There was a story a couple years ago about a naive student in Chicago, who discovered that all you had to do to get your name on the ballot for alderman was collect a bunch of signatures and submit them to city hall. So he did it, collecting several times the required number of signatures.
First, city hall challenged the signatures, claiming that they needed to be reviewed for validity. Then people were sent to those who had signed, and many were convinced to sign an affidavit saying they retracted their signatures. The student’s name was not allowed onto the ballot, even though he did everything right. His only appeal would have been to the state attorney general, who happened to be the sitting alderman’s sister.
The student got a lawyer, who stated that he was surprised at the alderman’s heavy handed tactics, that he had expected a much more straightforward and traditional rigged election, after the long-established customs of Chicago.
I think he missed the other long-standing Chicago tradition of the flex. Since at least the election preceding the Hay Market Riots, when the ballot boxes from the districts supporting opposition candidates could be seen by those supporters floating down the rivers after the polls closed, the powers that be in the the City That Works work by letting the little people know who is in charge.
Now, after that same Chicago Outfit, brought en masse to Washington, had 8 straight years at the levers of national power, only to have some outsider get his name on the ballot and win, we are in the middle of the biggest flex in American history. We little people are being told in no uncertain terms who is in charge, and that our efforts to put our betters in their place will result in us being put into ours with professional-level force. As Orwell described in 1984, that the individual pieces of what we’re being made to do make no sense in themselves and are inconsistent with each other is the point: it’s no good if people do what you tell them to do because they think it’s the right thing to do – we must be made to do what they tell us to do solely because they told us to do it.
Closed; Opened; Closed. Wear masks; don’t; do. Flatten the curve; wait for cases to fall; wait for a cure; wait for a vaccine. Above all, panic as long as we tell you to panic. The police will enforce compliance with every rule. You get away with backyard parties and shamelessly showing your face in public at our pleasure, which we can forcefully revoke at any time. Our chosen ones can burn you houses and businesses down and even kill you with our blessings.
And there is nothing you can do about it.
Yet the powerful don’t need public displays of their power unless it is threatened.