Harry did indeed give us hell.
November 8, 2014 5:31 AM   Subscribe

 
Well that's about what I figured.
posted by localroger at 5:48 AM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, the book looks worthwhile and I want to read it, but isn't this the military industrial complex we've known about for more than half a century?
posted by batfish at 5:59 AM on November 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


I only wish that other arms of the bureaucracy (HHS, EPA, Ed, HUD, VA, SEC, NIH, &c) were competent enough to exercise such clear self-interest as the security establishment. Instead these agencies subsist on the meager security of regulatory capture and the revolving door, content that they can always become lobbyists and consultants once their department gets budgeted out of existence.
posted by The White Hat at 6:10 AM on November 8, 2014 [15 favorites]


It's not the secret government I'm worried about. It's the one operating out in the open, siphoning money to the rich while reducing benefits to the poor and middle class that I'm concerned as hell about.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:12 AM on November 8, 2014 [24 favorites]


Has this guy never watched Yes Minister?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:13 AM on November 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's not the secret government I'm worried about. It's the one operating out in the open, siphoning money to the rich while reducing benefits to the poor and middle class that I'm concerned as hell about.

Why can't folks be concerned about both?
posted by graymouser at 6:15 AM on November 8, 2014 [22 favorites]


According to reputable biographers, Truman eventually regretted bringing these organizations into being. But one of the more famous quotes of Truman was: 'The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know.' And that is true. Out in Concord, MA - (of 'shot heard round the world' fame) - there is a building that was standing in 1775 - the Wright Tavern.There is a plaque on the side that says: 'Here met the committees of the provincial congress - while the larger body met close by'. So, this double government kind of thing has been going on for a long time, as Harry Truman pointed out. It also says that the Minutemen gathered there in the morning of April 19, 1775. This stands to reason - I imagine you would have had to be drinking to be able to start shooting at the British at that time.
posted by McMillan's Other Wife at 6:23 AM on November 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


Here's the original paper (Harvard National Security Journal Vol 5, 2014) [115 page .pdf file] which Glennon expanded upon for the book.
posted by Auden at 6:25 AM on November 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I'm kind of unimpressed with this interview, at least from a layman's perspective. I'd be a great deal more interested in knowing how elected officials are deflected or suborned by the security establishment and institutions—are they bought or blackmailed before they ever get into office, does the establishment simply have overwhelming political influence or inertia, are blackmail and manipulation actively carried out while they're in office, some other sort of quid pro quo, are they persuaded into compliance by real or specious arguments from the security establishment, all of the above, none of the above? Rather than repeated affirmations that said security establishment exists and has control.

As far as the American democratic system being deeply flawed and ineffective, that's also unsurprising to anyone who pays minimal attention and something that would be enormously problematic even in the absence of such a security establishment. It's so bizarre to me that severe structural issues that were evident in the 19th century, like gerrymandering and the limitation to two parties, not only haven't been addressed and are simply accepted but are rarely even topics of public discussion. Without even getting into more subtle and complicated flaws revealed by the analysis of political science and other disciplines during the 20th century.
posted by XMLicious at 6:31 AM on November 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


Also, Michael Glennon did an interview with Chuck Mertz on the latter's Saturday morning radio show "This is Hell" in March after the initial paper was published. Here's the interview (38 minutes, Soundcloud link).
posted by Auden at 6:42 AM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


"It's so bizarre to me that severe structural issues that were evident in the 19th century, like gerrymandering and the limitation to two parties, not only haven't been addressed and are simply accepted but are rarely even topics of public discussion."

I would disagree with this. Being from Massachusetts, where Gerrymandering got its start, I will tell you that it is often addressed and it is not simply accepted - most people don't like it. That it actually goes on probably has more to do with the compromises that are needed to keep the government working than to any other sinister reasons. As for the two party system, that is just naturally occurring I would say, not being a huge fan of conspiracy theories and the like. Inside the parties, there are more liberal and more conservative members - although there used to be more variety. There isn't strict party discipline like in most parliamentary systems. I do agree with you in that most people don't question the two party system. I lived in Europe for a long time and I saw the bad side of the multi-party system, so I think ours works better for us. I think most people feel the same way.
posted by McMillan's Other Wife at 6:47 AM on November 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Why can't folks be concerned about both?

