"L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs"
- Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Commonly translated as: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions
The President cannot give in.
He. Can. Not.
And you don’t want him to.
No really, you do not want him to.
There can be no compromise on the government shutdown.
No matter what happens, the House must not win this fight.
Notice that I didn’t say the House cannot win, I said the House must not win.
Any you don’t want them to.
You, whether you are a liberal or a conservative, whether you are for or against the Affordable Healthcare Act, whether or not you hate Barack Obama’s stinking guts with every fiber of your being, if you believe in the America of your forefathers you do not want the House to win.
Because if they win, if this precedent is allowed to stand, then America as you know it, as you have known it, is over.
Yes. I know.
I’m the last guy who should be doing the “We’re doomed! Doomed!” routine.
I’ve certainly mocked others enough for claiming the same.
This time it’s different.
We not talking about the Mayan Apocalypse or the Rapture or the re-election of Ted Nugent’s worst nightmare. This is something entirely different.
Bear with me.
There is a common response among conservative apologists when discussing the current impasse that has deadlocked our government. It goes something along the lines of: “Well, see, I don’t agree with the shutdown, but our government is based on checks and balances and this is exactly how it’s supposed to work.”
As I was writing this, a commenter calling himself “Venture” left the following on the previous post, Don’t Cry For Me, John Boehner:
This country isn't a democracy. It's a democratic republic. Majority rule, by design, is necessary but not sufficient for government. The Constitution by design has many places where the minority can assert itself. The Senate can stop the House, the House can stop the Senate, the President can stop them both, unless they gang up in which case they can stop him and the Supreme Court can stop everyone. Effective leadership means taking the minority position into account. Obama didn't do that with the ACA; he used some dodgy procedural tricks to get it passed over Republican objections. As a hacker I commend him and his allies for their ingenuity but as it turns out leading a country can't be done by hacking the rules. It requires actual leadership. You have to win the argument, not just the vote. The result is our current situation. The system is working exactly as it's supposed to.
First, I appreciate the hell out of Venture’s well written comment, and I mean that sincerely. I appreciate that he (I assume Venture is a male for the sake of simplicity) was polite, didn’t engage in the usual personal attacks and swiftboating, and was able to express his opinion succinctly without being an ass. It’s a refreshing change from the usual counterpoints I get here and I sincerely appreciate it. If more folks were like this, I could safely turn off comment moderation.
That said, he’s wrong.
I appreciate Venture summing up his position so well. Venture’s comment is a good example of what I was talking about.
Let’s go through it line by line.
This country isn't a democracy. It's a democratic republic…
This is correct. The United States is a representative democracy, i.e. a republic.
“Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch,” that statement or one of its many variations is commonly misattributed to Benjamin Franklin. There’s no evidence that Franklin ever said it, but it’s likely he would have agreed with the sentiment. A pure democracy is emphatically not liberty for all. Democracy is almost always without fail a tyranny of the majority and tends to devolve into a free-for-all grab for public opinion in fairly short order. The Founders had no desire to swap one tyranny for another, so as the model for the United States they split the difference and chose a republic administrated by democratically elected representatives.
Good so far, right?
The problem with pointing this out in the manner that Venture did is that this fact is typically only acknowledged when one is in the minority opinion.
As long as the polls show that your side is in the majority, we live in a democracy.
But if the polls show that your side is in the minority, well, whoa, slow down there, Buddy, we live in a republic and don’t you forget it.
Again, both sides of the political divide in this country engage in this form of rationalization to support their various entrenched positions, it’s human nature.
While the Founders clearly had no desire to create a tyranny of the majority, they also clearly and repeatedly declared that the government of the United States exists only with the consent of a majority of the governed – later summarized by Abraham Lincoln as “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
But no matter the size of your majority, you simply can’t please all of the people all of the time. There will always, always, be dissenting voices.
And while the will of the majority must be acknowledged, the rights of the various minority opinions must be protected. Venture agrees: Majority rule, by design, is necessary but not sufficient for government. The Constitution by design has many places where the minority can assert itself. The Senate can stop the House, the House can stop the Senate, the President can stop them both, unless they gang up in which case they can stop him and the Supreme Court can stop everyone.
Venture is stating the very essence of our system of constitutional checks and balances, and is again correct.
Effective leadership means taking the minority position into account.
