their interests. Inadequate citizenship leads to shitty democracy.

  2. I hesitated to say anything about this because the war on drugs in particular is more than usual making my skin crawl.

    But this is the first lesson of power that men of the Post WW II generations have learned.

    In order to seize American power, create an enemy and then tell people you are leading them in a war against that enemy.

    So we’ve had about three perceived enemies for every one real enemy in the past 65 years. Whether it’s ‘drugs’ or terrorists or tinpot dictators in the Middle East and South America.

    And I really hate to say “I told you so” especially since I tried very hard to refrain from telling many people so. But when Barack Obama was running for president what gave me the most pause about him was the fact that The Enemy was so vague and nameless. By running on Hope and Change he sort of made it seem like his enemy was a little bit the rest of America (that status quo has to come from somewhere) and a little but up for grabs.

    So once he took office he was free to make up all sorts of new enemies.

    And now here we are. Is Libya an enemy? Not as bad a one as the Administration would have us believe, I think. But of course when power is the prize…

    We are a democracy for a reason. Those who would remove us from that turn themselves into Kings.

  3. Either we have an overwhelming majority of citizens who have no problem with these wars (and other bipartisan, anti-democratic impulses), or we have a majority who aren’t willing to do what’s necessary to elect governments that represent their interests.

    There is a third reason, actually.

    The current electoral machine, and the vast amounts of funding it takes, do NOT actively promote candidates who appeal to the true majority of the country.

    I cannot count the number of times people talk about voting for the lesser of two evils. Or the number of people I know who have personally disengaged from involvement in the process because it doesn’t represent them at all.

    We are very much analagous to the Roman Republic in the time of Cato. We do have a representational government of sorts, but it pulls the representatives ONLY from a distinct and highly limited type of people. In Rome’s case, citizens. In our case the wealthy and priviledged Ivy League sort. (Who are in fact analagous to Rome’s citizens in that they are the elite, monied class with priviledge conferred by wealth and service to empire.)

    Sadly, this means that we are all the more ripe for a Caesar to cross the Rubicon.

  4. Libya is not Obama’s fault. Qaddafi should have been stomped back when it was proven he was behind the Pan Am Flight 103,

    We’re bombing the hell out of Libya, while CNN and FOX are reporting that the U.S. is not directly targeting Qaddafi. Hmmm….It’s starting to get real ugly.

    Regarding Katrina, I agree with Holloway’s comment that “Bush had a legal obligation not to bypass state and local officials, but to step in and organize their resources, supplementing them as necessary.” However, his opinion that Bush intentionally dropped the ball is a bunch of shit.

  5. Actually, Qaddafi should have been stomped – wait, the US should have finished the stomping – back in 1986. The man has always been an unstable whackjob and how he’s been allowed to stay in power 25 years after that is beyond me.

  6. Basically because we didn’t have the support of anybody in Europe when we bombed him and we embarrassingly killed a bunch of civilians with our lauded precise military strike.

    Or maybe it’s more complicated than that, but that seems to be the gist of it.

    I didn’t realize until reading the internet just now that the “daughter” of his we supposedly killed in 86 has been determined to have been made up.

  7. Thanks for clearing that up – I was 11 at the time and memory of that is a little fuzzy.

    A weird aside: back then on the way to school, we would listen to this goofy morning show that was broadcast out of Tupelo. Really low rent production looking back, but there was this skit – a song – titled “How Do You Spell Qaddafi” — it went something like this:

    “How do you Spell Qaddafi? I don’t know. I don’t know.”

    Seems the answer is still a mystery. I was hoping the AP Stylebook people might solve that riddle.

  8. Yeah I was doing a little further reading and apparently folks in Europe thought our bombing (remember it was just one day) was so ill-conceived and pointless that they wouldn’t let us fly over their countries, so we had to fly around Europe and through the Straits of Gibraltar thus giving either Malta or Italy time to tip him off.

    And it, apparently, never occurred to us that someone might tip him off.

    What’s really weird is that, though we were retaliating for the bombing of a West German nightclub, I can’t figure out if West Germany participated.

    If not, you’d think that would have been a huge sign that things were not going to go well.

    Maybe someone who has more knowledge will stop by, but it really looks like we tried to play cowboy and got kind of massively publicly embarrassed when the folks we claimed to be protecting tipped off the guy we were supposed to be protecting them from.

  9. Wasn’t he in kahoots with some other evil dictator? That’s how I remember it.

    While we wait on the more knowledgeable person to weigh in, I’m going back to the sofa to spend time with your boyfriend, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

  10. KC,

    Roman government in the First Century BC was far more complex than you portray. The Senate was far from ll powerful, being checked by the tribunes of the people and by sometime alliances between the plebians and the equestrians who had representation in the Comitia Centuriata and the Comitia Tributa.

    The fundamental reason for the fall of the Republic was the flawed political system was unable to adjust to changing economic and foreign policy challenges.

    Aunt B.,

    West Germany did not participate but they were not needed to launch the air strike. US fighter bombers flew from England (with the approval of PM Thatcher) but were refused overflight by the French government.

    There were two American soldiers killed in the Berlin disco bombing. I don’t remember of any Germans were killed.

  11. Mark, thanks for authoritatively reducing (in a drive-by mansplaining blog comment) a vast historiographical debate on the “fall” of the Roman Empire to a single sentence — especially in the service of informing a knowledgeable contributor that she had oversimplified. You have blown out my irony meter for the day.

  12. Well, I for one am grateful for Mark’s elucidation. Had he not taken this little lady in hand, I would have had no idea about the complexity of the Roman Empire’s evolutions through governmental process. The three shelves of books I have on the matter are purely for decoration, you see.

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