After the past couple of decades, I'm just too outraged-out to be able to multi-concern.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:04 AM on November 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


I would imagine a guy like this, so deeply imbedded in the institutional culture, might have a Matrix style moment when he suddenly realizes that everything in his world is not what it seems... and then gasps and writes a book. But this has been so obvious to so many of us for sooooooo long. And it's both the so-called secret government as well as one operating out in the open.. who are now successfully allied and gifted with a brand new stooge congress. I imagine some sort of burning of the Reichsstag event will be coming up soon... And then the national security types can cheerfully step in... 'pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!.... everything is under control..'
posted by anguspodgorny at 7:05 AM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


After the past couple of decades, I'm just too outraged-out to be able to multi-concern.

You could alternate M/W/F, T/TH, and take the weekends off
posted by Auden at 7:06 AM on November 8, 2014 [13 favorites]


how elected officials are deflected or suborned by the security establishment and institutions—are they bought or blackmailed before they ever get into office, does the establishment simply have overwhelming political influence or inertia, are blackmail and manipulation actively carried out while they're in office, some other sort of quid pro quo, are they persuaded into compliance by real or specious arguments from the security establishment, all of the above, none of the above? Rather than repeated affirmations that said security establishment exists and has control.

Well, I mean, Glennon wants you to buy his book, it's not like he's gonna lay out all the answers in a short interview.

But besides that, it doesn't seem to me that Glennon is talking about anything as overt and openly corrupt as blackmail or manipulation of individual politicians - far more a "political influence or inertia" and "persuaded into compliance by real or specious arguments from the security establishment" situation, where our elected government officials are letting the supposed "experts" establish policy because they don't have the knowledge and/or will to closely examine those policies.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:21 AM on November 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


As for the two party system, that is just naturally occurring I would say, not being a huge fan of conspiracy theories and the like.

Conspiracy theories are not needed; Duverger's law, for example.

As far as gerrymandering, I did phrase that poorly—it's definitely mentioned in passing, I just haven't come across prominent efforts or much interest expressed in doing away with it compared to other issues that receive attention during elections, activism, and other civic activities.

I sincerely hope that most of our apparent problems are indeed simply artefacts of or side effects from our democracy working, and working in a way that is best for us, but I am extremely skeptical. I am suspicious that many of the positive things that are heralded as successes of American democracy or the political American Way may actually be the result of extreme prosperity and geopolitical ascendancy during the past century, and that if we don't remedy basic and obvious problems in our political systems while times are good those positive things will be eroded or disappear when our prosperity is less extreme and our geopolitical dominance is less superlative.
posted by XMLicious at 7:22 AM on November 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm finding the original paper by Glennon linked to here by Auden very interesting and readable.
posted by XMLicious at 7:46 AM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to “live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face.” “Living upon its principal,” in this case, means that the Deep State has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion.
Mike Lofgren, Anatomy of the Deep State.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:52 AM on November 8, 2014 [18 favorites]


We need a simple way to vote for change in the voting booth without automatically losing to the other side, while not encouraging whimsical voting and clone confusion. I propose allowing straight ticket voting on top of one candidate selection. It can later seamlessly convert to federal House elections statewide without districts, which is allowed by the US Constitution. It's also a tiebreaker, the one with the most individual selections winning.
posted by Brian B. at 9:26 AM on November 8, 2014


I'd be a great deal more interested in knowing how elected officials are deflected or suborned by the security establishment and institutions

I have a guess about this that doesn't require conspiracy or blackmail or self-interested corruption. I've called the Giant Robot Theory of the Presidency:
I suspect that occupying the white house is to no small extent a lot like climbing into the cockpit of a large and complex piece of anime mecha. It mediates your senses, your reality is "augmented" in a number of ways, you have information being fed to you from various subsystems. You're also somewhat isolated by the cockpit, too, and it's easy for me to imagine that you start to think in terms of what those feeds are telling you and in terms of the controls in front of you... at first because it's all so new and awesome and exciting, later because you're used to it. The system itself shapes your perceptions and thinking... you start to think less like what you were before you climbed in and more like the system.
So once you're in the leadership of an organization, you see like the organization does, because you "see" via the organization... unless you're assiduously cultivating outisde perspectives.