As somebody who has spent a significant fraction of my life in military leadership positions, often under difficult and fractious circumstances, I agree.
However, good leadership also means not being held hostage to a minority opinion.
While the counsel of the minority should be taken into account and used to temper the overall decision and to perhaps influence the final outcome, there is always one guy who just has to play Devil’s Advocate. There’s always that one guy who disagrees just to disagree, or is unreasonable for the sake of unreason, or who for some reason is pathologically unable to compromise because that’s just how he’s built.
In the end a decision must be made and often the majority position carries the day.
True democracy is tyranny of the majority, but tyranny of the minority is equally destructive to liberty.
There’s no point in saying we live in a democratic republic unless you’re going to acknowledge both the “republic” and the “democratic” parts of your statement.
Obama didn't do that with the ACA; he used some dodgy procedural tricks to get it passed over Republican objections.
And this is where Venture goes off the rails.
Obama used a “trick” to pass the ACA into law. This is a common meme among those opposed to the Affordable Care Act and/or President Obama. It’s less noxious than declaring the law invalid because Obama is a Muslim socialist from Kenya, but nevertheless it is simply not true.
During the debate over the ACA, the constitutional process in both the House and the Senate specifically acknowledged the concerns of the conservative minority. There are more than one hundred and ninety-two republican amendments to the Affordable Care Act specifically addressing the minority’s concerns. The president himself, over the strenuous objection of his own supporters and a significant fraction of the voting public, compromised with the minority by dropping his election year promise of a public single-payer option.
Again, the objections of the minority were acknowledged and did, very much, temper the outcome.
Exactly as the Founders intended.
And while there was public discussion among certain Democrats regarding the possible use of obscure procedural tactics during the Reconciliation process between House and Senate versions of the bill, in the end Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was able to pull together a majority consensus by, in part, getting President Obama to reaffirm The Hyde Act via Executive Order in direct acknowledgement of minority concerns, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed by normal House vote 219 to 212 on March 23, 2010.
This, in point of fact, is how our government is supposed to work.
You have to win the argument, not just the vote.
I understand what Venture is saying, and I even maybe agree in principle, but again, incorrect.
This is not how a republic works.
And I’d point out that Venture leads by saying that we live in a republic and therefore sometimes the majority opinion isn’t a valid way of ensuring liberty, and then works around to saying well, you have to win the argument and thus majority opinion because (implied) this is a democracy.
It should be patently obvious in this post-911 Truther and Birtherism era, that in some cases it is impossible to “win” the argument.
You cannot reason with people who are incapable of reason, whose fanatical positions are based on irrational discredited beliefs such as “death panels.” It is not possible to reach a rational compromise with these people because they are not rational people. And in the end, it is perfectly within the legal framework of the Constitution to ignore their minority insanity and move on.
The result is our current situation. The system is working exactly as it's supposed to.
No, in fact it’s not.
Again, a representative democracy is designed to prevent tyranny of the majority, but that doesn’t mean we have to live under the tyranny of minority fanaticism either.
There is an enormous difference between being the loyal opposition and attempting a coup.
House Republicans have shut down the government and are threatening to keep the government shuttered not in order to delay further discussion on a pending bill, but rather in an attempt to rewrite the history of the legislature, to override a Constitutional law that has already been decided and judged constitutional before the Supreme Court.
For better or worse, the ACA is now part of the fabric of our nation and so intertwined within our laws that repealing it without suitable replacement would cause vastly more harm than good. The majority has spoken, the minority was acknowledged, the end result is precisely how our government is supposed to work.
While the House of Representatives is responsible for “the power of the purse,” that doesn’t mean that they are entitled to the tyranny of minority rule.
The power of the purse is the House’s responsibility, not license to hold the majority hostage.
What House Tea Party Republicans are demanding with this shutdown is nothing less than a line-item veto over the established laws of our nation.
If this tactic is allowed to stand, if it succeeds, if Present Obama capitulates to a small minority of extremists, then we will have given both this legislature and all future ones, the absolute power of tyranny via deadlock.
If allowed to become precedent, our government will permanently cease to function in any effective manner, perhaps not immediately, but eventually and if history is any guide it’ll be sooner rather than later.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And you don’t have to look any further than Congress to see the truth of that platitude.
