Sunday, January 29, 2006

Elitism and dadag-bawas U.S. style

I would like to log here too my reply to Geo who has posted an answer to my comment on the Florida election and elitism in mlq3’s blog.

_____

Geo,

Criticizing media elites in general and reacting to a commenter, I once blogged on or about the Florida electoral fiasco:
Media organizations ... operate for the most part rather insidiously when they attempt to set agendas that could have national implications. They pass on their undertaking, in reality in pursuit of self interest, as a noble quest for truth. This is a truism nowhere truer in any other place than in America—the newly found pride of our kababayan Anastacio.

Apparently,our apostate poster whose nasty piece about the political and social follies of Filipinos has amused the Pinoy web community—seemed to believe many things that have been communicated to him by the mass media operating in his lofty and immaculate USA and, on the basis of which, he formed certain values by which he would put down Filipinos. If only Anastacio were a little more perceptive and circumspect, it would have not been that challenging for him to realize that while both the Gore and the Bush campaigns have invoked the concept of rule of law to capture the power of the US presidency, pre- and post-election news, commentaries, and even judicial rulings in the US have carried insidious slants and spins as well as legal maneuverings and manipulations in a manner that had all the trimmings of a constitutional hypocrisy befitting only a banana republic in disguise. On the other hand, other relevant stories that would have the effect of impugning the exalted foundation of American society, like the reports of intimidation and voter-lists purging of minority voters in Florida, have not been given sufficient attention.

Well, like the “little brown brothers” that some Filipinos have unfortunately become, our media has willingly emulated America’s sinister model of thought manipulation. And so also, as in the US, Filipinos would compensate more generously spin doctors and political media practitioners than the old-fashioned, adventurous, and romantic newsman whose “basic responsibility,” Prof. Teodoro underscored in a speech, “is to get the information out, and, to the extent possible, to disseminate information that is accurate, fair and complete.”
On the day the US Supreme Court handed down Bush v. Gore, Jesse Jackson, Jr. issued a statement, a portion of which reads:
In third world countries when democratically cast votes are not counted, or the person who most likely lost wins in a highly questionable manner, we usually refer to that as a coup d’etat -- the overthrow of a government, usually by a small group of persons. All legal votes in Florida were not counted. If they had been counted, there is at least a strong possibility that Vice President Gore would have received the most votes in Florida as he did in the country -- which is why the Bush people did not want the votes counted. Even more important than partisan politics, the votes should have been counted in the name of democracy in order to give the maximum amount of credibility and legitimacy to the eventual winner.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, many of its satellites fell. In the case of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel became the new President on the basis of a legitimate people uprising and a democratic “Velvet Revolution.” In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court orchestrated a questionable ‘velvet legal coup.’
Of course before the Velvet Revolution of Yeltsin or Vaclav Havel, and the fall of the other Soviet satellites, the Sandinistas defeat by Violeta Chammoro’s coalition, or the uprising in Tiananmen Square, there was the “Lady in Yellow” who inspired the original People Power at EDSA. But today the EDSA uprising as the paradigmatic representation of People Power is continually being attenuated - for obvious reason: of the above enumerated, it was the only revolution of such dimension that successfully has removed a US-backed dictator.

Justice Stevens’ dissent in Bush v. Gore has been shamefully scornful of things yet to come:
One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.
And here’s what Greg Palast (so it was not only Michael Moore, Geo) has written:
Five months before the November 2000 election, Governor Jeb Bush moved to purge 57, 700 people from the voter rolls, supposed criminals not allowed to vote. Most were innocent of crimes, but the majority were guilty of being black.
92.02 per cent, Palast insisted, of those in the “srub” list are innocent and overwhelmingly democrats; and relying on BBC researchers, he further maintained Gore lost about 22,000 votes as a result. 22,000 are more than 537.

Since this particular blog of Manolo is on the subject of “collusion” of the political elites in the Philippines, Filipinos might well find it relevant to draw from it certain parallelism with the manner the high-handed activism of the US Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore has resulted in what could be considered as an exercise of one of the highest forms of American elitism. If Bush was confident about democracy in Florida, why did his conservative allies in the Supreme Court voting strictly along ideological lines stop the recount in Florida and in effect elected him the next U.S. president?

The Philippine Supreme Court has shown the same extreme tendencies in recent holdings and foremost that comes to mind is the ruling in Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representative as well as the Court’s vacillation in the Mining Law cases, both decisions (not to speak of Estrada v. Desierto) being, for all intents and purposes, amendatory of the provisions of the Constitution sans the benefit of a Charter change process. What else is more elitist than that?

Now the proposition: America’s “elite” keeps changing; there is much socio-economic migration (both up and down) between the upper and various middle-class entities. Meanwhile, errant members of “today’s elite” are jailed tomorrow. So…how again is the elite using the law to essentially defraud the general public of the truth?