This tendency may be more pronounced in organizations with strong mission-oriented and ends-justify-means cultures. And military/defense/national security orgs tend that way -- after all, they're full of people we train to set the value of human life (theirs and others) below "interests" (which often but not always include the safety and well-being of civilian citizens).
posted by weston at 9:55 AM on November 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


Heh, that's a cool analogy. It led me to the quote "We shape our tools and then our tools shape us" which was evidently said by John M. Culkin, a Jesuit priest at the time and professor at Fordham University, and colleague of Marshall McLuhan. And according to Wikipedia a consultant to the creators of Sesame Street.
posted by XMLicious at 10:33 AM on November 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


We need a simple way to vote for change in the voting booth without automatically losing to the other side

We need a lot of things. Even changing the voting system would not fix the problems discussed in the article, which is about deep systemic problems.

It could be said that a radical president could well fix many of these things, since executive power flows down from the top. But Obama's no radical, and even such a president's options would be limited if Congress works against him, and Obama has been dealt a historically bad hand there.
posted by JHarris at 10:57 AM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


After the past couple of decades, I'm just too outraged-out to be able to multi-concern.

That's what they're counting on.
posted by blucevalo at 11:07 AM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


We need a simple way to vote for change in the voting booth without automatically losing to the other side, while not encouraging whimsical voting and clone confusion. I propose allowing straight ticket voting on top of one candidate selection. It can later seamlessly convert to federal House elections statewide without districts, which is allowed by the US Constitution. It's also a tiebreaker, the one with the most individual selections winning.

Good work, no one's ever come up with that one before. Now comes the easy part: implement it!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:08 AM on November 8, 2014


We need a lot of things. Even changing the voting system would not fix the problems discussed in the article, which is about deep systemic problems.

I can make the briefest case that it all flows from logical errors in the voting system. For example, any person that could appeal to the majority of voters would be virtually impossible to elect because they would not appeal to the primary voters in order to become a rational choice. As a third party candidate, they become a spoiler and it becomes less of a rational choice. Therefore we have no rational way to elect a person that would appeal to the majority. In other words, the US voting system returns distorted information from the polling process, beginning with the primaries themselves. (Note: Even if one argues for a jungle primary, to reduce the spoiler effect, one should be entitled to two votes if the field is being narrowed to two candidates, which then would remove the reason for having a runoff. In other words, the one-vote thing is useless, even in the one system designed to overcome it.)
posted by Brian B. at 11:22 AM on November 8, 2014


Brian B., I would respond to that, but I'd do it by saying the very thing you quoted in your comment. How does that fix the shadow government problem described in the article?
posted by JHarris at 11:31 AM on November 8, 2014


BTW, I have high hopes that, once Obama gets out of office, that he'll go back into teaching, or write an in-depth book on the problems he had with governing, to find out exactly how his high-minded rhetoric clashed with the realities of governing. I think such a work could be very interesting.
posted by JHarris at 11:39 AM on November 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


The Canadian example strongly suggests that Duverger's law requires only that local races be two-party. In urban cores, races are often Liberal vs NDP, in the suburbs Liberal-Conservative, etc.

In the US, proportional representation would not be required for a multi party Congress, not if there were Tea vs Republican races in rural Alabama and Socialist vs Democrat races in urban Connecticut.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:56 AM on November 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


How does that fix the shadow government problem described in the article?

