Thursday, March 1, 2018

"To call government thus constituted a Democracy is to insult the understanding of mankind"

Two days ago Chris Hayes had Michelle Goldberg on his show to discuss the reaction in the Georgia legislature against the movement to disempower the NRA and the gun industry it is a front for.   In discussing the campaign to convince corporations to cut their ties to the NRA, giving perks and discounts, etc. to NRA members, Michelle Goldberg said something very important, in passing.   My transcription

And one of the things that's so interesting is that the power of – I hate to say the power of the consumer – there's a lot of people in this county who are very politically disempowered because of the structures of our institutions that kind of vastly privilege rural white people who tend to be the populations who are gun owning.  Right, those people just have so much more voting power, they have so much more representation than the rest of us.  But that's not true when it comes to consumers where suddenly people, where large concentrations of educated people on the coasts are not figures of contempt and irrelevance. 

Without using the words she pointed out that the Constitution of the United States give vastly more voting power to conservative rural voters than to other voters and so the Congress either willingly or by force, has to give such voters a disproportionate consideration in what they do but that corporations have to consider consumers on a different basis and so what the majority of Americans want in such issues as stopping gun violence has power in the corporate world that it doesn't have in exactly where democracy should demand it does have power, in the government of the United States.  That discrepancy was built into the very institutions of the government by the slaveowners who demanded more power for themselves than the larger numbers of people in states where slaveholding was either rare or dying.   And, through a process of blackmail and appeals to the most corrupt tendencies of the Northern delegates and legislators in the North, they got pretty much what they wanted, provisions in the election and representation to the government that are still distorting our politics, enabling exactly the situation that Michelle Goldberg noted disempowers liberals and even moderates and conservatives with a sense of morality, right now.

Goldberg didn't state it but that disparity in voting power, what gives a voter in Wyoming so much more power per person than a voter from California or New York is a direct product of the slave-owning aristocracy demanding such concessions to them in framing the Constitution and the government so as to protect their economic privileges and wealth and to thwart democracy.   The northern interests represented by such members of the Constitutional Congress as Alexander Hamilton gave them that because they were able to frame things to give them what they wanted in terms of commerce.  That isn't any great secret of history because the "founders" were explicit in stating what they'd done in their propaganda to peddle ratification of the Constitution, something which the coming generations of abolitionists had to face, over and over again, none so eloquently as a man who knew many if not most of the principles in the founding generation, his father being one of the foremost of them, one of the few who had never held anyone in slavery,  John Adams.

In Phillip Wendell's great book documenting the corruption that was built into the very structure of American constitutional government. he quote a long passage from John Quincy Adams which lays out that corruption which is still there in the form of  the non-proportional representation in the Senate,  the Electoral College, and which is revived and expanded Republican voter suppression, which turned the infamous 3/5ths provision into an effective 5/5ths provision in which the successors of the slave owners disenfranchise large numbers of citizens even as they insist that they are counted for congressional representation while stealing their rights to have those representatives represent them.  You could make most of the most serious charges that Adams made against the structure of government set up in the Constitution today, translating a few term and issues into their modern manifestation, as well as a few numbers, understanding how much of our troubles flow from the unequal representation the Founders granted to the most morally depraved among them IN ORDER TO THWART EQUALITY AND EQUAL REPRESENTATION SO AS TO PRIVILEGE THE WORST OF THE WEALTHY AMONG THEM.

And, before giving you what Phillips quoted from John Quincy Adams, I'll remind you that voter suppression that is being attempted in every state where Republicans hold the government, what Adams specifically referred to, is worse in that it counts people for congressional representation, in the Electoral College vote and the power that gives while the Republicans would steal 5/5ths of that representation for themselves. That's not an issue that ended in 1865 with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War amendments, it's their strategy right now. 

