(Edited 29/10/2020. Noted below)
I love the USA. When I was 14, I was inspired by the music I heard coming out of America. I thought that it was amazing. I wasn’t alone. I had never been touched that deeply by anything. I had never heard anything like that before. I was spellbound, and I bought a cheap guitar which was very difficult to play. I think that it cost me £3, a small fortune in 1955.
I was off and running, and seeing how many of the songs I really loved that I could learn. St James Infirmary was one of the first songs I learned. I imagined what it would be like to see your girlfriend in a mortuary.. It was stark… ‘I went down to St. James Infirmary, And I saw my baby there, Stretched out on a long white table, so cold, so cool, so fair.
There’s an argument in my head about what the first words I heard in that second verse were. I’m sure that some of the old guys were singing ‘so cold, so cool, so bare’ and that the song has undergone some kind of a pc clean up in the twenty first century, but I’m not sure that I’m right about that either. None the less, it was an image that’s never left me.
No one, but no one, was singing such emotional and revealing songs on this side of the Atlantic when I was fourteen. I’d started on a road I’ve never left. I’m full of a broad sweep of British influence in music, but there, right in the heart of me, is the biggest single influence of all of them, and it comes from poor black people whose main way of expressing themselves was to sing out their deepest, most honest emotions in hope of things getting better. One day.
When I first went to the USA in 1968 it was magical. California was a brilliant world in itself. I felt immediately at home, and I clearly should have stayed there. It was almost the same when I got to New York, which was like a music museum. I went to a couple of Jazz clubs and browsed guitars in Manny’s and Sam Ash that were completely out of my league. There were more serious loving commitments in London, but the sheer magic of those first visits to the US left me in awe.
I became very much pro USA, and though the magic never wore off, there were reasons why the contexts of those old songs sank in deeper as time went on. There was a lot more to discover over the next lifetime, lots of it fascinating, some of it horrific.
(On the Vice-Presidential Debate, October 2020, Vice President Pence declared himself to be ‘Pro-Life’, in other words against women being in control of their own bodies/destinies).
Roe v Wade was a famous 1973 case in US judicial history that set a precedent which basically stated that a pregnant woman is in charge of her own body. I.e., she alone can choose whether or not to go through with her pregnancy.
This ruling has continuously put political distance between the largely religious right and the liberal ‘left’ in the USA. This distance has grown under Trump.. Most of Trump’s people belong to the minority religious opinion that pregnancy is sacrosanct, and must not be terminated, regardless of any particular woman’s circumstance. Under such laws, and depending on where you live, as we all know, a woman can become pregnant after being raped; and be forced to deliver the offspring of that rape into the world, etc..
We all know these things. We’ve known them for half a lifetime. Actually I’ve lived more than half my lifetime since 1973. So why is it important to bring this up again at this time? And especially it being that I’m three thousand miles away.. well, because what happens in the USA, and especially with regard to democracy, directly affects what happens in the rest of the democratic world.
This is largely because the concept of democracy is fragile, and is easily eroded. Democracy depends on trust, and people believing in their individual vote, their individual opinion, being made to count.
Democracy is the only system in world politics in which each individual citizen gets to vote on who they would prefer to be represented by, in person – from a choice of candidates they themselves have chosen – belonging to different political coalitions or parties of ideas that populate their own region.
This system allows for people from any perceived class or walk of life to rise to any place in any society. Where progress is marked by merit. Not by old school tie, nepotism or cronyism.
It’s the only system in which everyone believes that they have a chance to vote in a society where their joint funds will mostly go towards the common good, and the build up of an equal society.
Piratical and unprincipled authoritarian states and dictatorships are easier to lead, because citizens in those live under edict, and have little choice. These states are at the border. Their followers and operatives are embedded among democratic populations. Mal-intent exists. Everywhere.
Regardless of how you might compare what the current USA looks like, politically and morally, to how it used to be perceived, the Americans are at present, in effect, electing the ‘Leader of the Free World’. The leader of the world’s biggest democracy is usually dubbed with this moniker. It’s intended as some kind of mark of respect…?.. although in recent times there’s a hint of query in there..
At best ‘The Leader of The Free World’ is a titular position, but in theory a position at the altar of the only worldwide belief system that is universally engaged in trying to take the brute out of the ape. Or at least mitigate its affect.
So how is democracy being eroded? How might democracy not be as strong as it once used to be? Well, not that this hasn’t happened before now, but in this particular instance, in the USA, the governing Republican Party are desperate to accomplish two goals either before the presidential election on November 3rd, or in the interim period between November and the January 20th inauguration of the new president. IMO neither of these goals would seem to be maintaining a good democratic standard. They’re anti-democratic.