I assume that money is freely injected into politics because it has such a high return on investment, due to a two-party race that is rolled out in a series of voting increments with increased bets along the way. This slow and steady process produces increased favors owed. It also limits the competition early on, behind the scenes, and produces low-risk negative campaigning, since one's side is already taken for granted and the win is produced by attacking the only other candidate instead. In an open field of serious contenders, a positive and party-less approach can win with least money since voters have a wild-card option. I would also argue that this option might be the only sincere vote in the election, which is good as polling information, if not a winner.
posted by Brian B. at 12:02 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


B-but....

Maybe I should put it a different way.

The article reconciles the difference between Obama's rhetoric and his reality by exposing that a lot of the decisions of the executive branch have been effectively taken out of his hands, trickling up from the bottom of organizations like the CIA, the NSA and the military, and that this is why a president that, on paper, is completely unlike Bush has ended up governing in a way that looks suspiciously similar to Bush.

Changing the way elections are run will not remedy that.
posted by JHarris at 12:58 PM on November 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Glennon cites the example of Obama and his team being shocked and angry to discover upon taking office that the military gave them only two options for the war in Afghanistan: The United States could add more troops, or the United States could add a lot more troops. Hemmed in, Obama added 30,000 more troops.

So if Obama had publicly ordered a drawdown...it would not have happened? I don't really think so. Another example, Guantanamo staying open, came directly from Congress for political reasons.

There is a big problem with the shadow government, but it's taking it too far to blame them for things politicians are doing out in the open when they clearly have other choices. Some of this feels like it's bordering on tinfoil.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:06 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not the secret government I'm worried about. It's the one operating out in the open, siphoning money to the rich while reducing benefits to the poor and middle class that I'm concerned as hell about.

Why can't folks be concerned about both?



Cuz I know damned well they want to dilute my concern.
posted by notreally at 1:15 PM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


(And I don't recall Obama campaigning on reducing troops in Afghanistan at all? Could be wrong there, but I don't think this is a good example of shadow government guiding him.)
posted by Drinky Die at 1:19 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


and that this is why a president that, on paper, is completely unlike Bush has ended up governing in a way that looks suspiciously similar to Bush.

I would agree, but a slight change in vote accounting leads to a major change in the composition of Congress. I would argue at least three main parties would emerge, with the cascade of changes including each state dumping its districts as a result, in order for each to capture an extra seat if lucky. The dilemma raised in the interview is not always a public hazard when issues such as old-school patronage are raised, and consistency of programs is factored. The NSA is a good example, but that program operates in secret regardless, and not having it respond politically is removing its immediate threat to voters. I would wager that Democrat versus Republican similarities are preserved when the exact same amount of money is required to compete; when their selection is merely ratified by voters, not determined by them. That's not to say the parties are the same for individuals or even bureaucrats, definitely not; but that the parties are the same for donors and investors, conflict of interest keeping them apart. I confess that when I read this article a few weeks ago in the thread that was pro-Obama, it struck me as a bedrock reality of the two-party system that vacillates one election to the next, because we're stuck with one choice of change, never forward, only backward. Our last election basically expressed that aspect of gridlock, which is guaranteed by the spoiler effect (made worse by districts, which discourages voting unless it's a tight race, another piece of evidence that we're stuck).
posted by Brian B. at 1:49 PM on November 8, 2014


in order for each to capture an extra seat if lucky.

This refers to parties, not states. Gerrymandering preserves the two party system more than it preserves a one party district. A party+candidate vote (even as a write-in) would destroy the desire to make districts since it wouldn't guarantee the outcome for a more extreme candidate, and would probably lead to their loss. Statewide elections would produce better results for ad money spent, etc.
posted by Brian B. at 2:14 PM on November 8, 2014


I think a multi party system would tend to make the deep state more powerful. More factions to divide and conquer. One thing we could do to weaken the deep state would be to break up the parts of the security state and make each more autonomous. Consolidation and centralization of homeland security, military and intelligence organizations has been a mistake. It is too easy for one unaccountable person's views to dominate. There is no competition between agencies for money and influence. Elected leaders have no ability to divide and conquer.
posted by humanfont at 2:16 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think a multi party system would tend to make the deep state more powerful. More factions to divide and conquer.

