The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A feature of democracy, so I am told:  If your leader is a disaster, you can give him the boot come election day.  “Throw the bums out.”

If your nation’s economy has been in the doldrums for four years, unemployment is high, debt is climbing without limit … surely the sitting president would not be reelected?  Right?

To be clear -- I am not arguing that Obama should have been denied reelection on the grounds that his challenger would make a better president.  I merely point out that it seems a reasonable strategy to replace one’s elected officials if conditions have not improved during their term.  Perhaps this is unfair to Obama, on the grounds that he has been unlucky[1].  This reminds me of the anecdote that Napoleon, when considering the promotion of a prospective general, would ask if he had been lucky.  If America cannot obtain competent presidents, at least we can hope for lucky ones.

If you are still offended, think of this strategy as another unsightly wrinkle of democracy. Obama is turned out after four years of lackluster performance, I have to slog through attack ads for water board candidates, and it all works out somehow because God looks out for drunks, fools, and the United States of America.

But talking about Obama is not going to get us anywhere.  Look at me, I’m anticipating that [1] footnote where I say mean things about our sainted Nobel Prize winner.  Instead let’s talk about a clear and unequivocal disaster.  

Let’s talk about Detroit.

For more than four decades Detroit has been a poster child for decay, crime, poverty, corruption.  And during those same decades, Detroit’s elected officials have been members of one and only one political party.

Are there external factors?  Sure, you can make excuses for Obama, you can make excuses for Detroit, you can make excuses for anything.  Detroit has suffered from the decline of the auto industry.  But so have other cities in Michigan.  I wouldn’t fear for my life if I were to drive through Ypsilanti.

I mean Pittsburgh used to have a steel industry, which has fallen upon hard times.  The one and only time I drove to downtown Detroit, I was looking at the skyline, which seemed normal … until I noticed a burned-out skyscraper with missing windows.  Don’t think they have that kind of thing on the banks of the Allegheny River.

Also note that I do not claim that Democratic rule is necessarily responsible for Detroit’s problems.  I’m just saying that after a few decades as America’s murder capital, as a place where you can buy a mansion for a song in spite of its easy access to a crackhouse, as a municipality so many of whose inhabitants have fled that entire neighborhoods are being bulldozed … you might consider the possibility of voting for someone different.  Hell, start a new party if you hate Republicans so much.

Or how about Washington, DC?  I read something very interesting recently, even though the author, Megan McArdle, was not trying to say anything profound:

I think that DC needs a new regulation.  All current councilmembers should have to register--and run--as Republicans in 2014.  This would encourage political diversity in DC, creating a space for Republicans as well as Democrats to compete in our elections.

Now McArdle didn’t actually mean this.  She was making a reductio ad absurdum argument:

Stop snorting.  I don't see why council members would oppose such a sensible rule, since after all, that's how they think business should be regulated.

But when you think about it … why is it absurd to imagine a DC council member running as a Republican?  Is DC not famous for Detroit-type problems, albeit on a smaller scale?  Once again -- one party government, decades of malaise, city couldn’t possibly elect someone from a different party even though they elected a mayor who was caught on fucking camera smoking crack for fuck’s sake.

Am I the only one bothered by this?

[1] That was just a stipulation for the sake of argument.  In my opinion, if Obama were less enamored with crony capitalism, with taking trillions of dollars from productive people and flushing that money down the rathole of Democratic party special interests, if he were less hostile to job formation … maybe he’d be luckier.

But I doubt Romney would have been much better.  And it’s not important to the larger point I’m trying to make.

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