The United States of America has demonstrated that Americans choose to live in an ungoverned country. I don’t mean a lawless country. I mean a country in which self-interest trumps [sic] the common good. Ungoverned, according to Merriam-Webster: “not capable of being governed, guided, or restrained.” Id über alles.
This choice is painted vividly on this morning’s electoral maps, on the front page of every newspaper and every news website. Considering the thin margin of 2016’s popular vote for president of the United States, no matter which candidate comes out a hair’s breadth ahead when the last ballot is counted, this choice is also evident among eligible voters at large, beneath the geographic, population, and demographic distortions of the Electoral College. In my view, the popular vote includes those who were eligible but didn’t vote: it would be foolish to pretend that standing aside has any meaningful effect other than to enable the decisions of that fraction of us who cast ballots.
One of many things yesterday’s national election implies is that protest is dead.
Protest is a tactic that presupposes the prospect of a critically-fragmented nation is unthinkable. If an incoherent society is unacceptable, the threat of social disintegration into ungovernability can force a political elite to dial back on issues that polarize and mobilize a significant population, even if that population is a numerical minority.
That’s what has made protest an effective tactic—not always, but sometimes—over the past century and change, from India to the United States to South Africa to Argentina.
But this tactic has only worked where and when and because the prospect of an ungovernable society was unthinkable.
Among Americans—in the aggregate, on 8 November 2016—that wasn’t the case.
It certainly hasn’t been the case for those Americans who, over the past quarter century, have continued to elect obstructionist legislators into office. It isn’t the case for anyone who cast a vote to send the president-elect—a loathsome, ignorant, narcissistic bully—to the White House come January 2017.
And it’s not the case for anyone who failed to act positively to prevent yesterday’s disaster at the polls. Individuals who didn’t bother? They could have voted, or voted differently, to put better candidates at the head of the Democratic and Republican tickets; and, having failed in that endeavor, to send that loathsome, ignorant, narcissistic bully selected by the G.O.P. down to reeling defeat.
Too late, folks.
Our physical world continues to spin. The planet’s polar ice continues to melt. Earth’s sixth extinction, the one properly called “Anthropocene,” proceeds unabated. Our military industrial complex continues along its poisonous, rent-seeking arc, just as President Eisenhower warned on his way out the White House door nearly fifty-six years ago.
Yet, come January 2017, there will be no national government in the United States of America against which effective protest can be mounted.
Either the government of those who refuse to be governed will be deposed, in a future election or otherwise; or the ideals of democracy, equality, and stewardship—to which the United States has long purported to aspire—will have failed.
Translation: while protest is dead, resistance and opposition are very much alive.
Robert Reich wrote last night, before the election was called but once it had become pretty clear where the finish was heading:
It was always going to be a contest between authoritarian populism and progressive populism, eventually. For now, authoritarian populism has won. But if we are united and smart, progressive populism will triumph.
In other words: all hands on deck.
We have failed to elect a national government that might have been influenced—albeit in limited areas, to an insufficient degree—while we continued to organize the conduct of social, political, economic, and environmental business in the United States differently.
So now? If we fail to neutralize the government we just elected, and fail to decisively trash it at the next electoral opportunity?
Then it’ll be time to kiss your kids’ futures goodbye.
Me, I don’t have kids. But I weep for yours.
This diary is cross-posed on Medium and the author’s blog.