Assuming the tail wags the dog here, then more political parties is easier to control?
posted by Brian B. at 2:21 PM on November 8, 2014


Assuming the tail wags the dog here, then more political parties is easier to control?

More like harder to harness for direct strategic gain.
posted by localroger at 2:38 PM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The desire for three or more parties is as likely or more likely to result in more extreme right wing politics as it is for more progressive governance. One only needs to look at the how much power small religious parties have had in Israel to see how this can happen. And has been discussed in other threads, fringe parties frequently serve as spoilers, by splitting the majority's vote. In this country it has happened several times at the presidential level--for example Lincoln in 1860 with four major parties, Wilson in 1912 (against T. Roosevelt and Taft), Nixon in 1968 (against Wallace and Humphrey) and Bush Sr (against Perot and Clinton), and of course the 2000 election.
posted by haiku warrior at 3:12 PM on November 8, 2014


And has been discussed in other threads, fringe parties frequently serve as spoilers, by splitting the majority's vote.

The premise here, directly above in my comments, is that removing the spoiler effect by allowing more voter input per race would result in more major parties in Congress, and perhaps lead to ditching the congressional district system by party demand (the number of functional parties being related to the voting system itself).
posted by Brian B. at 3:20 PM on November 8, 2014


A parliamentary system can empower small parties, which is both a good thing and a bad thing depending on who it empowers. In the US a party like the Greens is completely irrelevant. In many other countries they can position themselves as a critical part of a coalition and therefore make people take their goals seriously. But the flipside of that is that bad guys like fascists can do the same thing.

In some ways the pluses and minuses of that kind of system are evident in our party nomination processes and primaries, which are structurally pretty different from our general elections. So it might not just be the two-party system; with a more general system the same dynamic that put Sarah Palin on the ballot might have just put her in office.
posted by localroger at 3:37 PM on November 8, 2014


So if Obama had publicly ordered a drawdown...it would not have happened?

JFK was (famously) preparing for a drawdown if not complete pullout from Vietnam, just before he had that darned unfortunate incident in Dallas. Obama might've had that in mind. A little bit.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:22 PM on November 8, 2014


It's important to keep in mind that this interview focuses on foreign policy and security (read: war and war fighting). There are still significant differences on domestic policy, and it is still worth the time it takes to vote. I don't think that invalidates the points that Glennon is making, but "secret government" implies that all governmental actions are governed by unelected actors, and that just isn't the case.
posted by ent at 4:22 PM on November 8, 2014


JFK was (famously) preparing for a drawdown if not complete pullout from Vietnam

This is not actually true, sorry. (Paragraph 8 onwards)
posted by marienbad at 4:30 PM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


JFK was (famously) preparing for a drawdown if not complete pullout from Vietnam, just before he had that darned unfortunate incident in Dallas. Obama might've had that in mind. A little bit.

I guess you're right, I was wrong that this is tinfoiley. :P
posted by Drinky Die at 4:35 PM on November 8, 2014


Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change

People who push cynicism about voting are a much more serious threat to democracy.
posted by stbalbach at 5:06 PM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


stbalbach's comment should be amplified:

(gets out the megaphone, takes a deep breath)

PEOPLE WHO PUSH CYNICISM ABOUT VOTING ARE A MUCH MORE SERIOUS THREAT TO DEMOCRACY!!!

