Missing The Obvious


Mention the sorry state of American democracy to right-wingers and they often patronizingly lecture that the U.S. is not a democracy — it’s a republic. True, that. So?

It finally dawned on me that this is a corollary to their “Democrat Party” phrasing. Democracy and democratic have positive cultural connotations — which the right wing means to snatch from competitors the way schoolyard bullies steal lunch money. They cannot allow people to call America a democracy; it’s a republic, you know, like Republican . Get it?

It’s a sophisticated message, really, one designed to appeal to the average 8th grader — just like Ayn Rand’s novels.

Maybe that’s how I missed it for so long.

Speaking of Ayn Rand and grade school,

John Allison, a former bank CEO and a leader of the Rand movement, has just become president of the Cato Institute, the oldest and most influential libertarian think tank. This received only a modest amount of attention when it surfaced late last month, and you had to be a real political junkie to even be aware of it. But it is a seminal event in recent political history—a dramatic indication of the mainstreaming of the radical right.


Allison, former CEO of North Carolina’s BB&T Bank, is not just going to be the Cato Institute’s sugar daddy. He replaces Ed Crane as president, meaning that he will have day-to-day control over the most significant libertarian organization in the country. Allison is a board member of the Ayn Rand Institute, the orthodox, no-compromise Randian organization, and is best known for his foundation donating free Rand books to thousands of schoolchildren across the nation—a crass exploitation of the fiscal troubles besetting primary schools.


  1. I think the two parties should be renamed the Tweedledees and the Tweedledums.

    And it doesn’t even matter who gets which name.

  2. Thunder Pig says:

    Democracy has always held a negative connotation for me because I have understood it as the author of Federalist No. 14 understood it:

    in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents.

    My dad was a precinct chairman in the local Democrat Party, and I only ever heard him and others say Democrat Party. Plus, Democratic just sounds awkward. I don’t mean any disrespect when I say Democrat Party, it just sounds better to me than Democratic Party.

    For example:

    A Republican is what we call a member of the Republican Party, not the Republic Party.

    A Democrat is what we call a member of the Democrat Party, not Democratic Party.

  3. That made even less sense than your politics.

  4. shadmarsh says:

    I prefer to refer to the GOP as the ‘Asshole Party,’ not out of any disrespect, it just sounds…better to me, rolls right off the tongue.

  5. Yes, and all the racist, slavery minded Democrats left the party in ’64 and became Republicans.

    Also, do you know that your act is really, really, really terribly transparent? Shamefully so, in fact.

    In fact, you contradicted yourself in that last post. “BOTH SIDES BAD (BUT DON’T DISS THE GOP BECAUSE LINCOLN!”) Of course, it’s just sad and stupid and lame for the reason I gave a moment ago.

    Anyway, it’s just stupid to keep babbling about it in the manner you do. It’s just ridiculous. They aren’t evil, they’re just stupid. Misguided. Ineffectual.

    I doubt there are many “evil” people out there, just those whose priorities and morals are questionable.

  6. TJ says:

    “In fact, you contradicted yourself in that last post. “BOTH SIDES BAD (BUT DON’T DISS THE GOP BECAUSE LINCOLN!”) Of course, it’s just sad and stupid and lame for the reason I gave a moment ago”

    “I’m not familiar with precisely what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was.”

    Birds of a feather and other such foolishness, eh, Mat?

    I guess that’s what happens when you cut and paste your duplicate response.

  7. Andrew Dahm says:

    Unaff, how do you deal with family members who screw up? Are they branded with a big “E” for “evil” or what?

    Current City Council has pulled a couple of real bricks, in my opinion. But it’s just my opinion, and nobody’s “evil.”

    What you got with Council is an unelected staff that goes to conferences and comes back with shopping bags full of How Its Done and then proceeds to shovel that stuff down the gullets of the elected people, who are working part-time for like a grand a month or something and will be long gone while staff plods on toward retirement.

