The outcome of last November’s mid-term elections reminded us for the umpteenth time that democracy in America is a corrupt “democratic process” controlled by an elite class that conspires to make secondary issues important and to treat important issues as either irrelevant or illegitimate. One party may be in; another, out; but the regime is in power permanently.
The model was conceived in 1865, came of age in 1933-45, and reached its full maturity in the 1960’s. Its upholders in the upper echelons of the Stupid Party are predominantly mendacious, while those atop the Evil Party machine are criminally insane; but all-too-many elected officials and public servants in the United States combine a mix of those qualities that makes them different from one another in degree, not in kind.
The regime presents dozens of secondary issues that are supposed to galvanize us all, from “gay marriage,” flag burning, and parental notification to school prayer, amnesty, gun control, and Alaskan wildlife. On Iraq, the parties may differ on the timetable for withdrawal or the role of our allies in the process, but not on the underlying premise that military intervention around the world is a legitimate tool of U.S. foreign policy. The “issues” are discussed ad nauseam, but that discussion remains informed by the mandated core concepts: human rights, equality, tolerance, diversity, “free markets,” and other supposedly universal values and principles.
Never touching the propositional core, Red and Blue teams go out of their way to conjure up deep and weighty mutual differences that result in son et lumière shows every Sunday morning. It is a verifiable law of American politics today that the stridency of political rhetoric escalates in reverse proportion to the substance of issues discussed. The focus on peripheral issues facilitates the ongoing fragmentation of America into an amorphous jumble of special-interest groups devoid of moral restraints and national identity, ignorant of the past and vulnerable to systematic manipulation by the disciples of Gramsci on the “left” and Strauss on the “right.”
Thus neutered, straightjacketed, and packaged as “democracy,” our “democratic process” is elevated into a secular religion that we are all expected to celebrate. Democracy, as President George W. Bush uses the term, is all about elections and competing political parties—both at home and abroad, where “the global democratic revolution” is supposedly taking place under our benevolent guidance. The left approves: As E.J. Dionne noted years ago, “the president embraced much of what liberal human rights advocates have been saying for years.” In the same spirit, back in November-December 2000, Al Gore was adamant that his demand for Florida recounts was prompted by the conviction that “every vote must count” and that the wrangling over pregnant chads actually reflected the vitality of “our democracy.” Both sides convey the same message to the abstaining majority of Americans: You really have a lot of power; it’s there if you only have the sense to use it; and you have no right to complain if you don’t.
So far, so conventional. Our readers know what the real issues are: identity, culture, faith, family, liberty, biological and civilizational survival. What some of them do not know but may suspect, or hope for, is that the charade of our “democratic process” is somehow unique to America; that, even if most of our fellow citizens are gullible philistines who believe that Saddam was partly responsible for September 11 and that Mr. Bush is a conservative, surely the same does not apply to the old nations of Europe—the suave Italians, or our British cousins, the re-inventors of democracy itself?
A visitor to London or Rome may be surprised to hear a very different story. From the left, the Daily Mirror will tell him that America is still dominated by “the self-righteous, gun-totin’, military lovin’, sister marryin’, abortion-hatin’, gay-loathin’, foreigner-despisin’, non-passport ownin’ red-necks” who reelected Bush in 2004 and, in doing so, “brought Armageddon that little bit closer and re-christened their beloved nation The Home Of The Knave and the Land Of The Freak.” From the right, he will hear the same story in the form of envious comments about the strength of Christianity in America’s heartland, the fact that abortion is still an issue (which, in Europe, it is not), and that taking a stand against “gay marriage” in Washington does not amount to political suicide.
In reality, things are bad here, but they are not better anywhere else in what still passes for the civilized world. In some respects, they are worse. While avarice is admittedly less in evidence among Europe’s politicians than it is in Washington, their self-destructive ideological zeal is on par with that of Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and Edward Kennedy. Three countries in the heart of Old Europe tell only slightly different stories.
Italy is a dying nation. She has the second-lowest birthrate in the European Union, and, short of a last-minute miraculous recovery, her population will shrink by one third by 2050. Some municipalities now offer couples 10,000 euros ($13,000) for each newborn baby—but the main beneficiaries are North African Muslims, whose numbers went from nothing to over one million in a decade. This is an issue par excellence, but you wouldn’t know that from the debates in parliament or on RAI Uno.
In the week preceding Christmas, that debate was dominated by two parliamentarians belonging to the ruling coalition, Bruno Mellano and Donatella Poretti, who placed four dolls representing homosexual couples near the Baby Jesus in the Nativity scene in parliament in Rome. The two MPs said their gesture was meant to promote the legalization of same-sex marriage and granting legal recognition to unmarried couples. They placed two Kens and two Barbies in horizontal embrace among the shepherds witnessing the birth of Jesus. Each of the couples wore miniature placards with slogans in favor of special privileges for homosexuals.
