Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Contempt for our democracy



     What does "law" mean, anyway? According to the dictionary it is, in part "a system of rules" governing how our society works.  You can only drive so fast. You can't extend your house onto your neighbor's property. If you are arrested, you have a right to be treated in a particular fashion.
     We follow the law because to do otherwise invites anarchy. Even if a person is guilty of crimes, of murders say, deserving of punishment, we would not want the police to just kick down his door, drag him in the street, and shoot him on the spot. That would be easiest, and that might be justice on a cosmic scale. But if he's guilty, we want him to be arrested and tried, to receive justice according to our system. According to "the law." Otherwise, the next time the police kick down a door it might be that of an innocent man—maybe even your door—and without the oversight of the law, who would ever know?
     Thus it is frightening when the law is set aside for a good reason, never mind a bad one.
     We live a scary time when the basic system of our government is being threatened, and by the very people we elect to administer it. And because bi-partisanship is so rare, I will give you two glaring examples of the law being skirted, one Democratic, the other Republican.
     In July, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn suspended the pay of state lawmakers to put pressure on them to solve the state's staggering, $100 billion unfunded pension liability His motives were pure—something has to be done—but he did the wrong thing, because we can't have a system where the governor docks the pay of legislators every time they don't do something he wants them to do. It's bad precedent, and undermines the division of power in our democratic system. A Cook County judge correctly rejected Quinn's stunt, but he's appealing it to a higher court. He's going to lose, eventually, both a good thing, and a position Pat Quinn finds himself in with numbing frequency
     Similarly, what's going on in Washington is the opening gong of doom. Even if you hate the idea of ObamaCare—a legitimate political view, I suppose—the fact remains it's the law, passed by both the House and the Senate, signed by the president, approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. To shut down the government unless ObamaCare is repealed/delayed/ whatever is to threaten the entire democratic system. Nothing that becomes law will be safe from Congress deciding to put a gun to the country's head and demanding it be changed. This action opens the door to anarchy, and all over a government-mandated insurance system which is the definition of sound social policy. It's a bad thing done for the wrong reason.
     These are grim days. We can only pray that President Obama, who sometimes has problems with a squishy spine, maintains his solid opposition to negotiating with these legislative terrorists. What of democracy? What of the law we supposedly cherish? How can we pay such extravagant lip service to our system in theory, and treat it with such contempt in practice? 

13 comments:

  1. Boehner is a pathetic spineless moron more worried about his speakership then the US ecconomy.

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  2. While I don't agree with the Republicans, isn't part of our democracy their right, once elected, to vote yes or no on anything they like, for whatever reasons they have? They can't be forced to vote for government funding or to raise the debt ceiling. I admire their tactics and principles, although I don't agree with their goals. I just wish we had a left wing party in this country to do the same thing on all wars, military spending, government spying, etc. As for the debt, it is owed to bankers. I'm all for canceling it.

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    1. @Anonymous -- You "admire their tactics and principles"? The Republican party?

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    2. Different Anonymous here - I don't admire their tactics, but First Anon's bigger point is correct: the GOP is playing by the rules.

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  3. Neil, I hate what the GOP is fighting for, but this "contempt for democracy" thing is wrong. Consider this scenario: it's a year after Loving vs. Virginia and Congress has passed a version of the Defense of Marriage Act, only covering interracial couples and not gays. A group of liberal Democrats from urban districts use their leverage to tie all budget bills/debt ceiling/etc. to the repeal, or at least suspension for a year, of this law.

    "We can't not pay our debts!" "What about our Veterans?" "We WON, they must respect that!"

    Sounds pretty hollow, right? If the issue is important enough, you'd use every means within the rules to fight for it.

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  4. Actually I see my analogy breaks down because Loving would have made the DOMA-like law unconstitutional, but hopefully you get my point...

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    1. Am I allowed to reply, or will you just cast my reply for me? No, I don't agree, I don't think Dems would be correct holding the entire government and economy hostage, even for an important issue such as that one. Believe it or not, there are laws we find repulsive that we are not shutting down the government over. Which is the larger point -- once any group with a believe can try to stop everything, anarchy ensues.

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    2. Not sure what the "just cast my reply for me" comment is about (I said "hopefully" you get my point, and by that I just meant that you understood the analogy I was trying to make. Anyway, I understand your argument but still disagree with it: any group can try to stop everything but they'd have to be (or be able to control) 50% of the House or 40% of the senate to be successful, so this only happens over issues either a majority (well, if there wasn't gerrymandering) or large plurality feel extremely passionate about. Plus, they risk the political blowback if they gamble wrong (even recall petitions) so I don't think it's anarchy. Indeed, if you held the position that this kind of hardball can't be allowed even if we didn't have gerrymandering and a supermajority requirement to pass things in the senate,*that* would arguably be contempt for democracy, because arguably the majority of the people would be the ones being thwarted.

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    3. PS - For the record, I'm not Anonymous 2:34PM, I better get a handle for this board...

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  5. Anarchy is better than this government, which only serves the rich. I'm a left winger, but if the right can shut down the U.S. government, destroy the U.S. economy and help end amerikka, that's great.

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    1. Spoken like a man who's never been anywhere. If you like anarchy, what are you doing here? Move to Somalia -- no oppressive government, no functioning official economy. You'll love it. As Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living.

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    2. No, I've been to four other countries besides this shithole. I'm not going anywhere, I'm staying here to help change everything. Never said I liked anarchy. Prefer Communism.

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    3. Are you including Disneyland? Because that's not an actual country, you know.

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