First of all, Madison, the father of the American constitution, was categorical in classic elite terms “that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more in consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves.” Madison believed that if unchecked, the majority, that is, the uneducated and the unpropertied Americans, would tyrannize the minority—the privileged, the wellborn and the wealthy, like him. And if it hasn’t been noticed, when Americans go to the polls during the presidential elections, they vote for Electors not the presidential candidates; or when you have federal judges appointed for life, how else could migration be allowed during the judges’ lifetime?

Second of all, I have yet to see the Americans follow the Philippine example of jailing an erring president for corruption, defrauding or misleading the nation or other high crimes.

I agree that the nature of elite system allows upward mobility of non-elites yet this process, in a pyramidal and hierarchical system, is definitely a creeping one. But even those non-elites who have been welcomed to the club must agree to the elite consensus, i.e., they are stakeholders in the system in which their privileges depend. At least in the Philippines, the party-list system has somehow remedied this anomaly.

Leave the Americans out of the analysis when one is contemplating the best solution for the Philippines? Well, tell that to AGILE, the Venable wheeler-dealers, and the agents responsible for the “leaked” Aragoncillo dossiers.

13 Comments:

Blogger Amadeo said...

I have been in the US for over 26 years, so I feel I may be able to insert some ideas into this discussion, which started in MlQ3’s blog.

I essentially agree with the analogy of the elites in both countries. And I would add to the list of enumerated qualifications (wellborn, wealth and intellectual) another one, that of incumbency. Studies and polls show that incumbents are very difficult to depose in the US legislative branch of government. Once ensconced, they pretty much stay for life, unless other family members are so inclined to succeed them.

And the further observation that elections of members of the elites may be more symbolic than what real democratic participation ought to be, may also have legitimacy here in the States studying the conduct of past elections. Percentage of actual voters during presidential elections gravitates around 50+% of registered voters, not counting potential voters who are in sizeable numbers and may just be apathetic to the process. Non-presidential elections, meaning statewide, county-wide and city-wide elections, are worse. Getting it to the 40s is considered satisfactory. In my many years in the most populous state of California, there had been instances where they fell below 40%.

Definitely then, elected officials do not truly represent the real majority of Americans.

Is this acceptable? Or is this typical throughout the rest of the democratic first-world countries of the world?

But I beg to differ on the following.

Two of the four justices giving dissenting opinions in the GorevsBush 2000 case were appointed by Republican presidents. And one of them you cited, Justice Stevens who was appointed by Pres. G. Ford, a Republican. And the other two by a Democrat president. Thus, it would be difficult to support the statement that the SC decision followed strictly along partisan lines. And by that I mean partisan political lines. I believe it would be more honest to say that the justices predictably vote along certain ideological lines, their positions on certain ideologies being known to the general public. One of the benchmark issues which would support this contention would be the hot-button issue of abortion (ROEvsWADE). The delicate but sometimes deceiving component in all this is the fact that certain issues are so identified with either party that decisions favoring one could readily unleash the partisan charge from the other side. To illustrate, legalized abortion is an issue near and dear to the Democratic Party, or the liberals. Thus, any SC judgment favoring reproductive rights could be construed as partisan, but in reality could stem simply from the ideological beliefs of certain judges, whether formed before or after their appointment. It is ironic to note that even religion may not be a factor in partisan politics. The most vocal members of the US Senate for abortion are Catholic Democrats, though there are also on the Republican side of the aisle, Protestants who favor abortion. Now, with regard to the Supreme Court, the newest member who is still waiting in the wings to be confirmed, is also a Catholic and will make him the fifth Catholic member of a bench numbering only 9 justices. And Catholics represent only 20% of the entire population. Yet, we have not heard a squeak from the pro-abortion groups including their Democratic leaders in the Senate regarding this obvious slant in the composition of the bench, given how adamantly anti-abortion the Catholic religion is.

In fine, I would find it difficult to accept a statement that purports to portray a Supreme Court that rules along strictly partisan political lines. And their for-life appointment releases them from any pressures that may impact on their freedom to judge based on their convictions.

And it is not completely true to say that “when Americans go to the polls during the presidential elections, they vote for electors not the presidential candidates”, because Americans do vote for the presidential candidates, and their electors, along partisan lines and on a statewide-basis. As implied below, electors from the victorious party will vote for the state-wide winning presidential candidate. But as noted below, on very, very rare instances one or more of these partisan operatives will vote for the losing candidate, splitting the total electoral votes of that one particular state.

http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/about.html

Electors - In most States, the political parties nominate slates of electors at State conventions or central committee meetings.

Then the citizens of each State appoint the electors by popular vote in the state-wide general election. However, State laws on the appointment of electors may vary.

Is my vote for President and Vice President meaningful in the Electoral College system?

Yes, within your State your vote has a great deal of significance. Under the Electoral College system, we do not elect the President and Vice President through a direct nation-wide vote. The Presidential election is decided by the combined results of 51 State elections (in this context, the term "State" includes DC). It is possible that an elector could ignore the results of the popular vote, but that occurs very rarely. Your vote helps decide which candidate receives your State's electoral votes.


