Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Limits of Popular Sovereignty

The title for Michelle Alexander's (author of Mass Incarceration and the New Jim Crow) recent piece for the Nation is a little misleading, though it is ostensibly the focus of the piece (Why Hilary Clinton doesn't deserve the Black vote, spoiler no one deserves the Black vote according to Alexander), she doesn't endorse Bernie Sanders, nor is she too pleased with the Democratic party  (Republican isn't an option).  She indicts the system and the establishment of the two Party's that run our country, and Bernie only fares relatively better in her mind to Hilary and the rest of the Democratic party.  Alexander call's for Black citizens and all U.S citizens to reject the claim of only two possibilities and truly take up our popular sovereignty.

 The AP  recently reported that President Obama, spoke about how voters do strange things when they are afraid, at fundraisers for the Democratic Party.  These remarks I think unmask what is and always has been the case, that what popular sovereignty in the U.S. means is that we elect our rulers from the class of rulers.  Now, from time to time this class admits to its ranks those who were once excluded, Obama is a case in point, Kennedy is another case in point.  This give us the illusion of having a say and of progress, and that anyone can become president, as I remember being told repeatedly in California public schools..

Now this ruling class consists of both Republicans and Democrats (As Michelle Alexander points out), in fact the two party system is part and parcel of that which maintains a ruling class and simultaneously limits popular sovereignty..

Coming to terms with the above, means that we also need to recognize that all the political candidates for president are part of the establishment.   We also need to see that populism and progressivism are part and parcel of the ruling class' means to keep its power and keep citizens (always only seen as voters) voting for whom the establishment admits as political candidates.

Bernie Sanders is trying to revive a particular interpretation of this system where the ruling class seeks to lessen the effects on the citizenry of the system they oversee. This establishment populism and progressivism is  perhaps best represented by the Roosevelts, Theodore and Franklin D.

Even so I do believe we are currently seeing a shake up in the establishment. We are in a point of turmoil within the ruling class itself.  Cracks are appearing, and have been appearing. We citizens are noticing, and we are grasping at differing forms of populism ( vaguely socialist or fascist), and grasping at differing reiterations of established vision of the U.S. (secular and religious).

Not sure where this is going.  Though , as I read the A.P. report and Alexander's piece I saw that the curtain is being pulled back. Yet we still are going along as if nothing has been exposed.  Perhaps because collectively we need the curtain. We're mainly looking to find that presidential candidate that will reassure us that all is well: Is it Clinton who says she will just keep on keeping on, building on the legacy of Bill Clinton and continuing the policies of  the Obama administration, or is it the "socialist" populist progressivism of Sanders hearkening back to the Roosevelt presidencies, or is it the varieties of fascism offered us by the Republican candidates.

Our current presidential election cycle is showing us that our ruling class isn't monolithic.  I see much evidence that the ruling class has been in disagreement for sometime about the nature of our governance, where the force of the State will be directed, and the nature of our civil religion and the degree to which it should remain vaguely Christian.

We have trouble seeing that the ruling class includes Trump and Sarah Palin, and Barack Obama and the Clinton's, and Bernie Sanders, and yet it does.

We don't popularly elect a President of the United States.  We should remember that United States Senators originally were to be appointed by the each state legislature.  Neither the Senate nor the Presidency is supposed to be the result of popular sovereignty, or popular election. Thus, it is a very real likelihood that due to supper delegates that in the case of New Hampshire that Bernie could win the primary in terms of popular vote and loose the state in terms of delegates.  This is equally true for the Republican Party.  The system is rigged and has always been rigged (though it is now less so) to limit popular sovereignty not to encourage it.  Alexander's point is, in part I think, aiming in this direction and calling us to take up our citizenship and our sovereignty and stop acquiescing to the demands and scare mongering of the establishment and ruling class.

It's not so much that there is no choice , just that our system of "popular sovereignty" also has a deep suspicion of the will of the people, and has always sought and continues to seek to curtail and limit the exercise of that will.  And so there will be remarks from our leaders and politicians like that of President Obama, that simultaneously shows a distrust (and a distance) from common citizens qua voters, and seeking to placate and cajole them into voting the "right" way.

Michelle Alexander's piece for the Nation is also a call for Black people to rebel against this curtailment of popular sovereignty, and looks to a time where we the citizens of the United States (following this Black refusal of the limits on popular sovereignty) will tire of always picking the lesser of two evils the ruling class (Democrat and Republican) of the United States gives us, and throw off the limit to our sovereignty.

Yet, it is possible that we actually find the limits to popular sovereignty comforting, safer to stick with what we know and have known.  Better to pretend our presidential candidates are either our saviors or comforting parental figures that will keep things stable and take care of us.

Few I think will embrace (at this time) Alexander's call for U.S. citizens to take up their popular sovereignty and reject our two ruling parties, not even the editors of the Nation have had the guts to make such a call but consistently advocate for the lesser of two evils, which always means Democrat.

Guess what, no one deserves any ones vote.  And Obama is in part correct we are often motivated out of fear.  We  are told all hell will break loose if we look to anyone other than our two ruling parties This fear of opening up our electoral system to a range of parties and political options means that we will continue to accept the limits of popular sovereignty imposed upon us by the ruling parties and the ruling class.