Noel Ignatiev's Blog

How Democracy Works

By Noel Ignatiev

According to this morning’s New York Times, President Obama is about to present his budget proposal, which includes cuts in social security and medicare as part of an effort to reach a compromise with the Republicans. The story is followed by comments from readers, nearly all expressing anger and outrage at what they call Obama’s betrayal, many saying they wished they had not voted for him. I am not a regular reader of the Times comments sections, but I do not recall ever seeing such unanimity on any issue. Here is the link:

This small episode refutes the contention that, notwithstanding various imperfections, public opinion expressed through the electoral system influences the actions of public officials, because they want to stay in office. In fact, public opinion will make no difference in this case, just as it made no difference in 2008 when departing President Bush, with Obama’s agreement, gave away trillions to banks and insurance companies in spite of overwhelming opposition from the “public.” At that time one congressman reported that his mail was running nine-to-one against the giveaway, and urged Congress to hurry up and get it done before his constituents marched on Washington and burned it down.

As a student of history I am not surprised by political officials lying and manipulating public opinion to get people to go along with what the rulers want (example: Saddam Hussein’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction”), but I admit to some awe at how brazenly they do things that run openly counter to the declared wishes of those they designate as their constituents, and get away with it. The key can be found in the Federalist Paper No. 10, in which James Madison explained why a republican form of government is useful in preventing the “interested and overbearing majority” from imposing “abolition of debts, an equal division of property, or any other improper or wicked project.”

As C.L.R. James said, the capitalists will only be defeated when they are running for their lives.


Lee Roskin: It seems quite amazing that Obama and the Democrats can easily push through their nefarious plans such as eternal war, negation of civil rights, impoverishment of their citizens.  And we still see excuses, “disappointment”, “mistakes” pointed out by the Liberals, Progressives, Democrats, Lefties.  The sainted Chomsky is on board saying that if he was voting in a swing state he would vote for Obama.  We also must suffer Michael Moore, The Nation, Tom Hayden, Ray McGovern, Todd Gitlin and many, many more.  I suppose it is not so amazing but it shocks my mind.  One could easily see the real Obama even before his first election – – anyone who talks like that, like a preacher, is to be feared – – but the Liberals take that for eloquence.  I talked to a few people who thought Obama’s second term would unleash his true “liberal” (decent) self.  His true self is in deed being unleashed but it is violent, thieving, ugly, deceptive, monstrous.  Obama Unchained.  Perhaps the reasonable public (what percentage is that) see through this thug but can do nothing, have no choice whatsoever, totally helpless.

Back to Noel Ignatiev’s Author Page