If we allow this tactic to become precedent, it will be abused. It is inevitable.
Just as changing the Senate rules to allow for secret holds instead of public filibuster is daily abused by a fanatical and cowardly minority on both sides of the aisle.
If we allow extremists to hold us hostage, they will continue to hold us hostage and we open the door to any extremist who disagrees with the majority.
If they are successful, then the very next use of this tactic will be its use to defund any portion of our civilization that the outvoted minority vehemently disagrees with, from abortion to immigration to energy to climate change to gay rights to evolution right on across the political spectrum to oil drilling and nuclear power to gun control to the military to law enforcement.
This doesn’t end.
And that too is human nature.
Once it starts, it'll be used by both sides, both conservatives and liberals will use government shutdown to demand defunding of their pet bugaboos.
And at that point the government of the United States will no longer bear any resemblance to republican democracy and will cease to function in any useful fashion. We will have become hostage to any fanatical minority that comes along.
Yes, I know that some of you hate Barack Obama so much that you’re willing to risk it, but you must look beyond the current crisis. Look to our own history. Look to human nature. When congress handed George W. Bush the power of warrantless wire taps and waterboarding and the ability to terminate Americans overseas via remotely controlled targeted killing, to their horror they only too late realized that they had given that same power to Barack Obama.
Just so, if you give the current legislature the power of deadlock, you’ve automatically given it to all future ones as well, conservative or liberal.
Think about that. Think about what that implies for the future. Think about it with a different arrangement of power. Think about it hard.
Government shutdown and deadlock will become the norm and our government will cease to function in any useful fashion.
Should that happen, the nation will either collapse and dissolve into smaller more homogeneous, more easily managed entities the way the Soviet Union did, or we will suffer revolution into a more efficient form of government – likely some form of autocracy emerging out of emergency powers. That's what happened to the Roman Republic and the Weimar Republic when they became constantly deadlocked by endless infighting. The Romans became an Empire. The Weimar Republic became Nazi Germany. There’s plenty of room along the line between those two points but few include liberty. The United States of American is simply too big and too complex to allow deadlock to become the norm, something will give, and likely it won’t be pleasant.
The house may have the power of the purse. But the president holds the power of the Executive.
If you give the legislature both the power of the purse and the power of the Executive, then you’ve ipso facto destroyed the very checks and balances that keep our government from tyranny.
No matter that you be liberal or conservative, that you be a Democrat or a Republican, you do not want what follows if the President allows deadlock to become a precedent.
The President cannot give in.
And if you are truly an American, you don’t want him to.
A note about commenting: This post is getting much wider than normal play. As usual when such things happen, Stonekettle Station begins attracting a certain frothy spittle-flecked yellow-eyed element.
As such, commenting on this post is in full moderation and will remain so.
I will reiterate for the slow people: read the commenting rules before attempting to post. Read them.
Some additional guidelines:
- This site is not Yahoo! This site is not The Blaze. This site is not YouTube. Don’t act like it is. If you can’t help but behave like a nasty fifteen year old with a behavioral disorder, then bugger off back to 4-Chan and stop wasting my time.
- If you attempt to engage in any form of delusional booger-eating ala Birtherism, 911-Trutherism, Oh No Socialism with or without included Nazis, if you mention The New World Order, or something you heard from Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Alex Jones, or any TV Preacher, your comment will not post. Period. This is non-negotiable. Likewise if you use the term “Chicago style gangsterism” or any similar show of asshatery. You’re welcome to believe whatever goofy nonsense you like, but I don’t have to give you a platform for it. Shove off.
- I’m not handing out free mental healthcare here, it’s not my job to fix either your insanity or your stupidity. That’s your problem, I won’t allow you to make it mine.
- Yes, yes, you got me. I’m a terrible, terrible person, what with my penchant for murdering babies, my horde of tofu eating sycophants, and my callous disregard of your brilliant conversational gambits. Boo hoo. Your fury warms my flinty black heart. Write you congressman or take it up with Jesus, but you’re not going to post here.
Hope that clears things up. Regards // Jim
Comments on this post are over 200 and counting. When this happens, the Blogger platform doesn’t show all the comments. if you’re not seeing a particular comment, or If you want to see all the comments, including all of the embedded responses, you have to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “load more…” I have no control over this, that’s just how Blogger works.