RSS FeedFacebookSearch
Gary Younge
Feudal Democracy

"The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint," wrote Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic nineteenth-century treatise

. "But from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through." In a nation where 5 percent of senators are doing the jobs their fathers did, and 40 percent of the people have lived with only one or two families–Bush and Clinton–in the White House, it’s time for an extreme makeover.

True, over the past couple of months people have had the chance to vote and, among Democrats, have been doing so in record numbers. In South Carolina, Barack Obama received more votes than the entire Democratic field in 2004. But while Democrats have become energized by the elections, the party leaders have become enervated with democracy.

The notion that this race might be settled democratically increasingly appears more a question of pragmatism than a point of principle. If the primaries are not sufficiently decisive, it seems that the nomination will be brokered by the "elders." Superdelegates are slowly ceding their authority to a handful of super-duperdelegates. Al Gore and former Senate majority leader George Mitchell are the two "elder statesmen" most often touted with sufficient standing to fix whatever democracy might happen to break.

So after all the brouhaha about this being a historic election that has drawn the young and disaffected into the process and broken the mold in terms of race and gender, the outcome may now be determined in a more feudal manner. Old white guys ruling on what’s best for the family.

The trouble with this Democratic aristocracy, like all aristocracies, is that it is woefully out of touch with the demands of those for whom it purports to speak. Put more simply, nobody really seems to take much notice of them.

In this election cycle endorsements do not seem to have made the slightest difference. Obama bagged support from Massachusetts Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and Governor Deval Patrick, only to lose the state by 15 percent. No number of Kennedy heirs could make a difference in California or New York. Linda Sánchez, the Congresswoman from California’s 39th District, endorsed Obama, but only 29 percent of her constituents backed him. Conversely, Maxine Waters, from California’s 35th District, supported Hillary Clinton, but 59 percent of her constituents went for Obama.

This doesn’t mean that these people are entirely without influence or power; simply that when it comes to taking advice about how to vote, most voters don’t turn to the Democratic Party elite. The Tammany Hall days when party chieftains wielded machines that could distribute votes at will and whim are long gone. America’s political class has neither the credibility nor the clout to pull it off. Indeed, if anything, the pull is going in the other direction. Several black Congressmen who have already endorsed Hillary are feeling the heat back home and from colleagues. Now that Obama’s candidacy is clearly viable, they fear going down in history as having blocked a black President and are openly discussing shifting their superdelegate vote. Now

principled leadership!

© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc
The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream
book review
“The speech is profoundly and willfully misunderstood,” says King’s longtime friend Vincent Harding.
 follow on twitter
RT @thefreedomi: 🚨 NEW: Saudi women’s rights activist & academic Salma al-Shehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison + 34 year travel ban f…
RT @LRB: #DawnFosterForever! On Thursday 15 September at the @LRBbookshop, @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lynsey Hanley and @garyyounge will d…
RT @ShowunmiV: This is how we support Black women and girls https://t.co/8YmgV21zHo
RT @sonikkalogan: It's #DataPoint Pod Thursday! In this week's episode, I talk to @noraneus, @garyyounge and @Casey_J_Wooten about the U.S.…
RT @bgnoiseuk: Next month, @LRBbookshop will host an event to celebrate the life and work of Dawn Foster with @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lyn…
Help me Twitter. The quote: ""You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming." is most commonly… https://t.co/Xs7JkiOEd5
RT @the_hindu: #DataPoint | This Thursday, @sonikkalogan takes a look at the #US gun violence epidemic, as mass shootings continue to grow…
City workers get double-digit wage rises while lowest-paid see 1% increase - “Them’s the breaks” https://t.co/XeVyG72iA5
RT @LRBbookshop: On 15 Sept we'll host an evening celebrating the life and work of Dawn Foster, with @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lynsey Hanle…
© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc