We the People are Sovereign. Let’s Demand Justice.

May 31, 2020

photo: credit: KIMT

By Alan Minsky, Executive Director – Progressive Democrats of America


One of the central tenets of modern society is that the State has a monopoly on violence in order to ensure social order. 

In turn, the sovereign rulers of the State set the parameters of how violence is exerted to achieve this end.

Given these two basic premises, what do the egregious imbalances of the American criminal justice system say about our society? Who is truly sovereign in America? And what is the “social order” that this sovereign authority effectively maintains.

We know all too well how State violence is exerted domestically.

Just this past week we watched with horror as George Floyd, an African-American, was brutally murdered by a white policeman in Minnesota.

Per chance, I also watched the first half of the documentary series Filthy Rich about Jeffrey Epstein that was released this week.

These are perfect examples of the two countervailing practices that balance the scales of the American injustice system: unaccountable state violence against communities of color; and unaccountable theft and violence by wealthy elites.

In both cases, anyone with a moral compass fully understands that what transpired is horribly wrong. These are not just terrible crimes. They undermine the very notion of a just society: cold blooded murder by an officer of the State; and serial child rape by a politically well-connected billionaire.

What is even worse; and makes these examples so revelatory, is that all evidence suggests that nothing will change.  Sure, policeman Derek Chauvin has been arrested and Epstein eventually met his fate; but these are the exceptions that prove the rule, necessary concessions because the cases became too high profile. Inaction would nakedly reveal the injustice system for what it is; thereby threatening public consent, which requires the maintenance of the myth of fairness.

Unless there are fundamental changes across American society, it’s just rinse and repeat.  Black communities will continue to be terrorized by the cops and the rich will remain beyond the reach of the law.

Why? Don’t be a naif. Our sovereign rulers like things the way they are.

Where does that leave us? If we accept that the maintenance of a racist justice system is wholly unacceptable (it is); and that the rich should not be above the law (they shouldn’t); we are going to have to exert greater influence over, or more likely change out, the people who determine State policy.

Now, we’re told from birth that the people are sovereign in the good ol’ USA. That’s not false, but it’s not entirely true either. Democracy does play a role, as does Capitalism, and the 1% certainly have a claim to the throne these days. Still, the question of who wields power in the United States is not so simple; nor is it too complex. If you’re expecting a straightforward description of the bad guys running America – so we can put a target on their backs and then set out to conquer them – you’re only partly in luck.

What is crystal clear, and most relevant for our purposes, is that We do not have adequate power. By We, I mean the tens of millions of multi-racial poor, working and middle class Americans who support a majoritarian progressive agenda. We certainly long to see America’s endemic (four century old) systemic racism, as well as the days of the wealthy’s immunity to prosecution, in the dustbin of history.

What is just as obvious is that until the people currently holding the reins are either removed from power, or somehow persuaded to dramatically change course, little will change.  How to do this? Progressives may be depressed following Bernie Sanderss defeat in the primaries, but two strong successive Presidential campaigns have left us stronger than at any time in recent memory. Two months of moping is enough. It’s time to deploy again so that we continue to grow – and make history.

Just as we know that the neoliberal Democrats are the co-authors of the carceral state, and that establishment Democrats hold power in virtually every single population center where the police have been caught on video murdering black people over the past six years; we know that only true left progressives will demand an end to these abominations, and also attack structural racism in all of its manifestations, and at its roots.

Just as we know that Jeffrey Epstein’s parties and his flight logs were filled with the leading lights of the neoliberal Democratic Party from Bill Clinton to John Kerry to Larry Summers, and that the Obama-Biden Administration prosecuted nary a Wall Street fraudster after their criminality helped destroy the middle class; we know that only left progressives will set out to re-calibrate the economy to favor the average worker and end the political influence of the wealthy few.

All we have to do is take what’s rightfully ours, as sovereign, and conquer the State.*

*peacefully, via the ballot box (with a healthy dose of nonviolent direct action)