Their first goal is to get rid of ‘Obamacare’, passed into law by the previous Obama/Biden Government. The conservative Republicans regard Obamacare (free health care for those who can’t afford healthcare), as an unnecessary expense.
Medical corporations become wealthier when everyone has to pay.. when no medicine or treatment is free. Previously, The Republicans have been thwarted on striking either Obamacare or Roe v Wade from the law because they’ve not had the majority necessary in the Supreme Court to nullify these Acts. They’ve also been defeated in the House Of Representatives 60 times over this!
Their second goal is to abolish Roe v Wade, which has been on a Conservative wish list of Acts to repeal since it came into law in 1973. (This Law now contains “rights” for all kinds of people. These include LGBTQ communities).
My old friend Bill Robertson in El Paso wrote a reply (below) to me on my blog about a mistake I’d made in the blog. It’s a technical thing really. In my haste to get the blog finished before Amy Coney Barrett became a member of The Supreme Court, I’d forgotten all about The Constitution! How could I? It contains one of my favourite pieces of English, all time, written by Thomas Jefferson.
Anyway, I had to edit the blog because there’s too much information out there which poses as fact, but is in actuality conspiracy theory or thereabouts, which I didn’t want to add to. So here’s the tweak..
Bills and new law are sponsored by members of either House of government, Congress or Senate. Committees are then formed to discuss and research new law before putting it to the vote.
The Executive branch rubber stamps, or vetoes, bills and new law that has been voted-on in The House Of Representatives, and have then been voted for and passed through The Senate.
If a law, at a later date, is questioned and subsequently litigated against, it goes to court to be tested. If that test is inconclusive, it rises up the court system until a conclusion or agreement is arrived at.
The highest court any contested law can rise to is The Supreme Court (of The United States).. (SCOTUS), where ultimately precedent is tested by deep knowledge of the law and the opinions of 9 Justices; and either survives or is altered in some way. Including being struck from the law completely, (repealed).
Unfortunately, SCOTUS has become increasingly politicized, being populated successively by Left and Right leaning Justices, and is not exactly in the place that the original Founding Fathers intended for it to be. A balanced Court of Justices in 1789 would agree to disagree among themselves. SCOTUS in 2020 is potentially comprised of two partisan groups with differing ideologies, some more extreme than others.
The problem for the Republicans in the present government is that they have not had a clear majority in the Supreme Court during this term in office, so that they haven’t been able to dispose of, or alter, either Roe v Wade or ‘Obamacare’ in the time that they’ve been in government.
On a previous attempt to curtail Obamacare, (The Affordable Care Act or ‘ACA’), in 2017, they failed, even though they thought they had a majority of right wing Republican justices on the Supreme Court. There were only 8 justices sitting at the time, because Chief Justice Scalia, the most right wing judge, had just died. They thought they still had a 5 – 3 majority in 2017, but Justice Roberts, who’d become the new conservative Chief Justice, changed sides, obviously because he didn’t think that it was wise to strip 23 million people of basic healthcare based on one vote.
The result was that it was a 4 – 4 tie, so the legislation which was intended to scrap Obamacare failed, and ‘Obamacare’ remained in effect.
This was galling for the Republicans, so since then, Trump has been detailed by his adopted party to vote new justices to the Supreme Court whenever he can. Since this failure to crush Obamacare, he has made two new conservative justices, though Brett Cavanagh, the last appointee, was given a very hard time, being accused of sexual inappropriations as a young man!
The Republicans were further assisted when liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. She was the most brilliant lawmaker of her time. From a great distance, I loved her. She not only always did the most just thing, but she made it known how she’d come by her opinion. She was a Democrat. In all senses of the word. I shed a tear or two when she passed. I’d loosely followed her for thirty years.
She’d helped the Americans to make the best of themselves for a good three decades. She was a big loss. She hung on as long as she could, into her late eighties, through successive bouts of cancer, but in the end she just didn’t quite make it to the next Democrat government that she could hand her very worthy torch on to. On her deathbed, she asked the Trump administration to kindly delay choosing anyone to fill her place before the election.
No sooner was she in the grave than Trump and O’Connell (Republican leader in the Senate) rushed their already chosen ‘Pro-Life’ candidate through the ‘legal’ hoops into a gathering on the South Lawn of the White House to mark her nomination. Appropriately, if ironically, this gathering has since become known as a ‘super-spreader event’. Super-spreading Covid19 into high life..
And so the whole world is now witness to the fact that Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be associated with super-spreading Covid19 for the rest of her life. What she also does with the rest of her life hangs in the balance. Will the Republican administration be able to force her onto the benches of The Supreme Court before the election unopposed? Probably. There doesn’t seem to be anything to stop them from doing so. The Democrats have one day to stop this from happening. Tomorrow, Monday 26th October. Barring a miracle, she’ll be on those benches almost immediately, less than a week before the election.
