Dalton Delan | The Unspin Room: The dangers of democratic gears and supply chains straining in unison
Delegated authority and national unity are cornerstones of the Federalist Papers, attributed to “Publius” and authored by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison in 1787 and 1788. They were advertisements for the new nation’s Constitution. Then, and now, there were citizens reluctant to embrace its letter and its spirit. These three mad men propounded its wisdom with pseudonymous argument and felicitous phraseology. In short, they hawked it.
Today, what they marketed has become something corporate not corporal as the body politic since Citizens United treats corporations as people; we are more demagogic than democratic. We have a patriarchal White House that abandoned Afghanistan’s women and girls to a descent into centuries past under strict fundamentalism. In the slightly larger country of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott rules over women’s bodies and choices. The silent Thomas Supremes, denying to the death their religiosity since further coeducated with an adherent of the People of Praise, deliberate the ultimate disposition of Roe v. Wade — a hard row to hoe.
With the weaponization of masking, a pathetic spectacle of teacher and police unions opposing lifesaving vaccine mandates, and nonsensical state allowances for religious exemption from vaccination — sorry if I missed the needle-free chapter in my theology studies — we have a country whose seafaring skills on the oceans of modern life suggest a ship of fools. Luddite listeners of Laura Ingraham discover vaccine religion in the ICU, where bedraggled health care workers risk their own wellbeing on behalf of those who endangered us all in their folly.
The fire next time may not be a pandemic, but a mass panic in the face of a snarled supply-chain. Near the port of Long Beach, Calif., it isn’t just tankers that anchor unloaded. It took a mortuary there a month to cremate my mother. You can’t make this stuff up. Were they stuck carrying coals to Newcastle? Was she unable to keep on truckin’ for lack of a CDL driver? Was the queue backed up with the bodies of the unvaccinated? It’s funny until it isn’t.
Driving through California’s Central Valley recently — supplier of more than one-fifth of the nation’s dairy and sole provider of 13 varieties of fruits, nuts and vegetables — the winds howled around my car like something out of the Dust Bowl. Bridges spanned rivers of dirt. The falling Colorado River replenishes seven states; what happens when its bounty gets triaged, putting states at war? The scarcity of a simple commodity such as toilet paper early in the pandemic was a harbinger of things to come. More than 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas. As recently as the mid-20th century, it was 64 percent. If the squeeze next time isn’t on the Charmin but on eggs and milk, our fragile veneer of civilization will shred like so much cheese meeting a grater.
A republic already threatened on all sides by obsolete and obscene patriarchy, a judiciary more part of the problem than the solution, legislative constipation and echo-chamber media consumption will not long endure. Authoritarianism was barely too blatant to reelect the clown prince of Trump l’oeil; 2024 looms. With a supply-chain breakdown due to any number of cascading events — pandemic, drought, flood, fire, cold war with China from which 18 percent of our goods emanate or simple bad luck from bottlenecks with no one causation — a little bit of everything may challenge our democracy. Just as the Russians have historically prioritized boots over books — leather beats words over weather — will our hungry or thirsty cities stand on democratic ceremony?
The freedoms whined about by Abbott, DeSantis, unmoored unions and political masters of expediency — an axis of evil when the Trumpet sounds — are the ones that overrun the ICUs and stack the morgues. The freedoms advertised by the Federalists never included women or minorities anyway, and a scant 30 percent of millennials hold that democracy is essential. This bears repeating. Younger generations have fallen increasingly out of love with principle over pragmatism. They see a world in flame and they don’t adhere to a Hamiltonian standard. It may make for an entertaining hip-hop musical, but as for a system of governance, not so much.
What’s more, the millennial generation is not wrong. It doesn’t take a Republican to stick a wrench in the works of energy-change legislation — just Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Those coals again. While out in Arizona, the mysterious Kyrsten Sinema plays Garbo in a movie of her own making. We may not have meaningful accords, but we’ll always have Paris. As the polar ice cap retreats and the influx into cities advances, the supply chain of democracy as we thought we knew it may snap under pressure. When eggs get scarce, we’ll need to break something to put omelets on the table.
Move over, de Tocqueville. Make way for a new Napoleon.