And lastly, charges coming from Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Greg Palast were advanced to dispute and cast doubts on the election results of 2000.

But first, we have to know where these individuals are coming from, because that ought to be pivotal in judging credibility and validity particularly of statements that are of a very political nature. Mr. Jackson, son of Rev. J. Jackson, Sr., belongs to the opposing party and Mr. Palast is very undeniably partisan, and is described as a progressive or liberal. Aside from his challenges in the 2000 elections, he has also questioned the results of the 2004 Elections in Ohio, and had proclaimed Kerry as the winner of the entire race. Now, honestly if he had what might be considered an earnest diligent man’s good chances of proving his charges, then I would suggest that Gore and Kerry would have been the last persons to concede their defeats. But we know those are not the cases. So I will suggest further that we concede the benefit of the doubt to the proclaimed winner. And let the dissenting issues rest. And because in the meantime, independent and non-partisan sources favor the incumbent.

Thanks for allowing me the time and space.

January 30, 2006 12:54 PM  
Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

AMADEO: I essentially agree with the analogy of the elites in both countries. And I would add to the list of enumerated qualifications (wellborn, wealth and intellectual) another one, that of incumbency. Studies and polls show that incumbents are very difficult to depose in the US legislative branch of government. Once ensconced, they pretty much stay for life, unless other family members are so inclined to succeed them.

ABE: Isn’t “political dynasty” one variety of it which the Philippine constitution expressly prohibits?

AMADEO: Definitely . . . elected officials do not truly represent the real majority of Americans.

Is this acceptable? Or is this typical throughout the rest of the democratic first-world countries of the world?

ABE: The other important question, even if the elected officials are representative of the majority, is: Are the choices of the majority respected in actual policy making?

And is it acceptable or, in fact typical? I concede that in every complex organization like a nation-state, there will always be hierarchy and therefore elitism will be given. But then, let’s call the system that and not with some mythical name like American democracy. The kind of democracy I’m rooting for is one where the exercise of the “last say” is perpetually reserved to the people as a matter of “chosen value,” to borrow some words from Randy David; however, between elections, the minorities (the civil society) must continually exert their citizenship through active participation upon the representatives who are formally vested with power. That’s what makes democracy people-powered.

AMADEO: Two of the four justices giving dissenting opinions in the Gore vs Bush 2000 case were appointed by Republican presidents. And one of them you cited, Justice Stevens who was appointed by Pres. G. Ford, a Republican. And the other two by a Democrat president. Thus, it would be difficult to support the statement that the SC decision followed strictly along partisan lines.

ABE: What I’m basically saying is that the four justices in the Liberal wing of the Court voted to proceed with the recount in Florida while five justices in the Conservative wing voted to kill it thereby allowing Bush, a conservative Republican, to become president. In an awful display of courtroom politics, the Court acted as political actors rather than as jurists at the expense of democracy.

AMADEO: And it is not completely true to say that “when Americans go to the polls during the presidential elections, they vote for electors not the presidential candidates”, because Americans do vote for the presidential candidates, and their electors, along partisan lines and on a statewide-basis. . . electors from the victorious party will vote for the state-wide winning presidential candidate. . . on very, very rare instances one or more of these partisan operatives will vote for the losing candidate, splitting the total electoral votes of that one particular state.

ABE: The point being underscored is that the Electoral College system removes one step further from popular control the decision to elect the president of the U.S. in a manner also noticeable in parliamentary form unlike the presidential system being practiced in the Philippines. While the Electors are now obscure players in the American system, the original intention of the Founding Fathers was for them to be men of property and reputation in their respective states which attests to the proposition that the U.S. constitution was elitist.

AMADEO: And lastly, charges coming from Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Greg Palast were advanced to dispute and cast doubts on the election results of 2000.

But first, we have to know where these individuals are coming from, because that ought to be pivotal in judging credibility and validity particularly of statements that are of a very political nature. Mr. Jackson, son of Rev. J. Jackson, Sr., belongs to the opposing party and Mr. Palast is very undeniably partisan, and is described as a progressive or liberal. Aside from his challenges in the 2000 elections, he has also questioned the results of the 2004 Elections in Ohio, and had proclaimed Kerry as the winner of the entire race. Now, honestly if he had what might be considered an earnest diligent man’s good chances of proving his charges, then I would suggest that Gore and Kerry would have been the last persons to concede their defeats.

ABE: I was basically refuting Geo that not just Michael Moore but many others have raised serious questions about the Florida election. That Gore and Kerry, both elites, conceded “in the American tradition” is exactly my underlying thesis: disputes among elites are bound by elite consensus, and people-powered option is not just one of them since it is outside of that consensus.

Thank you for sharing your ideas, Amadeo. It is a pleasure to have this exchange.

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