Considering Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s request, and seeing that O’Connell refused the Obama administration a seat on the Supreme Court in July 2016, four months before the Hillary/Trump election, on the pretext that it was… “Too close to the election”, a new level of chicanery has been plumbed in US politics with Amy Coney Barrett taking her seat with a week to go before this election!
Trump has possibly realised for a couple of months that his time might be up, so his legacy suddenly becomes important to him. His legacy is equal to that of any Reality TV star in history, but he can top it by managing to appoint THREE consecutive conservative justices to the Supreme Court, FOR THE DURATION OF THEIR LIVES. I doubt, historically, whether any other president has achieved that. So, if that happens, his legacy will be a crowning glory for the Republicans..
They’ll be able to stop most left leaning Democrat lawmaking from progressing into law, simply because they’ll have a 6 – 3 majority on the Supreme Court: and because they’ve appointed young judges, like Barrett, with 30 or 40 years ahead of them, the court may become conservative POTENTIALLY FOR DECADES; but wait..
‘The American People’ are now cast in the role of the 8th Cavalry, in October 2020, and they’re just coming up to the top of the hill. Two thirds of them are peed off with the antics of the 45th President, but will they vote? And will they vote him out? Do the Americans enjoy someone so obviously unstable being their president?
This situation is impacting everyone. Do they vote Biden in, as alt-right Amy Coney Barrett slips into a seat on the Supreme Court at the same time?.. They have no choice. She’ll be in there before the election, or in the dead duck transition period between November and late January. This will strip Biden of any real power to move on anything she doesn’t like? The next administration stands the chance of becoming a one woman administration, where law is being administered from the pulpit. Albeit from the born-again pulpit. A new generation of puritans may be upon us. The kind of democracy/justice that prevailed under Judge Jeffries in the 1680’s..
Commentary from PBS.. (‘At the time, in 2016, scores of scholars — law professors, historians and political scientists — urged the Senate to at least have a process for (Judge) Garland (moderate liberal) as a duly appointed nominee with impeccable qualifications. But some lawyers and academics pointed out that the Constitution empowered the Senate to “advise and consent” but did not require it do so. (Some adding that they thought the Senate still ought to do so.) (my parentheses).
Potentially, she’ll mangle or destroy The Affordable Care Act during this November to January interim between presidents, (when, even if Biden wins, the conservatives still hold power, before his inauguration.. in late January).
Can the Democrats mount a fight to preserve these two important pieces of law in those ‘dead duck’ three months? If the Democrats lose, then one of the basic tenets of women’s emancipation is threatened worldwide, and medical care for 20 odd million poorer people in the USA vanishes.
If this happens in the US, this year or next, the democracy we all knew will have been significantly debased, and that reversal is unlikely to be contained within the USA. It will automatically spread like any social malaise into ‘democracies’ worldwide. A political backstep.
In the past, the USA, whether you agree or not, had been a beacon of hope in music/art, industry, expression and style, but its future is turning out to be a progressively conservative reaction to its former democratized views. Newsfeed comment, xenophobia, The Caliphate, PC priority, White Supremacy, Covid fatigue, mental vulnerability, general retreat.. all convey the same thing.
I would argue that Trump is a symptom of this, but who knows? Is the older working woman in the Trump cap right to walk away from the camera? Away from the articulate college girl reporter who’s asking her what Trump’s future plans are..
Where am I.. ? ….Now .. Where was I ? Is there anywhere I should be? Anywhere else.. other than letting stray thoughts stream out onto an empty page in front of me..
If the Democrats win the election, can they hold the republican Senate to ransom with implicit threats about what they may do in February if the Republicans interfere with any current legislation?
Biden isn’t keen on appointing extra Judges to the Supreme Court to ‘balance it up’, and I can see his point. If he appoints two more Democrat judges, he interferes with the basic make up of the court, and where does that then end? But is he still hiding his real intent? A bucket of worms appears.
An almighty fight is ensuing. The queues at polling stations are long. Trump has been threatening to invalidate Democrat votes in any way he can. He’s calling it an illegitimate election, and apparently ‘voter suppression’ is well underway. In the world’s leading democracy!
This isn’t new. Sadly, it’s been a known practice since voting began. There are many ways to frighten people into not voting. Turning up at polling stations with guns isn’t new either, worldwide. Because of burgeoning communications networks, it’s now become more obvious… and is now planned.
Putin and Xi lately have a new deal, and are looking on, at a standing joke. They back him, because they perceive him as weak, and he sows confusion. All is diddle daddle disingenuous tittle tattle.
Trump is even using the Postal System to delay and clog postal votes. His minions are removing ballot boxes in some states/counties. In many places there are court battles to try to stop this. Not all of them are likely to succeed. People are having to travel 20 to 40 miles to cast their vote, as he continues to spreads rumours of fraudulent voting, accusing the Democrats of rigging the election when he’s the one most obviously trying to. This is ‘democracy’..