While the ensuing prime-time and front-page debate is unworthy of comment, two details come to mind: Even the zaniest among our own representatives are still not “there,” as yet; and, even if they were, there is no Nativity scene in the Capitol to adorn. Far from being an encouraging sign of the Italian establishment’s concern for tradition, however, Nativity scenes remain because they have been relegated to harmless “heritage.” Education Minister Giuseppe Fioroni opposes banning them from schools and public places because, he says, they can be used as “tools for inter-religious dialogue.” I’ll show-and-tell my manger to Abdul, he’ll show-and-tell his prayer rug to me, and we can celebrate each other in the spirit of tolerant diversity.
The dolls had completely overshadowed one item of real news: Some 650 illegal North African immigrants, crammed in a fishing boat, reached Sicily on December 19—and were allowed to stay. Yes, the word is out in the Muslim heartland that, since coming to power last May, Romano Prodi’s leftist government has further liberalized an already lax immigration system inherited from Silvio Berlusconi. Like Berlusconi, Prodi parrots the lie that foreign workers are needed “to take up jobs that Italians no longer want”; unlike his predecessor, Italy’s prime minister believes that the influx is a great and good thing in cultural and moral terms.
Prodi’s recent approval of immigrant visas for an additional 350,000 “non-EU residents” (read: African Muslims), and his government’s repeated commitment to shorten the time it takes foreign residents to be granted Italian citizenship, will contribute to Italy’s ongoing transformation into a country less civilized, less safe, and more violent and foul-smelling than the one many of us have come to know and love. Even as Rome’s Piazza del Cinquecento is being turned into Mogadishu, and Venice’s San Marco into Benghazi, same-sex Kens and Barbies are presented as “issues” and accepted as such by a pliant public.
In Britain, which I am departing at the time of this writing, the political debate has been dominated for many months by the latent tension between Prime Minister Tony Blair and his chancellor of the exchequer and heir apparent Gordon Brown. When will Blair go? He has said he will stand down before the next general election, without bowing to pressure to specify when. What can Brown do that will speed up his departure while not causing a rift within the Labour Party in the process? Veteran Labour politician Roy Hattersley warns gravely, “I’ve been in the Labour Party 50 years and it’s 40-odd since I was elected to Parliament—I’ve never known a time when the in-fighting in the Labour Party was so bitter.”
Even after reading thousands of column inches in the quality dailies and listening to dozens of pundits on the BBC, however, you would be hard-pressed to decide what exactly is the difference between Blair and Brown. Perhaps Blair is a little more strident on the touchy-feely, therapeutic aspect of his New Labour project, while Brown is less ideological and a little more technocratic, but it is really hard to tell.
Across the Channel, the regime bared its knuckles in the spring of 2002, when President Jacques Chirac—supported by socialists, communists, trots, centrists, and every establishmentarian and his uncle—beat Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round of the country’s presidential election. Ludicrously invoking De Gaulle, Chirac claimed that “a certain idea of France” had triumphed over “fascism.” What did triumph was an efficient “democratic process,” managed by a few hundred Ecole Normale Supérieure graduates, over a subversive attempt to treat real issues—identity, immigration, nation, loyalty—as not only important but legitimate. Chirac is a windbag who has been around far longer than I care to remember. He was reelected faute de mieux—all faute and no mieux here—and, after 12 years of his presidency, the problem of France, her identity and her future, remains more acute than ever.
The race this spring will be between Sarkozy and Villepin, a choice as exciting and as significant as that between Blair and Brown. Neither will admit that France is well-nigh Eurabianized already, perhaps irreversibly so. As French commentator Yves Charles Zarka has warned, France is experiencing
a central phase of the more general and mutually conflicting encounter between the West and Islam, which only someone completely blind or of radical bad faith, or possibly of disconcerting naiveté, could fail to recognize.
Messrs. Chirac, Sarkozy, and Villepin are neither blind nor naive.
An encouraging sign in an otherwise grim picture is that the electorate, on both sides of the Atlantic, is not excited by the “democratic process” on offer. In Britain, Tony Blair keeps telling the people that the act of voting is an heroic gesture with deep moral connotations, but, in 1997, his New Labour was backed by only 31 percent of eligible voters—the lowest turnout since 1945—and the number has not grown since. Among the European Union’s 350 million eligible voters, a mere 45 percent went to the polls in the European elections last June. In the United States, midterm turnout remains stubbornly below 40 percent of the electorate.
As one British sociologist has noted, the main difference between today’s oligarchs and their predecessors is that Blair, Prodi, Bush, et al. are more sensitive to the oligarchy’s isolation from the wider public:
In an era of mass communication and social mobility, the gulf that separates the political class from the electorate is all too apparent. In the past, the elites were supposed to inhabit a different planet from everybody else. But to acknowledge the distance that separates the political class from the people today risks exposing the legitimacy of the system to some uncomfortable questions.
Those questions will become seriously uncomfortable only if the abstainers come to consider some serious alternatives to the choreographed charade offered every two years. We need more liberty and less “democracy”; and when Americans learn to make the essential distinction between them, that knowledge will set them free.