In outward show, it is a representation of persons in bondage;  in fact; it is a representation of their masters, - the oppressor representing the oppressed.  -  Is it in the compass of human imagination to devise a more perfect exemplification of the art of committing the lamb to the tender custody of the wolf?  - ' The representative is thus constituted, not the friend, agent and trustee of the person whom he represents, but the most inveterate of his foes.  - It was one of the the curses from that Pandora's box, adjusted at the time, as usual by a compromise, the whole advantage of which enured to the benefit of the South, and to aggravate the burdens of the North'  - If there be a parallel to it in human history, it can only be that of the Roman Emperors, who, from the days when Julius Caesar substituted a military despotism in the place of a republic, among the offices which  they always concentrated upon themselves, was that of tribune of the people.  A Roman Emperor tribune of the people, is an exact parallel to that feature in the Constitution of the United States which makes the master the representative of his slave – The Constitution of the United States expressly prescribes that no title of nobility shall be granted by the United States.  The spirit of this interdict is not a rooted antipathy to the grant of mere powerless empty titles, but to titles of nobility;  to the institution of privileged orders of men.   But what order of men under the most absolute of monarchies or the most aristocratic of republics, was ever invested with such an odious and unjust privilege as that of the separate and exclusive representation of less than half a million owners of slaves, in the Hall of this House, in the chair of the Senate and in the Presidential mansion?    -  This investment of power in the owners of one species of property concentrated in the highest authorities of the nation, and disseminated through thirteen of the twenty-six States of the Union,  constitutes a privileged order of men in the community, more adverse to the rights of all, and more pernicious to the interests of the whole, than any order of nobility ever known.  To call government thus constituted a Democracy is to insult the understanding of mankind.  To call it an Aristocracy, is to do injustice to that form of government.  Aristocracy is the government of the best.  Its standard qualification for assession to power be merit, ascertained by popular election, recurring at short intervals of time.  If even that government is prone to degenerate into tyranny, what must be the character of that form of polity in which the standard qualification for access to power is wealth in the possession of slaves?   It is doubly tainted with the infection of riches and of slavery.  There is no name in the language of national jurisprudence that can define it – no model in the records of ancient history, or in the political theories of Aristotle, with which it can be likened.  It was introduced into the Constitution of the United States by an equivocation – a representation of property under the name of persons.  Little did the members of the Convention from the free States imagine or foresee what a sacrifice to Moloch was hidden under the mask of this concession.  - The House of Representatives of the United States consists of 223 members – all by the letter of the Constitution, representatives only of persons, as 135 of them really are;  but the other 88, equally representing the persons of their constituents, by whom they are elected, also represent under the name of other persons, upward of two and a half millions of slaves, held as the property of less than half a million of the white constituents, and valued at twelve hundred millions of dollars.   Each of these 88 members represents in fact the wolf of that mass of associated wealth,  and the persons and exclusive interests of its owners;  all thus knit together, like the members of a moneyed corporation, with a capital not of thirty-five or forty or fifty, but of twelve hundred millions of dollars, exhibiting the most extraordinary exemplifications of the anti-republican tendencies of associated wealth that the world ever sawl  -  Here is one class of men, consisting of not more than one fortieth part of the whole people, not more than one thirtieth part of the free population, exclusively devoted to their persona interests, identified with their own as slaveholders of the same associated wealth, and wielding by their votes, upon every question of government or of public policy, two-fifths of the whole power of the House.   In the Senate of the Union the proportions of the slaveholding power is yet greater.  By the influence of slavery, in the States where the institution is tolerated, over their elections, no other than a slaveholder can rise to the distinction of obtaining a seat in the Senate;  and thus of the 52 members of the Federal Senate 26 are owners of slaves, and as effectively representatives of that interest as the 88 members elected by them to the House – By this process it is that all political power in the States is absorbed and engrossed by the owners of slaves, and the overruling policy of the States is shaped to strengthen and consolidate their domination.  The legislative, executive and judicial authorities are all in their hands – the preservation, propagation and perpetuation of the black code of slavery – every law of the legislature becomes a link in the chain of the slave;  every executive act a rivet to his hapless fate; every judicial decision a perversion of the human intellect to the justification of wrong .  Its reciprocal operation upon the government of the nation is, to establish an artificial majority in the slave representation over that of the free people in the American congress, and thereby to make the PRESERVATION, PROPAGATION AND PERPETUATION OF SLAVERY THE VITAL AND ANIMATING SPIRIT OF THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT.  -  The result is seen in the fact that, at this day, the President of the United States,  the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and five out of nine of the Judges of the Supreme Judicial Court of the United States, are not only citizens of the slaveholding States, bu individual slave holders themselves.  So are, and constantly have been, with scarcely an exception all of the members of both Houses of Congress from the slaveholding States;  and so are in immensely disproportionate numbers, the commanding officers of the army and navy;  the officers of the customs;  the registers and receivers of the land offices; and the postmasters throughout the slaveholding States.  - The Biennial Register indicates the birthplace of all the officers employed in the government of the Union.  If it were required to designate the owners of this species of property among them, it would be little more than a catalog of slaveholders.

I will point out that in regard to the Electoral College, that the evils of what Adams described are magnified in that any Southern voter who favored a president who was opposed to slavery would have been disenfranchised even as he voted (all voters being men at the time) and there are states now in which a person can cast a vote in every election in their lifetime and never having it once count toward who will be president through the Electoral College system.  Not only are the people who are disenfranchised by overt injustice through racism deprived of representation but people who aspire to justice and equality are also partially disenfranchised by having their votes thrown out for effective consideration - exactly what has led to losers of the popular vote becoming some of our worst presidents, including, within our lifetimes, George W. Bush and Donald Trump. 

No comments:

Post a Comment