I'll append a few current politics comments at-bottom, especially about the just-culminated and hilariously shameful beginning of the latest U.S. Congress and the Kevin McCarthy Speakership. But overall, this post is about an aspect of Democracy that (alas) is far too misunderstood, even by the myriad citizens who benefit from it.
== What actually is modern ‘democracy’? ==
Knowing that their aging and ill-educated cult is in demographic collapse, the Foxites are now frantically railing against Democracy itself (along with science and every fact-using profession), equating Democratic government with Mob Rule.
"We are a republic, not a democracy!" they shout, while defending gerrymandering and other cheats to rob voting power from 'easily-manipulated' urban populations in favor of 'Real America.' (Meaning rural/red counties, of course.*)
The latest meme in support of this agitprop campaign is a purported quote from Thomas Jefferson:
"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine."
As Snopes reveals, not only is this 'quotation' nowhere remotely attributable to Jefferson, it runs diametrically opposite to the philosophy of the 3rd president, who called for Athenian styles of democracy, rather than a Federalist style Republic.
(Elsewhere I go into several other supposed quote-aphorisms that are flat-out lies, used to diss our Enlightenment Experiment. On the other hand, in emocracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville appraised the versions of active democratic assembly that he saw and pproved mightily.)
Of course, those pressing this purportedly Jeffersonian meme against democracy are also ignoramus-ingrates, yowling at the very same experiment that gave them everything. Moreover, even if Jefferson had said that, it would have nothing to do with us!
Because we do NOT have 'majority rule,' in the USA!
== Not Majority Rule ==
Rather, by design, we have a somewhat more grownup and subtle form of democracy called Minority Veto.
Find me a time in recent US history when any proposal or opinion held by 51% of the population got saddled on an intensely angry 49%! Generally, depending on its size and intensity - and in the absence of flagrant cheating - large minorities of voters can prevent any "51 percent" from imposing actions that deeply offend them.
Yes, this often means that progress is slowed, until this kind of negotiated consensus can take form incrementally. Take a famous example - LBJ's Civil Rights Bill of 1964. (Watch the great Bryan Cranston film "All The Way"!)
In 1964, with the JFK assassination still resonating, Johnson finally had the coalition he needed in order to pass a bill... but just barely! In order to get something before the mood passed, squeaking through an immediate banning of segregation in services and accommodations and public places - by itself the greatest advance of American freedom since the Civil War - LBJ had to strip out the provisions dealing with Voting Rights.
Naturally and understandably, activists howled over the omission! MLK himself had to step up and calm them down, just enough to keep the coalition together. Whereupon, with a subsequent landslide in the general election, in their pockets, LBJ/Humphrey et. al. were then able to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act! (A law that Republican judges and fanatics are now subjecting to full-pressed assault.)
That maneuver was a classic example of what I described above. A one-year delay that was morally indefensible was also essential, in order to get what a majority of the public by then wanted: incremental progress to fight a century of far worse betrayals.
Likewise, LBJ was able to get NASA fully funded, winning over southern senators by putting most NASA centers in southern states.
Likewise, folks nowadays seem to forget that Bill Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy re gays in the military was a huge step forward from the situation that preceded it. An incremental step that quickly accustomed military folk and reduced objector vehemence, setting the stage (very soon, in fact) for later complete abolition of another horrific injustice.
It's a list that could go on and on, including the vital Pelosi bills of 2021 and 2022, that entailed so many compromises to keep aboard both Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders... though the results were inarguably great for a nation whose decision making and problem-solving processes (called "politics") had been deliberately sabotaged by the other party, for 20+ years.
== Our enemies notice this, even if you don't ==
Is Minority Veto actually functioning, right now?
OF COURSE NOT!
At present, the Mad Right that has hijacked U.S. conservatism uses their "49%" minorities - sometimes 51% majorities but far more often 40% or less - to prevent absolutely anything from happening in the public interest. Not without herculean feats, like those Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden achieved in 2021 and 2022, over the tightly disciplined uniform resistance of a GOP schooled under the Hastert Rule to never negotiate. Never compromise.
(Think I am exaggerating? Subtract the Supply Side tax grifts for oligarchy and howls of negativity toward Obamacare and the IRS, and what actual assertive legislation can you recall being on the GOP agenda, in this century? While you are at it, look up Dennis Hastert, whom the GOP made head of their party and House Speaker, sealing the never negotiate rule. Look up his bio all the way to the end.)
The destruction of politics as an art of consensus building in the USA is the core objective of the oligarchic worldwide putsch. Having lost the popular vote in all but two national elections across the last 35 years, and with Democratic policies vastly more popular among citizens, the Republican tactic under Minority Veto is to emphasize the second factor in that crucial calculus of Minority Veto -- size times vehemence -- in order to block any action by the majority, indeed, any assertive political action at all.
Vehemence has been stoked to a degree that amounts to Phase 8 of the American Civil War.
The key point to take away from all of this is that the enemies of constitutional democracy - one that is about constantly adjusting and negotiating improvements - are inveighing against the last best hope of humankind, compared to 99.9% of grinding human history.
When Peter Thiel says "I no longer believe democracy is compatible with freedom," what he means is that neither are compatible with the oligarchy's planned return to 6000 years of feudalism.
== And the relentless return of traitors ==
Amid the roil of modern politics, someone has to point at the unusual perspective. For example, I am less fixated on clowns like Trump or Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are surface shills for deeper sicknesses.
Want a more worrisome symptom? Here's more utter hypocrisy from the Very Worst American. George Will often blathers some things that are obviously good/true, in order to build sly credibility for his endlessly creative and brilliantly parsed incantations in support of treason.
Meanwhile... wasn't that 15 ballot torment of Kevin McCarthy fun? Pundits discuss McCarthy's long list of concessions-to-radicals, in order to squeak into Speaker with a minority of members' votes. Concessions like theatrical Hunter Biden 'investigations' and putting jibberers on the Rules Committee. Plus at least 5 'contract' promises to slash spending and balance budgets.
One problem. Despite blowhard spews, Republicans have never - across 40 years - been as fiscally responsible as Democrats. Ever, even once. They do have one huge budget cut in mind. (Well more, if they succeed in cutting aid to beleaguered Ukraine.) No, it's not repealing Obamacare; that goal is never mentioned now that the ACA is hugely popular and effective.
No, the aim is to eviscerate the IRS which got full funding last year, after decades sabotaged by the GOP on behalf of oligarchs, whose Cayman Island grift accounts will now get scrutiny.
So, if the IRS finds scandalous crimes that include GOP pols, might that shred McCarthy's coalition? Get some nutters jettisoned? Get others to finally find their nerve to make that Goldwater Party of decent conservatism?
Hey, I am a science fiction author. But clearly, I also do fantasy.