The mask drops, #794,877
Maybe this time people will finally see the true face of the left. From “Blame the Constitution for this mess,” Alex Pareene, Salon:
The government shut down. It shut down because Republicans wanted it shut down. More important, it shut down because Republicans have the power to shut it down. This is the disturbing thing: The Republicans are acting rationally. At least, each individual Republican is acting rationally, with maybe a couple of exceptions. (OK, Bachmann, Gohmert, Broun and Steve King are the exceptions, they are genuinely irrational crazy people.)
In our system of government, an opposition party doesn’t have the ability to pass legislation, but it has the ability to massively screw things up. It would be strange if legislators didn’t exercise that power in order to maximize their chances of either winning legislative concessions or hurting the current ruling party politically. Furthermore, our electoral system means that most House members are insulated from national attitudes about their actions, and, indeed, many Republicans members would be punished by their constituents — especially the ones who vote in primaries, the only elections that matter in many House districts — if they didn’t exercise their power to screw things up.
These people represent very white, very conservative districts. Partisan primaries and first-past-the-post voting provide even more incentive to be as far to the right as possible. How much can we blame this “minority of a minority” for acting according to the probable wishes of their constituents? Shouldn’t we actually be more upset about a system of government that gives 80 people representing 18 percent of the population the ability to drag the United States to the edge of national default?
– To interject, refusal to raise the credit limit won’t drag the United States to the edge of a national default. Overspending does that. We have the money to pay our debts; what Obama wants is money to continue his spending on prospective programs going forward.
I note this because the lie gets slipped in casually, and I felt it worth pointing out, even though it is only a tangential reason for my linking and quoting this piece, as we’ll see below.
Oh. And 18%? That’s 60 million people being represented. Those who declare themselves liberal, in most national polls? Make up 20% of the population. And you can bet there are plenty more “teabaggers” in districts not represented by those 80 Congresspeople.
So yeah. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
We’re a year out from an election that, in a parliamentary democracy, would’ve easily granted one party control of the government. If, in this hypothetical American parliamentary system, the opposition wanted to force a showdown over the budget a year after the election, we’d have another election, and the winning party would get to implement its agenda. Instead, we’re getting the sort of “compromise” American politics specializes in: the one where things are intentionally made worse for most people in the hopes that if things are made bad enough the other side will cave.
This is happening because our wise and noble founders devised a purposefully undemocratic federal government, in part because not many of them were particularly fond of the notion of democracy and in part because the ones who were at least a bit pro-democracy were forced to compromise with vile slave interests. We’ve since declared these creaky compromises to be evidence of political genius — an elegant separation of powers! checks and balances! — but the nearly 100 percent failure rate for other countries with true “Presidential systems” is a hint that it’s a mess. Meanwhile, our Constitution’s international influence has plummeted in recent decades. Its single best feature — the Bill of Rights — now looks stingy compared to the lists of positive enumerated rights in other nations’ constitutions.
It’s probably not necessary for me to point out the obvious contempt this author has for the US and its system of government. And yet it is so brazen as to be a bit jarring.
Who cares that our Constitution’s “international influence has plummeted in recent decades”? Has the rest of the world grown more stable, affluent, and peaceful over those decades? Has the soft socialism of Old Europe promoted a stronger sense of national unity, or has it created a socially engineered disaster, Balkanization, poverty, the decline of liberty, and the rise of permanent pandered to victim classes who hold productive citizens at bay with their threats and demands?
Evidently, Alex Pareene cares, and he wants you to care, too. Because he thinks like a mouthy teenager, and mouthy teenagers place a premium not on doing what’s right but on following what’s popular.
As a nation we’ve also failed to enact various reforms (national popular vote, automatic universal suffrage, alternative voting methods, nonpartisan districting) that could make our fundamentally undemocratic system marginally more responsive to the will of the people. We have instead calcified a system that grants a legislative caucus representing a small minority great power that can only be used destructively.
We already know that our political system:
- Allows the second-place finisher of a presidential election to win the presidency
- Massively overrepresents small states and rural districts compared to large states and urban districts (and the historical reason for this misrepresentation is basically to maintain white supremacy)
- Is much, much more responsive to the desires and preferences of the wealthy than the desires and preferences of not just the poor but also the middle class
- Grants the opposition party effective veto power in one legislative chamber
- Grants an opposition party with control of one legislative chamber the ability to extract legislative concessions through threats and the manufacturing of crises
If we avoid a genuine economic catastrophe, because rational actor John Boehner determines that it’s in his and his party’s best interest to imperil his speakership by passing a government funding bill with a majority of Democratic votes, there will probably be a lot of self-congratulatory talk about how fine it is that America was strong enough to avoid this entirely self-created disaster. But even that supposed best possible outcome will be a continuation of self-created crisis politics. The government will be funded at pointlessly austere levels and there will be a built-in countdown to the next budget crisis.
We are actually a very rich country with a lot of resources and the ability to do almost whatever we want. We could eliminate poverty in America by spending a fraction of what we spend on defense. We could “bend the cost curve” in healthcare simply by expanding our existing single-payer system and just paying less for healthcare. We could end the jobs crisis by giving everyone jobs. At the moment, instead of doing any of those things, we’re choosing to become a heavily armed failed state.
An American parliamentary system with proportional representation wouldn’t immediately or inexorably lead to a flourishing social democracy, but it would at least correct the overrepresentation of an ideological minority, and cut down on intentional tactical economic sabotage. The reason we’re in permanent crisis mode isn’t “extremism,” but a system of government that guarantees political brinkmanship.
No, Mr Pareene, we haven’t “failed” to enact various reforms; instead, we reject them. We reject parliamentary government, we reject direct democracy, we reject an unchecked federal government, we reject changes to our system that would remove the checks and balances you deride as impediments to a glorious progressive future, but that we recognize as the necessary safeguards to tyranny and run away temporary populism.
The left has pretended to fight a “war on poverty” for decades now, and we now have a society, led by a Democrat President and his party’s policies, that places the number of people in poverty at over 47 million. And honestly, what sixties bumperstickers has Pareene been sniffing? “We could eliminate poverty…by spending a fraction of what we spend on defense”? Really? And I suppose we should make love, not war, while we’re at it.
Such sophomoric leftist boilerplate would be laughable if it didn’t represent the real positions of the hard left, the very people who lied their way into power by pretending to be post-partisan, post-racial “pragmatists” and yet who now vote lockstep down party lines and whose followers feel it necessary to tie skin color to politics at every turn.
But we should thank Mr Pareene for expressing in clear terms what it is he wants from this country: that it become something else, entirely.
Why he doesn’t just find such a place that already exists — a place where our Constitution’s influence has plummeted — and relocate there, where he’d be happiest, is anyone’s guess. Though I suspect it’s because dissent is patriotic or some such.
Just not when the GOP is doing it using the checks provided for them in our Constitution — where it is clear that spending bills come from the People’s House, which is controlled by Republicans because they were elected as the majority.
But, you know — consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. And Mr Pareene’s mind is evidently every bit as ample and spacious as Michael Moore’s breakfast spread.