    It is a scale model of how Raleigh and Washington work, and its morphology renders it incapable of making “great” decisions. It’s government, it’s not efficient, but it’s not evil. Sorry, Unaff – we do not live in a comic book.

    I think it might make sense to see the process for the mess that it is, game out the many, many ways it will screw up, spill stuff, and waste money. Then figure out which political philosophy generates the best kind of waste that benefits the most people. I think if you look at it this way, you might see a real difference between the parties.

  8. Dixiegirlz says:

    What’s going on now at Penn State is the personification of evil. People looked the other way / kept silent to protect a facade. We all have this option. In Government (which has the most power over us all) there is great potential for good or evil . I came into politics over VietNam…had a husband serve two tours…and saw the steamroller effect on a small country, and military family lives. Robert MacNamara wrote an apologia years after we left that country, but that was too late. He (along with many others) carried the burdon till his death. He became a shuffling lowly figure along the sidewalks of DC…-a mere shadow of a man. Potential for evil exists in us all, it’s often a matter of remaining silent in order to protect a preferred position. It happens in both parties. Bowing to it will always come back to haunt.

  9. Tim Peck says:

    Democracy has always had a negative connotation. The founders were quite clear about that and took great pains to ensure that this country did not become one — ever.

    For all you pro-democracy (mob rule) types, just keep in mind that it was democracy that gave you Amendment One. Nice goin’.

  10. Tim Peck says:

    Congratulation to John Allison. I’m liking Cato more and more.

  11. I would make the argument that there actually is not a good or evil because that assigns a meaning to actions which are not even conscious decisions but are, in fact, merely the illusion of such as created in our own minds as a byproduct of our brain wiring but that might just be too much.

  12. Davyne Dial says:

    For a good description of “evil”, read M. Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie.” Best thing yet to educate me on the concept of evil. Evil is a destroyer, either actual of a life or the spirit in someone’s life.

    “When I say that evil has to do with killing, I do not mean to restrict myself to corporeal murder. Evil is that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life — particularly human life — such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill or attempt to kill one of these attributes without actually destroying the body. Thus we may “break” a horse or even a child without harming a hair on its head.

    Erich Fromm was acutely sensitive to this fact when he broadened the definition of necrophilia to include the desire of certain people to control others-to make them controllable, to foster their dependency, to discourage their capacity to think for themselves, to diminish their unpredectibility and originalty, to keep them in line. Distinguishing it from a “biophilic” person, one who appreciates and fosters the variety of life forms and the uniqueness of the individual, he demonstrated a “necrophilic character type,” whose aim it is to avoid the inconvenience of life by transforming others into obedient automatons, robbing them of their humanity.

    Evil then, for the moment, is the force, residing either inside or outside of human beings, that seeks to kill life or liveliness. And goodness is its opposite. Goodness is that which promotes life and liveliness.”
    ~ M. Scott Peck,

  13. Thanks for making this thread about me.

  14. TJ says:

    “Potential for evil exists in us all, it’s often a matter of remaining silent in order to protect a preferred position.”

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

    “It happens in both parties. Bowing to it will always come back to haunt.”

    Yes, it does. And, when it doesn’t haunt the intiator, it haunts those touched by it.

  15. TJ says:

    “but that might just be too much.”

    Perhaps. I know a lot of therapists who would take issue with that.

    I believe there is a part of that which is true. Many people DO act out of the unconscious, and, that is the most difficult part of the “work,” psychologically, socially, politically, etc.

    However, you also have Sartre who argues that in order to have bad faith(evil, in this instance), you have to have a certain amount of good faith. In other words, in order to bury something in our mind, there has to be SOME awareness that there is something to bury.

    I guess if I thought none of this could be reconciled, I would give up activism, and holding anyone accountable.

    Any prisoner can tell you, “I’m innocent,” did nothing wrong, it’s “their” fault, ad nauseum.

    The buck stops HERE. NOW. (Actually, I wouldn’t mind if a truckload of bucks -real, that is – would stop by me 😉 ).