On paper and in theory, we are a republic. In practice we are a privileged democracy in which the majority is tallied from a select group of enfranchised elitists and conformists. A republic is established to protect the rights of the minority from the will of the majority. But today, not only is the minority unprotected, the promise of equal opportunity for the minority has become a barely whispered hint of “Maybe; if you’re really, really very lucky.” Our judicial system is complicit. And because the will of the majority is the will of a select group of enfranchised elitists, (which is not the will of an actual majority), and because of the complex entanglement of today’s bureaucracy, in practice our democracy is not an actual democracy, of any type. So, if in practice we are no longer a republic and we have become a perversion of a democracy, what exactly are we? I see our democratic tendencies and I say a perversion of democracy, because I believe that as long as there have been power struggles, (i.e. politics), there has been an uninformed mass of conformist followers who give physical weight to the will of a majority thus allowing for a measurable claim of majority; but the difference between then and now (I believe) is the ever-lessening equality of opportunity created in large part by the ever-widening wealth and power gap. Yet the sheep still flock. So, even if we can continue to maintain a friable connection with democracy, we appear to be drifting further and further from any kind of Constitutional Republic. Our judicial system is complicit; (it is worth repeating). So, what are we?
Some say we have become a plutocracy. Some say we have always been a plutocracy. And I suppose a plutocracy and a privileged democracy share many of the same characteristics. So the privileged plutocrats would like to continue to claim democracy, but if they were forced to admit to any type of oligarchy, they would declare it an aristocracy. With the generations piling on though, any self-proclaimed aristocrat, (especially one involved in any form of politics), has very likely become a distant echo of whatever excellence may have contributed to the good fortune handed down. I would like to believe that we are not so far down this path that we are forever lost. I am not quite ready to label us as miscreant. Despite the plutocrats and our current day-to-day practicalities of plutocracy, we still have the structure of a republic and the underpinnings of a democracy, so if (first and foremost) our judicial system would come out of its coma, shed its skin of partisan hues, and properly interpret our Constitution, perhaps we can begin to halt this hideous transformation that has us hulking and rooted, and perhaps we can blaze a new trail that will allow us to continue our pursuit of the Founding Fathers vision.
So I guess that’s what we are. A seemingly indelible hulk, unmoving, unthinking and at risk of crumbling into a handful of footnotes in some far-flung future’s historical compendium. Today, in this moment, we are a Hulkocracy.
A hulk is defined as “a bulky or unwieldy person, object, or mass.” What better definition for our individual politicians, and our partisan cliques, and the complexities of our bureaucratic entanglement. Though we are what we are, depending upon one’s perspective, we call it by different names. A plutocrat (self-recognized or not) lives in the past and calls it a democracy. A conservative votes for a democracy. A liberal hopes for a democratic republic. A progressive sees a plutocracy. And today it is this insistent, entrenched segmentation that has created our massive, immobile unwieldiness. We need to move from our respective fortifications and reach out to each other to better understand the fear, anger, sadness and (sometimes) joy that has us so divided.
As previously said, our judicial system is complicit. Until we recognize the minority as those who do not have a voice, (hence, those who do not have a say), and until we recognize the necessity of nonpartisan Constitutional judicial intervention to protect all individual rights, and until we acknowledge a wealth and power gap that is forcing a (soon-to-be-if-not-already) majority of citizens into this minority (socially / financially disenfranchised) status, we will remain a Hulkocracy.
According to bankrate.com, if income were suddenly lost, more than 50% of Americans would be unable to financially maintain for more than three months, and more than half of those could not make it for even a single month. The majority of us are already financially disenfranchised. And this is very much a silent majority, because once I recognize my financial disenfranchisement, my fragile state makes it very difficult for me to speak out on anything that could endanger what little security I do have. So, to avoid and/or mitigate social disenfranchisement as well, I must conform. I must become a follower. I must become a sheep. The minority has become the majority, yet as a member of that majority-minority I am not a part of the privileged majority beyond being able to, (with someone’s permission), barely hang on to my conformist-follower status.
Again, the actual majority is the de facto minority and the de facto majority is the select group of enfranchised elitists who (erroneously) believe they represent democracy. And I suppose there is some truth to the claim that it has been this way since our Founding; but somehow, today, we are still in a position to overturn this de facto reality by interpreting and applying the de jure potential of our Constitution as (I believe) it was meant to be employed. But until we do, the nagging question, “When will it be too late?” will continue to nag.