Of Loss & Regrouping, Colltalers
The periodically vilified Electoral College, a tenet of U.S. democracy, votes today to ratify the Nov. 8 election results. Few expect any of these 538 special voters to stray from their parties’ directive; barring a political cataclysm, they will confirm Donald Trump as the president.
More than their constitutional duty, though, they’ll be exercising a far less formal attribution of their position: loyalty to those who nominated them. They’re not accountable to Hillary Clinton’s popular vote win, and most likely will remain oblivious to it, and her. Because they can.
Sadly, accountability itself was another concept to leave this world in 2016. The election was neither the first nor the last example of it. For apart from the boastful and the graceless, jubilant with Trump’s win, no one else is claiming responsibility for anything, one way or another.
From Republicans’ embrace of a lying master they claimed to reject when he burst out of party’s bowels, to broadcast media’s profiting from Fake News and his diatribes, to highfalutin moralists, to whom Clinton was too indigestible, to a Democrat establishment that failed to heed to his populist skills, no one is taking responsibility for the rebirth of authoritarianism Trump’s set in motion, even before the inauguration.
The president-elect himself has already taken a number of U-turns on critical themes he defended on his campaign, and seems confident that he won’t be forced to own up to any of them. Assuming, with some reason, he’s above any serious questioning, he’s become the bastion of unaccountability, an unfortunate trend that may have already fatally infected large segments of this country’s political intelligentsia.
We’ll all come to regret this sorry state of affairs, of course. Specially those whose convictions about what public service should be about, and moral duty towards society, and paying your dues, are all grounded on a sense of being accountable, of standing up and be counted.
Those who can’t conceive that such a catastrophic collapse of social responsibility could’ve happened suddenly,
are quick to note how fast it seems to be spreading out and setting up roots deep into our collective psyche. Rather, such a far reaching rejection of what we use to call human decency has to have well known progenitors, if one looks hard enough, and precedence, even if not always easily acknowledged.
In this context, it’s also easy to verge on cynicism about the strident, and so far, devoid of any proof, calls of Russia’s intervention in the U.S. electoral process, by intel agencies. It’s as if rivers of cash flooding politics, given legitimacy by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, depletion of the Voting Act, gerrymandering, and other shenanigans hadn’t already undermined the entire construct of our democracy.
No one denies that any country would like having the power to directly interfere in the American political process, even knowing that there are perfectly legal ways of doing so, both from abroad and, mostly, by sheer lobbying power of multinationals and special interest groups.
Russia would, indeed, be eager to attempt it, as the authoritarian Putin regime stands to gain a lot from having someone like Trump in the White House. Also, because nowadays computer networks, even those highly protected, are still vulnerable to hacking and state spying.
But besides Russia, there are a number of nations around the world who have experienced first hand what it means to have a foreign country ostensibly undermining their sovereignty, and arguably most of them point fingers to the U.S. That the majority lacks the technological muscle to fight back is beside the point. It is an integral part of geopolitics for countries to wage this kind of secret wars against each other.
Whether Putin has actually ordered his techie goons to invade U.S. government and political institutions would surprise absolutely no one. Neither is credible that our own goons have been told to stand pat while this was happening. There are no sitting ducks in this range.
What’s truly baffling, and downright unoriginal, is that the Obama administration is fully engaged in blaming the Russians so late in the game, which invites speculation about its motives. And shouldn’t the president have important issues of legacy to take care of instead?
Like, pardoning a number of whistleblowers, for instance. Starting by Chelsea Manning, who turned 29 last Saturday, and Edward Snowden, two of the many who pretty much have destroyed their lives trying to warn fellow Americans against government excesses and the serious risks of letting intel agencies run unencumbered their own narratives, and versions of reality that best suit their own needs, and no one else’s.
Chances are, under a Trump administration, these two and others like them will languish in a limbo of phony righteousness, and public obliviousness, while merchants of the temple run away with the collections money. President Obama may be their very last hope to clean the slate, by offering them a second chance to show how their sacrifice has actually contributed to the welfare of every American.
It was crucial to learn what we now know for a fact about how the intel community has been operating in this country, and we all owe that to them. We’d never have known about how our privacy is routinely traded in the most vexing ways, or taxpayer money is wasted on senseless surveillance, by spies who should be busy protecting us from hackers and foreign interests, geared to undermine our electoral will.
It’s the whistleblowers’ word against the same intel community, as essential and needed that it may be, now throwing an old horse under its own carriage, and that was either missing or clearly biased in the alleged hacking and vote manipulation some are only now learning about.
What U.S. spies, and Putin, the GOP and the Democratic parties, the Obama administration even, and so many enablers and now fervid supporters of Trump have yet to do, whistleblowers have done from day one: they stood up and took responsibility. They remain as accountable as none of their accusers will ever be, and that integrity is intrinsic to the unfairness of their sentencing, either official or presumed.
In the heat and shock of the post-election results, when it became sure that Clinton had lost, Van Jones, a black political commentator and former Obama administration member, offered the night’s most heartbreaking, and sincere, assessment of what had just happened.
‘People have talked about a miracle; I’m hearing about a nightmare. You tell your kids, don’t be a bully, don’t be bigot, do your homework and be prepared. And then you have this outcome,’ was arguably the best summation of that moment, one of the saddest to millions.
We’re certainly not over the fact that the man who incited hatred towards immigrants, Muslims, women, minorities, and blacks, was rewarded with the world’s most important job. Empathy, compassion, inclusiveness, equality, respect to the environment, were defeated, even if not by that much. But when Jones offered his humble feelings of hopelessness, he revealed a lucidity that went beyond that moment of doubt.
He, and others, pointed to the work laying ahead of us. That we may have to double down, and be even more specific about what we tell our children. That that man didn’t actually win, but we did lose, and that we’ll have to be better, even less of bigots, and even more prepared.
We’re taking a little break in the coming weeks, to gather our strength and hopefully recharge our frail moral batteries. For if anything, it’s pointless repeating what we’ve already expressed about everything, for 50-plus weeks of this sorrowful year, with varying degrees of clarity. It’s been rough and we’re nearly spent. Thanks for being on the receiving end of our tame idiosyncrasies. Here’s for a better New Year. WC