From Citizen to Peasant: The 2016 Election

“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” -Justice Louis Brandeis (chart from inequality.org)

You may or may not have heard, but the political environment in the United States has recently undergone what some would refer to as “some changes”, but what I would refer to as “Holy shit everything is on fire!” There’s an open racist and fraudster occupying the office of the presidency, and he’s being enabled by all kinds of…well, just really awful people.

How this came to be is a complicated question. The razor-thin margin of victory means that if any one of a number of factors had been different (Comey, voter suppression; there are others), the other candidate would have won. But one way to describe what happened in the 2016 election is that for the second time in 16 years the candidate who received fewer votes than an opponent assumed the office of president, and the other two election victories were awarded to an orator and leader with extraordinary political talent.

The point is that our political institutions are not representative of the will of the majority of the citizens they preside over. The ability of representatives to choose their own voters combined with massive strides in the technical ability to draw precisely modeled maps have both contributed to this problem. The massive upswing of straight-up voter suppression with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decimation of the voting rights act a few years ago is also a factor. And voting in the United States has never been truly representative, what with the Senate and Electoral College and all.

But the same forces that have resulted in the near-paralysis of our politics when faced with real problems have also resulted in significant domination of other aspects of society. Corporate power has greatly consolidated media (your humble author and other scions of virtue on the Internet notwithstanding), firmly established domination over the labor conditions and wages of the vast majority of the population, can track and predict your behavior and movements through GPS and sophisticated algorithms, and just generally dominate the experience of being a regular human in America. Eating, drinking, sleeping, sex, entertainment, pets- if there’s a dollar to be made, a corporation is there, buying or selling something-ANYTHING- related to it.

We’ve reached a tipping point. Humanity faces a multitude of challenges at present, with climate change and income inequality probably the two biggest. Capitalism, at least as currently practiced, won’t save us; it’s actually a major cause of our problems. Meeting and overcoming these challenges isn’t a good idea we should get around to when we can; they are pressing issues that need action now. But when citizens use their ballot and it repeatedly fails to bring about desired change, they will naturally throw the ballot away. Many already have; voter participation rates, especially in off-year elections, are low by international standards.

A citizen without a ballot is a true peasant, and peasants carry pitchforks. I don’t want to see things come to violence, and I believe there is enough good about the American political system that “throw it all out and start over” is a bad idea. (Who’s to say we can get concepts like secularism and the rule of law back on the board once they are taken off when millions of people have shown themselves opposed to those values?) But I’m just one peasant, and the thing about peasants is there’s always a lot of them. They won’t all agree with me; a few will resort to violence. And once that happens, the security state will really step up its game, and *POOF* police state. What will I do once dissent isn’t even possible? I already registered this domain name and everything, and really don’t want to change it to “perfectly-obedient-peasant.com”.