This is from the New York Times in early October 2020;
“A federal appeals court reinstated restrictions late Monday night that would allow just a single ballot drop-off site per county in Texas, allowing Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to proceed over criticism that it would make voting more difficult and dangerous.
The three-judge panel in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, all of whom were appointed by President Trump, reversed a lower court decision from Friday (16/10/20) that had blocked the restrictions. The judges wrote that the order “does nothing to prevent Texans from mailing in their absentee ballots, as they have done in the past in election after election.” This was appealed against, but the appeal has been overruled by the Governor!
In Georgia and South Carolina, and many other places, people have been queuing for 11 hours to vote.
So how do the elderly get to vote? Are the young involved enough? What new tricks, or even laws can be invented or enacted in the next 8 days? Right now, in late October, Pennsylvania has won a battle to allow the counting of votes to go on for three days after the election.. and then another one that says that all valid votes must be counted!
How can this President possibly cling to power in a few days time? Haven’t the Republicans already done enough to disbar themselves from government for the next cycle in any case? Hasn’t Trump already done enough to be banned from ‘serving’ in ‘public life’ again.. for the rest of his life? Sorry, that was all rhetoric..
The Supreme Court in the USA needs to be more distanced than it currently is from the legislature. More rhetoric?
“…one of the central foundation stones of a democracy is the idea that you do not allow the politicization of the system… of the criminal justice system, the intelligence system, the military system…
I’m disappointed that Republicans who know better have not checked on this, and a very important question after the election, even if it goes well with Joe Biden, is whether you start seeing the Republican Party restore some sense of norms.. That we can’t breach at all, you know, he’s (Trump) breached all of them, and they have not said to him ‘this is too far’.” Barrack Obama. Friday 14/October/20. (partially in response to Trump’s allegations that Obama was ‘spying’ on him, which was defeated a couple of days before Obama said this.
In my opinion, the people and the people’s lawmakers in the USA, The House of Representatives, need to continue to make the law, unfettered. The Senate and the Supreme Court with their ‘Electoral College’ badly need reform to bring them into the century ahead. The law governing these bodies in the US needs to be changed. There are too many elections being held where the total of the popular vote doesn’t count at all. The ‘Electoral College’ is now dysfunctional.
Al Gore and Hillary Clinton both won the popular vote by millions, but lost their elections. Say what you want about Clinton, unpopular or not, but there probably wouldn’t have been quite the division there has been this last four years if she’d been president. And this does affect confidence the democratic world.
I feel that I can speak about these things because they’re obvious to me. The reason for that is that American political and judiciary process is based on the older British model. The American model was the British model until 1789, which is awfully close to 1800, i.e., modern.
IMO, they both need changing now. British and American. The House of Lords is an over-populated talking shop with no real power, which in effect works reasonably well in its very narrow context, (i.e., it can’t and doesn’t freeze the process of government in the UK), but it sorely needs improvement. Surely an elected upper house would be better. Even if it was fairly toothless..
(A possible problem with an elected upper house in the UK is that it could slow down government a lot if voting was as meaningful in both houses. Arguing in two houses into the sunset, with no improvement in the jamming of legislation translates as filibuster.. The Senate in the US is democratic but little better, and with added giant power. IMHO, they’ve both outlived their original purpose…
Meanwhile, in both countries, Covid19 is holding sway. Some ridiculous people are hoping that it’ll get worse, for political reasons! While others are praying for their friends and family. I’m hoping that everyone will soon see the wisdom in wearing a mask, and distancing, with respect, even the young.
In both countries the food queues are substantive and growing. That’s the shame I feel the deepest. I feel ashamed that I can isolate in the way I do. I’ve been virtually isolated for thirty years, so the effect on my daily life is marginal. My conscience is another matter. I’d like everyone on earth to be in a similar position. The problem is that it took me the best part of 50 years to get here, even though it doesn’t seem like 50 minutes.
I sincerely hope that you don’t find this over-long. I wrote it because I think that something important is happening this week and next that might go underneath the radar more than it should. Perhaps because we’re all living very different lives to those we were living last year.
I wrote it for myself because I was here, outside it, but right in the middle of it. It might be a mistake to send it to you because I know that we all need to be thinking about more positive things. But I have to remind myself, all the time, that I have a responsibility to myself and my friends to pass things on that I think are relevant to the quality of our lives.
I’m going out now. I might be some time. When I come back I’ll bring you something nice… That’s what I always say to herself, when she masks up and goes to the shop.
“Bring me something nice”, with a smile.. It’s become a trope. My most recent trope. Really all I need is a biscuit, or a pat on the head..