There are times when I wonder, seriously, whether this country is ready for self-rule. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press conducted a poll. Here are two results: Twenty-six percent of those polled knew that it takes sixty votes to break a filibuster in the Senate. Thirty-two percent knew that no Republican Senators had voted for the health care reform bill [estimates by those polled ranged from five or ten to twenty and more].
Now, it is popular on the left to claim that the mass media are in the pocket of conservative corporate interests dedicated to keeping the truth from the American people, who, it is imagined, would rise up and demand immediate change if only they knew the facts. But let us be serious. For almost a year now, the dominant story in the mass media has been one variant or another of the struggle by the Democrats to find and hold that sixtieth vote so that the health care bill could not be filibustered. The endless stories about the Al Franken Norm Coleman election, the countless Olympia Snowe stories, the Lieberman fiasco. This was not just a secret well-kept by Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, for God's sake! Fox News was full of it. I don't care what slant they put on it -- whether the Republicans were mindless obstructionists or fearless defenders of the faith. All of those stories were built on the simple fact, endlessly repeated, that it takes sixty votes to break a filibuster in the Senate. And the net result of all of that newsprint and air time is that three-fourths of Americans DON'T KNOW THAT IT TAKES SIXTY VOTES TO BREAK A FILIBUSTER.
Under these conditions, democracy as political philosophers analyze it is simply not possible. It is pointless to cavil about the slant of Rahm Emmanuel or the nuances of Obama's tactics.
Here is a factoid to send shivers up your spine: Only forty-five percent of college graduates knew that it takes sixty votes to break a filibuster. MORE THAN HALF OF THOSE WHO HAVE SOMEHOW SURVIVED FOUR YEARS OF COLLEGE DO NOT KNOW THAT SIMPLE FACT.
I have spent most of my life defending the philosophical doctrine known as anarchism. But I am beginning to understand, for the first time, the great appeal in Communist circles of something known as Democratic Centralism, which means, more or less, Politbureaucracy [i.e., rule by the Politburo].