Musings on Politics, People, Society, and the Almost Certainly Impossible

I do not worry that electing a left-leaning candidate like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren would lead to economic catastrophe. Nor do I worry that electing a centrist like Biden would embed a Republican-light approach to government for the foreseeable future. My worry is that the nomination of one or the other might sufficiently upset his or her non-supporters that they won’t vote in November, thus assuring the election of Trump.

My preference is that the centrism the Democratic party has embraced in the recent past would be overtaken by a left-leaning progressive attitude, tempered by practical realism. But which candidate for the Democratic nomination is apt to be able to engage enough voters to make that happen and, after the nomination, win the presidency? Neither, I’m afraid. So, I reluctantly give my support to a centrist with the wish that he will embrace a slightly more left-leaning running mate and, when elected (I hope), fill his cabinet with a mix of leftist and centrist politicians who can work together. I would even endorse Biden’s comment that he might bring a Republican onto his ticket, though I would rather that not happen. I would rather he bring a Republican or two into his cabinet, with the proviso that any such Republicans must have been vocally opposed to Trump and his reactionary policies.

Republicans and Democrats alike seem, to me, too deeply embroiled in inflexible politics. They are unwilling to bend and flex to build even a modicum of common ground. Sure, if I had my way this country would move with deliberate speed toward a modified version of the social democratic models of governance practices in Scandinavian countries, a la Bernie Sanders. But, unlike how I perceive Sanders’ endorsement of those models, I would not embrace them wholesale; I would adjust and adapt them to fit the American system of government and the American population. But I’m not going to get my way, am I? So, I’ll have to accept what I get; if I want to have a say in the matter, I’ll have to make my voice heard. Ultimately, I’ll have to tolerate what I get. I won’t have to like it, but I’ll have to live with it.

In an ideal world, we would live in an isocracy in which no one has more power than anyone else. A “pure” democracy. Unfortunately, direct democracy becomes more and more impractical as the effects of decisions broaden geographically and demographically. The more land/distance and the more people, the more difficult direct democracy becomes. That simply fact is why, I think, representative democracy evolved. But political power need not rest exclusively with a small cadre of “chosen ones.” At the municipal or local level, representatives could be elected to implement the desires of the people; if the representative strayed from the peoples’ wishes, he or she could be recalled without bureaucratic obstacles. Representatives “up the chain” could similarly be charged with delivering the will of the people; failure to do so could similarly result in immediate replacement.

It’s obviously not quite that simple, but I suspect a system could be devised in which the will of the people, with adequate protections for the minority, could be ensured. I read something recently that suggested social democracy has been in play in our society for a very, very long time. Examples include municipal ownership of electric utilities, gas utilities, etc. The article asserted that municipal ownership was a response to monopolies that delivered inadequate service or quality at unacceptably high prices. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds modestly reasonable.

I am in favor of public ownership of any service/product whose absence would be harmful to society. Electric utilities, gas utilities, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and on and on. An argument could be made that they already are publicly owned through shareholders; I would argue that system of ownership puts too much power in the hands of the wealthy and those whose primary objectives involve the accumulation of wealth, not the provision of service to the public.  I guess I’m a socialist at heart. But not a “pure” socialist. I am a fan of entrepreneurship. But if an entrepreneur’s efforts lead to the growth of a product or service that becomes a necessity, he or she should not object to having the product or service seized for public ownership, but with adequate compensation for his or her efforts in conceiving or developing it.  It all gets sticky, I realize. Without people, it would be a whole lot easier. But I guess we’re stuck with people. Without us, where are we?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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