It's like pulling teeth trying to get people voting for midterms.
posted by JHarris at 5:20 PM on November 8, 2014


Obama asked his commanders to get us out of Iraq asap and even seemed to have accomplished it, yet today he's been forced to ask for 5 billion to send another 1500 soldiers back in after he was forced to send 1500 earlier this year. The military wanted to keep about 8000 in their last plan and they appear to be on pace to get it.
posted by humanfont at 5:22 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Obama does seem to be genuinely constrained by the established policy of the "deep state", but there have been lots of things he could do by fiat: for instance, he could instruct the guards at Guantanamo to stop the forced feeding of prisoners, stop the Justice Department fighting the challenges they bring, or even just let (some of?) the prisoners go free.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:37 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is not actually true, sorry. (Paragraph 8 onwards)

I'd see your random website opinion piece and raise you a buncha other random webste opinion pieces that say different, but I'm too tired of this game, in general.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:08 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


People who push cynicism about voting are a much more serious threat to democracy.

Metafilter is far guiltier of pushing cynicism about voting than a hundred authors writing on the topic of shadow governments.
posted by fatbird at 6:14 PM on November 8, 2014


How could anyone not be cynical about voting, even regular voters?
posted by Drinky Die at 6:21 PM on November 8, 2014


Not that mopping up individual policies as at Guantanamo isn't very important, but what can be done about this "deep state"? Won't it continue to bubble up problems and even atrocities? It was naive to think that 8 years of Bush-Cheney with such aggressive bureaucratic players as Addington wouldn't have solidified policy decisions into institutional behaviors. The military-industrial complex insulates itself in many ways--contracts are distributed over wide geographic areas, in key districts to put pressure on politicians to continue them. Just like health care reform couldn't put the insurance companies out of business, neither can some of this malignant military and retrograde policy-making machinery be retired without repercussions.

It's frustrating to watch helplessly as the same playbooks are trotted out again: in Libya we used risk of an impending genocide to creep the mission towards regime change, and again we are doing it with ISIS/ISIL. It's easy for an institution to move towards a clearly defined target, and the same Foggy Bottom basements that plotted and plotted against Castro now seem to be stuck in a loop of "get the bad guys" with no regard for ethics, transparency, or democratic control and a complete dismissal of the long-term balances. In Egypt, although American influence on their several revolutions can't be proved, it's hard for me not to imagine departments at cross-purposes pushing towards removal of a dictator in favor of democracy, then removal of the democratic choice who didn't align enough with our interests, and finally reversion to an autocracy we could live with--no constructive change, but the whirring of circular motion. ISIS seems to me a symptom of our relationship with Saudi Arabia and the other oil states we have enabled (from which many of their fighters are drawn), but these countries align enough with our interests and have enmeshed themselves in co-dependency with us too much for us to push against the sources of the problems we exacerbate.

I don't know whether different personnel could make a difference. Younger folk without cold war mindsets might still be thinking like post-911 Tom Friedman (let's just smash a random country to teach them a lesson). Perhaps Obama's scandal-impaired move to have Petraeus move between Pentagon and CIA was meant to unify cultures at cross-purposes. It just seems as if some of those top-down levers, which Bush-Cheney used effectively, could also be used as a foot on the brake.
posted by Schmucko at 6:26 PM on November 8, 2014


The President has to convince the deep state to follow him. He could do the things you suggest Joe, but he risks alienating the people he needs to pursuade if he is going to implement other policies.

Politicians are checked by the deep state, but they are not totally powerless in the face of it.
posted by humanfont at 7:05 PM on November 8, 2014


We were warned about this type of thing by the founding fathers:

The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free. The institutions chiefly alluded to are standing armies and the correspondent appendages of military establishments...These are not vague inferences drawn from supposed or speculative defects in a Constitution, the whole power of which is lodged in the hands of a people, or their representatives and delegates, but they are solid conclusions, drawn from the natural and necessary progress of human affairs. (The Federalist No. 8)

The veteran legions of Rome were an overmatch for the undisciplined valor of all other nations and rendered her the mistress of the world. Not the less true is it, that the liberties of Rome proved the final victim to her military triumphs; and that the liberties of Europe, as far as they ever existed, have, with few exceptions, been the price of her military establishments. A standing force, therefore, is a dangerous, at the same time that it may be a necessary, provision. On the smallest scale it has its inconveniences. On an extensive scale its consequences may be fatal. (The Federalist No. 41)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:47 PM on November 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think it quite possible a few members of the Security Apparatus escort the new President into the Oval Office, show him some photos of Kennedy in that car in Dallas, and ask him if he has any further questions.
posted by scottymac at 8:37 PM on November 8, 2014


I have high hopes that, once Obama gets out of office, that he'll go back into teaching, or write an in-depth book on the problems he had with governing, to find out exactly how his high-minded rhetoric clashed with the realities of governing.

