Monday, December 19, 2016

Paul Krugman Is Angry At The Loss Of Democratic Rules. Echidne Concurs.

Paul Krugman is still full of righteous anger:

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.
Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.
On the first point: Roman politics involved fierce competition among ambitious men. But for centuries that competition was constrained by some seemingly unbreakable rules. Here’s what Adrian Goldsworthy’s “In the Name of Rome” says: “However important it was for an individual to win fame and add to his and his family’s reputation, this should always be subordinated to the good of the Republic … no disappointed Roman politician sought the aid of a foreign power.”

America used to be like that, with prominent senators declaring that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.” But now we have a president-elect who openly asked Russia to help smear his opponent, and all indications are that the bulk of his party was and is just fine with that. (A new poll shows that Republican approval of Vladimir Putin has surged even though — or, more likely, precisely because — it has become clear that Russian intervention played an important role in the U.S. election.) Winning domestic political struggles is all that matters, the good of the republic be damned.

Bolds are mine.

Think of a different example:  Baseball or soccer or football or basketball teams which are full of the competitive spirit, but however assertive or aggressive the players get, they still accept the decisions of the umpires or referees, they still follow the rules of the game.

Now think of the same game, but change only one thing:  Take baseball.  Suppose that a team threatens to kill an umpire's family if he makes a decision they don't like.  What are the consequences of that?

The team will get punished, you say.  But what if the team is somehow in power?  What if the team can decide to ignore common courtesy, established traditions and the rules of the game?  What then?

Would an umpire stick his neck out under those circumstances, or his children's necks?

The collapse of democratic institutions and rules, as is happening in North Carolina, is a serious political crisis.  It's as if one baseball team has decided to simply ignore all rules about strikes and balls, and it's as if that baseball team chooses victory over those rules in every single game.  The fans simply cheer, not caring about the rules, because victory is all, being able to thumb one's nose at the opposing team is all.

 I've been told by Trump aficionados that the Democrats are simply bad losers, that the elections are over and they won.  But what if they won because they disregarded the rules of the game, and those rules, my friends, are the rules of democracy?

I am very troubled by the idea of "president Trump" because I don't think he has the skills, personality or knowledge to govern this country.  But in a deeper way I am more troubled with the widespread disrespect of those rules which democracies and republics are based on.  Once it's acceptable to kill the umpire, anything will be legal in baseball.