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Another short quiz, this time about democracy

Your Humble Blogger happened to hear a brief interview with Ralph Nader this morning on the radio. I'll get over it, like I'll get over the rest of my illness, but while it lasts, it sure is painful. It's not just that he seems to have never quite figured out that falsely telling people that there was no real difference between the ways Al Gore and George W. Bush would act as president might have some sort of detrimental effect on the country. It's not even the obnoxious way he complains (falsely) every four years about how state laws make it difficult for independent candidates for President to appear on the ballot in all the states, without putting any of his considerable muscle behind, oh, actually changing those laws through a democratic representative system. It's the way he seems, even now, to take the electoral rejection of candidates he supports as a sign that the system is broken rather than an actual lack of support for those candidates and their policies. Or at least those policies as they were represented by those candidates.

So, once again, here's a little quiz for Mr. Nader, and for everyone else who is or would like to be a citizen of these United States:

If you could appoint one person, living or dead, to be the President of the United States, would you:

  • immediately take office yourself, claiming a mandate to reform a degraded system

  • enthrone the Messiah, to carry out the work of the Lord

  • decline, with thanks, explaining that it is preferable to hold free and fair elections, and to abide by their outcomes

Once again, give yourself ten points for every aleph, five for every beta, and twenty points for just showing up. Don't show your work, and keep your ballots secret. You do need to do the damn work though, and for extra credit, create a democratic society, capable of self-governing in all its many senses.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


"Abide by their outcomes" is a code and cudgel used to suppress protest and dissent. We have a historic and constitutional right to demand earlier regime changes than the next purportedly free and fair election should we deem earlier changes desirable. Presidents can be impeached. Presidents can be pressured to resign. Presidents can have their power reduced by courageous legislatures, judiciaries, militaries, executive departments, and states. Presidents do not deserve a subservient and complacent population, nor a fawning media, nor an enthralled corporate world. And neither do we.

"Abide by their outcomes" for the past 7 years has meant to swallow our consciences as our nation commits war crimes, implements a police state at home, murders hundreds of thousands abroad, and calculatedly destroys our planet. "Abide by their outcomes" is a Nuremberg defense.

Our system requires that we accept the electoral outcome, timely seat those who are elected, and work within the system to unseat them (or work within the system to refuse to seat them in the first place). But "abide by their outcomes" implies that the seating is the end of debate rather than the beginning, and is used that way to stifle opposition.

It is preferable to, careful, hold free and fair elections.

Michael, if you have been reading this Tohu Bohu for five years and think that I mean in any way to imply that democracy means doing nothing between elections, than my writing is even more substanceless and void than I thought.


Not at all! You did not intend it to mean doing nothing between elections; indeed, by discussing politics in a public forum you have a valuable history of encouraging both thought and action. But others, including eventually the leaders of our own party, tabled impeachment using exactly such language. It was first pushed in a national way in late 2000 during the Florida recount, which was resolved in the name of national reconciliation in the worst way imaginable to achieve an actual national reconciliation. It was used after the 2004 election as a talking point to consolidate power. We can try to reclaim a positive meaning for the phrase, and we should, but I think it's important to do so aware of the recent history of the phrase, or risk strengthening those who would prefer to be left to dictate in peace.

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