I can't imagine this would ever happen; it would undermine faith in both his own party and the vague idea of democracy that legitimizes our current government, and Obama does not seem to be much in the way of Chaotic Neutral. Post-office, I would imagine he'd be much more likely to try offering advice on governance to future democratic presidents rather than telling the citizens anything new, since the citizens aren't the ones who control the day-to-day operations of the government.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:38 PM on November 8, 2014


PEOPLE WHO PUSH CYNICISM ABOUT VOTING ARE A MUCH MORE SERIOUS THREAT TO DEMOCRACY!!!

Cynicism is helpful. It's much better to be a non-voter who does things IRL than to be a voter who sits at home the rest of the year.

Vote only for the candidates you truly agree with, but don't leave it at that. Write, organize, protest, and throw sand in the gears of the deep state however you can.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:47 PM on November 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


How could anyone not be cynical about voting, even regular voters?

Because the thing about voting cynicism is, it justifies itself. The more people who are cynical about it, the more difficult it is to cause change. And make no mistake, the Republicans know and rely on this, it's why they've been actively trying to make voting harder for people. Voting is one of a very small number of things in life that one just has to do, regardless.

Cynicism is helpful. It's much better to be a non-voter who does things IRL than to be a voter who sits at home the rest of the year.

What? So the choice is between doing nothing at all except vote, and going things 24/7/365 without voting? Pluh.
posted by JHarris at 2:01 AM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I vote almost every year but I really have to agree with anemone of the state that exhorting people to civic involvement is far more important than exhorting them to vote. These issues aren't merely cynicism, they're real problems that actually, severely impact the effectiveness of our democracy.

The Democrats just as much as the Republicans are depending on everyone being content to scramble to hand power back and forth between a limited number of inextirpably-entrenched interests, whatever other differences there may be between the two parties at this particular moment. So yeah, I do think that actually taking IRL action in response to political issues and other forms of civic involvement are better than simply stopping by the voting booth once a year like you're renewing your DMV registration and desperately checking off a party name or person's name you've heard of in the vague hope that this will effect a positive change on your community.
posted by XMLicious at 3:12 AM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


People who push cynicism about voting are a much more serious threat to democracy.

PARKLIFE!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:50 AM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


How could anyone not be cynical about voting, even regular voters?

For cynicism, try being a technology pro with decades of risk management and audit experience. As I've said before, your vote was not counted because the servers and networks are hacked. I invite anyone to prove otherwise. Please show all work.
posted by mikelieman at 5:12 AM on November 9, 2014


How could anyone not be cynical about voting, even regular voters?

Because the thing about voting cynicism is, it justifies itself. The more people who are cynical about it, the more difficult it is to cause change. And make no mistake, the Republicans know and rely on this, it's why they've been actively trying to make voting harder for people. Voting is one of a very small number of things in life that one just has to do, regardless.


We don't disagree that the Republicans are fine with cynicism, suppressed turnout benefits them. My only point is that cynicism is the most realistic way to look at the state of our Democracy right now. Not expressing that truth for the sake of trying to win more votes strikes me as...well...cynical. :P
posted by Drinky Die at 11:17 AM on November 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Being involved personally is fine, working locally is fine. We're agreed that voting by itself is not enough.

But, voting, itself, is the most important thing.

In every other system of government? Affecting change is hard, sometimes brutally hard. Hundreds of people die every day trying to change their political systems for the better. The natural goal of the powerful is to maintain that power.

