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A Necessary Fence

We very much welcome a victory by either party.
     —John Browne, Amoco CEO, on the outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election

Hillary, Obama, and McCain are the best America can come up with? How much more transparent can it be that the office of President is a slot filled by the one who can claw their way to the top to best serve their elite puppetmasters? A harridan, an empty vessel, and a bona-fide nut, all espousing minor variations of the same ideological theme. Once again the voters are asked to take it up the ass, this time without any lubricant, and, though some party-poopers may grumble a bit, they obligingly bend over.

The transparent and illimitable contempt of the ruling classes towards the public certainly seems warranted, given how easily the public gloms onto the spectacle of a cynical and vicious race between equally repellant moral monsters, instead of demanding candidates that serve the increasingly dire needs of a society in precipitous decline.

When Murka emerged triumphant from the Landowner's War Against Taxes (aka The Murkan Revolution) it had to fashion some sort of government that cleverly promised freedom and the pursuit of happiness for everybody (ie: white males) while simultaneously protecting the wealth and power of the privileged. As Chomsky likes to quote James Madison: "the primary reponsibility of government is 'to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.'"

This is a good thing to keep in mind when considering how, just to give an arbitrary example, the majority is faced once again with a presidential election in which the three front runners all share a viewpoint that benefits the power elite against the interests of the majority.

For a more technical analysis of how this came to be, here's a summary from biographer Robert A. Caro's third tome on LBJ:

[The] creators of a government of the people feared not only the people's rulers but the people themselves, the people in their numbers, the people in their passions, what the Founding Father Edmund Randolph called "the turbulence and follies of democracy."

The Framers of the Constitution feared the people's power because they were, many of them, members of what in America constituted an aristocracy, an aristocracy of the educated, the well-born, and the well-to-do, and they mistrusted those who were not educated or well-born or well-to-do. More specifically, they feared the people's power because, possessing, and esteeming property, they wanted the rights of property protected against those who did not possess it. In the notes he made for a speech in the Constitutional Convention, James Madison wrote of the "real or supposed difference of interests" between "the rich and the poor"—"those who will labor under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings"—and of the fact that over the ages to come the latter would come to outnumber the former. "According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the latter," he noted. "Symptoms, of a leveling spirit, as we have understood, have sufficiently appeared in certain quarters to give notice of the future danger." But the Framers feared the people's power also because they hated tyranny, and they knew there could be a tyranny of the people as well as the tyranny of a King, particularly in a system designed so that, in many ways, the majority ruled. "Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power," Madison wrote. These abuses were more likely because the emotions of men in the mass ran high and fast, they were "liable to err... from fickleness and passion," and "the major interest might under sudden impulses be tempted to commit injustice on the minority."

So the Framers wanted to check and restrain not only the people's rulers, but the people; they wanted to erect what Madison called "a necessary fence" against the majority will. To create such a fence, they decided that the Congress would have not one house but two, and that while the lower house would be designed to reflect the popular will, that would not be the purpose of the upper house. How, Madison asked, is "the future danger"—the danger of "a levelling spirit"—"to be guarded against on republican principles? How is the danger in all cases of interested coalitions to oppress the minority to be guarded against? Among other means by the establishment of a body in the government sufficiently respectable for its wisdom and virtue, to aid on such emergencies, the preponderance of justice by throwing its weight into that scale." This body, said Madison, was to be the Senate. Summarizing in the Constitutional Convention the ends that would be served by this proposed upper house of Congress, Madison said they were "first to protect the people against their rulers; secondly to protect the people against the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led."

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...When one of the Framers, James Wilson of Pennsylvania, suggested that [senators] be elected by the people, not a single member of the Convention rose to support him. "The people should have as little to do as may be about the government," Roger Sherman declared. "They lack information and are constantly liable to be misled." After Elbridge Gerry said that "The evils we experience flow from an excess of democracy," the Framers took steps to guard against such an excess. There would, they decided, be a "filtration" or "refinement" of the people's will before it reached the Senate: senators would be elected not by the people but by the legislatures of their respective states—a drastic filtration since in 1787 the franchise was so narrow that the legislatures themselves were elected by only a small percentage of the citizenry.

That Mr. Caro is talking about the Senate does not mean the same sorts of embedded elite-protecting failsafes don't also apply to the executive branch: the President is not chosen by the people, remember, but by an electoral college; and, before that, by even more granular filtering that occurs every step of the way via machine-driven candidate selection between two factions of a single party that doesn't like outsiders hampering the works. (The farcical ritual of the awesome importance to always have to select between the lesser of two evils to prevent a worse evil is specifically designed to preclude any challenges coming from without; that's why the greatest vituperation is directed at those who threaten to vote for a third party candidate, especially those who dare to challenge the whole game (ie: protecting the interests of property) from the left.)

Murka is a country founded on the rights of property, and about the only thing that's changed since its bloody birth is that some things that were once property — ie: people — achieved legal personhood (after much more bloodletting, of course). It's also interesting to consider that shortly after this wrenching transformation of property into people — so vigorously and violently opposed, remember — that a new class of person was created, almost as if to compensate for the loss; and, in a fitting irony, these newly defined legal fictitious entities, these "corporate persons", quickly became everyone's new master, making slaves of us all. (Tragically this unholy beast, accidentally summoned yet!, proved uncontrollable and now seeks to enslave the world.)

This is the schizophrenic fissure at the root of the Murkan psyche — the promise of freedom for all, while structurally handing it only to the propertied classes. And into this yawning chasm — which is roped off and ignored by the entire society — has crept a theology of greed that, like some kind of horrific economic black hole, threatens to engulf the world in its eschatological ecstasy. A whimpering end of history indeed.

And with the concentration of media power, that "necessary fence" is truly a propaganda enclosure. As one of the Framers said, "They lack information and are constantly liable to be misled." Clearly, this is proven time and time again — with each election, in fact; or with each war, with each corporate bailout, with each humane bombing, with each extrajudicial assassination, with each new free-trade agreement, with each new law against some consensual act, with each denial of executive malfeasance, with each tax cut for the wealthy, with each new surge, with each spending cut for human aid, with each justification for precision bombing funerals and weddings, with each new supreme court justice, with each new terror alert, with each new security precaution, with each removal of footwear at the airport, with each new non-lethal weapon, with each protest pen, with each red-herring (sex scandal; prayer in schools; etc), with each passage of some bill that empowers the police state, with each new rollback of some legal protection (eg: habeas corpus), with each new justification of torture; etc...

So next time you're wondering how it is that a purported "democracy" like Murka proffers three such miserable choices for president, keep in mind that the Framers of the Constitution themselves hated democracy — for everybody, that is, except themselves. We the People set the tone for the new country's penchant for euphemistic doublespeak when what was clearly meant was We the Propertied. Murka is their game, their casino, their land, and it always has been. The house always wins, and the fix is always in. Always. The role of the public in their table game of democracy is exactly like that of the audience in America's Funniest Home Videos: to dissemble enthusiasm while calmly and happily voting for one of the pre-ordained candidates chosen by some invisible body of judges who have a knack for narrowing all the choices down to the three most disappointing.