When I think about the habits of democracy (à la Jeffrey Stout), I think less of tradition and more of some odd Venn diagram that makes tangible the small, shared space between The Wild Kingdom and the Olympics.
Remember those Wild Kingdom scenes of a lion(ess) playing with his(her) cubs? The scene is unforgettable because usually, it follows a sequence of the same lion(s) unrestrainedly slaughtering some poor hyena or something. The apposition (thank you, Fred Moten) of lethal power and tender play is hypnotic.
Think now of those cut-away scenes during Olympic coverage of an athlete’s personal life and training regimen. These always bore the heck out of me but the accumulation of them over the two weeks of programming aptly conveys the single-minded focus, the long hours and discipline, and the immense sociality and economics it requires to form one’s body into something able to compete at the Olympic level.
What I don’t see or hear in Republicans, and what I don’t always see in Democrats, is this notion that leading this experiment in democracy (as outlined, with horrific limitations around the constituting gestures of slavery, in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution) requires the lion’s savvy sense of restraint and the athlete’s humble acknowledgment of the people and money it takes for them to train up her body into a proud ferocity.
I am sickened at the prospect of what might happen today in Congress because the Republicans have no restraint on their lust for power, no gentle play for the sake of this precarious cub called democracy that they hold in their oversized claws. And because the Democrats continually point to the logics and illogics of representation when really they should be turning their excellent training on democracy itself, this sickly cub that has had such physical setbacks recently and that needs to be reminded of its possible, its feasible, futures.
Restraint, discipline, and ferocious focus on the future: these are the virtues we need from our politicians… not for the sake of winning, and not to pay back the people who funded them and supported them but for the sake of what might be possible for the body of democracy itself.