Monthly Archives: June 2016

Theater of the Absurd

bernie

Please stop the play. It has been running for too long. We are tired of waiting for Godot.

Donald Trump announced that he was running for President on June 16, 2015. The slogan “Ready for Hillary” was launched on December 28, 2013

hillary

Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot

Meanwhile a 59-year-old woman named Tsai-Ing-wen was just elected President of Taiwan. Most of us had never heard about her before (or since!)

Then On October 19 2015 Justin Trudeau was elected as the new Prime Minister of Canada and Stephen Harper melted away. This too caught us by surprise.

In most countries that hold elections there is a short campaign with two or more people running. Then comes election day, and one of them emerges as the victor. So why did the United States construct this elaborate, tortuous, Byzantine and grueling system of acquiring a new Chief? Why does it have to proceed with such painful slowness?

When it all started I had vowed that I would never write about Donald Trump because everyone else was, and why should I add to the noise and overexposure? He was so loathsome, ignorant, porcine and uncouth that I imagined if I just ignored him he might miraculously disappear. After all there were some 16 other unappealing candidates. Then one by one they dropped by the wayside and then there was only one. We were left with a jester and the joke was on us. I was not the only one afflicted with wishful thinking. The Republican Party after much soul searching decided to overlook his incoherent statements, boorish remarks, and relentless attacks on women, minorities and anyone else he felt like insulting. They coalesced around him. With him running (could he possibly win?) the American Dream becomes the Nightmare from which you cannot wake up. Can we count on the Democratic candidate to demolish him?

The Democrats started out with much civility, so much so that the TV Talking Heads mostly ignored them and buzzed like flies around the Donald. From the beginning, I favored Hillary but would not have been devastated had Bernie emerged as the candidate. Both of them reflected my values and I sensed that Bernie was authentic and sincere. Both of them saw the need to rescue the middle class from becoming an underclass.

Then Hillary started to forge ahead and the civility flew out of the window. Bernie became the disgruntled, raucous, angry old man, a hoarse throated shouter, constantly repeating himself. Where had the “nice guy” of yesteryear gone? The one who was sick and tired of Hillary’s damn emails? Now he suddenly says they are a very serious issue. Now he attacks Hillary ferociously and rails against the Democratic Party establishment. I now see him in a different light. I seriously doubt that his objectives of breaking up big banks and offering free health care and higher education to everyone are feasible given an obstructionist and recalcitrant Congress. He is eloquent about what he wants, but does not seem to have given much thought to “how” it can be done and who will pay for it. When he is pressed by interviewers on these issues he becomes vague and goes back to his prepared message. Does he think that his “political revolution” will also revolutionize the Congress and make it docile to his wishes?

Hillary has been accused of many things, one of which is changing her mind. Every intelligent person does this when circumstances change. I would not want a President who clings obstinately to ideas and methods that no longer work. Hillary is pragmatic and practical which may not be very inspirational but gets things done. She champions women’s right to choose, gun control, paid maternity and sick leave and child care for working women. She has also been listening to Bernie and has moved to the left.

Bernie now realizes he has missed the plane but persists in continuing to campaign because he wants his ideas to continue on without him and have a place on the Democratic platform. I hope he can persuade his supporters to endorse Hillary. We need everybody to focus on defeating Trump. Barrack Obama too campaigned in poetry but has learned that you have to govern in prose.

 

 

 

Thinking About How People Govern Themselves…

United States Senate

United States Senate

French National Assembly

French National Assembly

British House of Commons

British House of Commons

Senex means elder in Latin and so the Roman Senate was an assembly of elders. Perhaps they were thought to be wiser. They were not elected but appointed by the Consul and they did not actually legislate but deliberated on law proposals from the Consul. Their numbers varied from 100 to several hundred. Despite their seeming lack of power, they had great moral authority.

Many subsequent democracies inherited the name if not the functions of the Senate. In the United States the Congress consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which is the higher and more prestigious body.
The French too have an Assemblee Nationale (the lower chamber) and a Senat (the higher chamber)of Parliament.

In Great Britain the Houses of Parliament comprise the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

In Britain the Queen (not being a commoner) is not allowed to enter the House of Commons. That is because in 1642 King Charles I and his armed men came to the House of Commons to arrest five of its members for treason. They had already fled. But since that day no monarch has entered the House of Commons chamber. The State Opening of Parliament takes place in the chamber of the House of Lords. The Throne is not a part of the House of Lords but is the third part of Parliament.

Canada, not surprisingly has an amalgam of the British, French and American systems. They too have a House of Commons and a Senate modeled after the House of Lords.

In Germany the Bundestag was established in 1949 to succeed the Reichstag. With the Bundesrat it constitutes the German legislative body and elects the Chancellor.

The two legislative bodies of Japan (Kokai) are called the Diet in English. This has nothing to do with their eating habits but comes from The Latin “dies” which means “day,” (tag in German) and is also present in Reichstag and Bundestag.

Israel has the Knesset, a unicameral legislative body. The name means Assembly. Curiously Beit ha Knesset is the Hebrew word for synagogue and it means Assembly House.

Ukraine also has a unicameral body called Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council). It is known for some spectacular brawls and tumultuous physical fights.

Russia, an autocratic state, has nevertheless surrounded itself with all the trappings of a democracy. It has a president, a legislative body and a judicial system. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian Federation revived the name “State Duma” for the lower house of the Russian Parliament. The name comes from the verb “dumat” which means to think. The irony is that it really does not have to indulge in any thinking at all. All it needs to do is rubber stamp the proposals of Czar Vladimir I who is called their President.

This is of necessity an abbreviated and very incomplete picture of legislative bodies but may perhaps give us some perspective on how some modern nations govern themselves.