In the US it's no different, it's just been masked by a veneer of civility that's not as all as deeply ingrained as you might think. Lots of people have worked very hard for two centuries to maintain the thin film of democracy that we have, because they knew what the alternative is.

Okay, be as cynical as you want, but STILL VOTE. I am completely serious when I say that it is one of the most important things you can do. You might say "it's just one vote it doesn't matter," but I can tell you that a very small number is still not zero, and anyway who are you to demand more of a say than anyone else? In fact, low turnouts are the best reason to vote, because it means your vote is that much more proportionately represented.

You might complain "another person voting the opposite way cancels my vote," but I tell you, if you don't then no one will cancel his.

You might wail that you have no time, but I respond suck it up, you have a lunch break? You get off at 5 PM? You can vote. An afternoon every two years is better than forming secret conclaves under threat of raids by military police in order to affect revolution.

You might say that you don't feel right voting for the lesser evil. Well I will tell you that you can at least write someone in as a protest, or just vote for the lesser evil, as it's still better than the greater.

My only point is that cynicism is the most realistic way to look at the state of our Democracy right now. Not expressing that truth for the sake of trying to win more votes strikes me as...well...cynical. :P

Well, this is the first time I've ever thought to say this to you, Drinkie Die, but feh. Impugn whatever motives to me you like, I'll just sit here and do what I can to convince people that democracy is worth it, regardless of what you or anyone else says. For democracy isn't an absolute good, in no way is it a way of giving people good government, it has no moral barometer attached to it, instead it is merely a way of giving people the government they deserve. I would hope that we in the United States deserved better.

I'm going to go mutter darkly to myself for a while. I'm out.
posted by JHarris at 3:12 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


How could anyone not be cynical about voting, even regular voters?

Low expectations!

I realize that sounds like cynicism (and it might still sound like that at the end of my comment), but over time I've come to believe we're sold to expect too much from just participating in general elections.

It's certainly a better form of input than no input, and elections matter, shadow governments or giant bureaucracies notwithstanding. However, it's a really crude and relatively infrequent signal.

Imagine for a moment that you get a new job. The group of people you interviewed with come back and say "you're hired! We liked what you had to say better than anybody else we interviewed. Go to work!" But they don't tell you what they specifically liked or what they want you to do (just that you're hired!). They only tell you that there will be a review in a year, and they'll decide whether or not to keep you on then.

That's how much information our votes give our elected officeholders. Except it's 2-6 years between reviews.

Voting is essential, and without an electorate that does it, a government that doesn't represent its citizens and their interests well is all but guaranteed. It probably helps guide things at least marginally now. But it's still limited enough that if we want more from government we may have to do more.
posted by weston at 3:39 PM on November 9, 2014


Also, you can have amazing abs in just five minutes per day.

Seriously, dude, those are all fine principles to hold; I think we're just reacting to the hyperbole over how expressing cynicism about voting is a more serious threat to democracy in a thread about an Orwellian secret government that has suborned all our elected representatives and has things like fleets of flying killer robots and the makings of panopticon surveillance in its arsenal. Like, you're literally saying that not going and writing in Mickey Mouse for every open seat is more dangerous than that.
posted by XMLicious at 3:51 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Lots of people have worked very hard for two centuries to maintain the thin film of democracy that we have, because they knew what the alternative is.

Is it Bush v. Gore?
posted by Drinky Die at 4:39 PM on November 9, 2014


Gerrymandering:That it actually goes on probably has more to do with the compromises that are needed to keep the government working than to any other sinister reasons.

No, see, it is one of the sinister aspects. In this case, one of the tools used to disenfranchise a voting bloc. The (so-called) compromises, another of the turds in our democratic punchbowl, turn out to be more carpet-bagging that good faith negotiations--in this case you just put some lipstick on the pig and send him out on stage to do his little dance, and there you have it: a bill supported by those who paid for it, with a cute title to use as a hook to hang the next season's campaign slogans on.
posted by mule98J at 6:17 PM on November 9, 2014


« Older Why I’m staying in Afghanistan   |   *adjusts socks* Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments