By Jim Holland
The Red River is red and the Missouri River muddy. Why, you might ask? Well, it is by law: the second law of thermodynamics. That law states that the entropy (deterioration) of any isolated system always increases. This dooms all mountains to be washed down to the sea. Dooms all rolling stones to wind up in the Gulf.
The two rivers have been chosen by location to be conveyances for moving the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf.
The second law of human dynamics states that the authoritarianism of any isolated nation is always increasing. When change ends, all nations will be ruled by a dictator, some henchmen and a coercive force to dominate the people. And, eventually, all world governments will be a centralized dictatorship. Like Pharaoh’s Egypt. Or China. Or Russia.
There is no such law, but history books tell us there ought to be. Because authoritarianism is a one-way trip. Once a centralized dictatorship gains control, there is the devil to pay to restore freedom.
In actuality, it is not everywhere and always that is entropy increasing. There are local exceptions. Tectonic plates continue to move and mountains grow. Then there is life, the most exciting way in which entropy is decreasing. Brief though it is for individual life forms, life represents temporary, local decreases in entropy.
Also, it is not everywhere and always that authoritarianism is increasing. Some convergences of events have kept the entire developed world from running down to a totalitarian state.
Here are three from the 1700’s. Seven provinces in Holland, after expelling Spanish rulers and finding themselves without a ruler, took their history of cooperation and common language to form a confederation. The UK, not having need of a standing army on its island, had no coercive force to defend the king. It got a representative government that put Parliament in charge. Colonies in America after expelling British rulers, also formed a confederation.
Yet the entropy-like force pulling toward dictatorship abides.
Raised at our mother’s knee, we are taught there that we have this Constitution purposed to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
We also learn those deliverables are to be accomplished by the mechanism of a representative democracy. The representatives selected in democratic elections. We learn to be proud Americans. We don’t learn how fragile this all is.
From the onset, there have been those among us not buying into the whole democratic republic program, especially the democracy part. If free and fair elections will not work for them, they don’t mind an alternative. They are ready to corrupt the democratic process to retain domination by selecting their voters or suppressing opponent’s.
Gov. Elbridge Gerry and the Massachusetts legislature were leaders in that. Gerrymandering is first on the list of legal undemocratic shenanigans to be employed in order to limit opponent’s voters.
Other nefarious tactics include poll taxes, literacy tests, oral “understanding” tests, strict voter ID’s, long voter waiting times, a roll back of early voting, restrictions on voter registration drives and voter roll purges. All legal at the time. All undemocratic. And some making a reappearance.
Legislators approving these legal shenanigans know it is wrong – not what they learned at their mothers’ knees. They compound this wrong with a second, the fictional fig leaf that they are stopping voter fraud though they are really taking advantage of flaws in our national design to suppress opponent’s voting.
With mighty efforts, they will stop happenings that occur in minute numbers. Here is the deal these legislators offer: Block one improper vote by a measure disqualifying 10,000 proper voters. It stinks. They know it. Everybody knows it. Their second lie is to mask their shame.
A more sinister scheme is in play in America today. A scheme that would make voting a waste of time. The scheme is to enable legislators to overturn unfavorable election results.
First remove the officials who conduct elections from the election results certification. Replace them with the legislature. Then justify the overturn with the fiction of election irregularities broad enough to put the outcome in doubt.
Like an artillery barrage before an infantry attack, the election day target is being softened up right now.
Trump’s continuing Big Lie of fraud in 2020 sounds like an idiot blathering. Not so. It is an artillery barrage. The target being softened is confidence in the 2024 election results. It is working. In a poll this year 43 percent of men believed widespread voter fraud happened in 2020. Target softened: They are being readied to believe fraud claims in 2024.
For those who haven’t put Trump’s maneuvers after Election Day down the 1984 memory hole, the scheme above might sound like same song, second verse.
The failed Jan. 6 plan was to justify not counting the Electoral College votes with claims of voter fraud – fraud extensive enough to put the election of a president in doubt. (Though not the successful election of any other Republican candidate on the same ballots.)
Oklahoma’s senators hid their motives behind their own fig leaf of “voter’s belief” of widespread voter fraud. A belief created by the barrage of claims of voter fraud coming from themselves. An insurrection not punished is a practice session.
Eldridge Gerry was an ardent patriot and a strong advocate of freedom. He signed the Declaration of Independence. He demanded a Bill of Rights during the Constitutional Convention.
I expect those supporting the voter suppression shenanigans we are now seeing and the building of mechanisms to overturn election results are more like Governor Gerry than not. They don’t see much harm. But, the prospect of losing an election (and power) overwhelms them.
They are not thinking of how fragile a democratic republic is — that an entropy-like force pulling toward dictatorship abides. Ready to progress when patriots are blinded by self interest.
Eldridge Gerry and the other delegates exited the adjourning Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in September 1787. As they exited, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government do we have? “A Republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it.”
Franklin was well aware of the human ambition forces arrayed against it. We seem to now face a Constitutional crisis of a new and different order?
I don’t think so. They always look new and different at the time. The issue is always the same: Do you support continuation of our democratic republic form of government? Or not.
Will you support our experiment in freedom? Or not?
Will you support democracy against those who would destroy it to win an election? Do you support this local push back against the entropy-like pull of autocracy?
Are you one of those who on Inauguration Day make your own private pledge to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic? Or are you not?
(Jim Holland is Pct. 19 chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)