Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Re: The Great Litmus Test

Barry, I fear we're doing a pretty dance around the points we're trying to hit. Your criticism that our representatives are human and fallible I will accept. But that this necessarily delivers responsibility from them onto the voters I won't. Voters certainly have a responsibility, but elected representatives have one as well. I believe that our office-holders do have a duty and responsibility to behave in certain ways. I believe that this is a critical element to having a functional republic. When I say, as I have regularly during our discussions, that there needs to be a degree of social and cultural buy-in for a democracy (republic) to work, this is a part of what I'm referring to. Elected office-holders ought to hold some degree of respect for the institutions they serve, and ought to behave in such a manner as to reflect that. If this cultural buy-in doesn't exist, I don't believe that there is a constitution in existence (or in theory for that matter) which will hold such a government together. A constitution is simply a piece of paper. It is no better than the people who carry out its designs.

In a technical, scriptural sense, of course, our Congress-people have no official duty to do anything, as far as I know. If they want to stay at home, drink a beer and watch Jerry Springer while Congress is in session, they have every legal right to do that. However, I think there is some implied contract that when you vote for a politician they will act in the manner that they represent themselves in their campaign, that they will uphold the values they promote in their campaign, and that they will make a good-faith effort to implement the plans they present in their campaign. Because, as a voter, that's all you have. Once you cast that vote you don't have any more power over what that person does.

Additionally I hold full-time elected officials to a higher standard of decision-making than common street folk. This is not because we have "found angels in the forms of kings" to govern us. It is due to the fact that they have the opportunity, as Ryan mentioned, and (based on the above) the duty to inform themselves of the issues in greater depth than most. And because of this they should also be less vulnerable to the behavioral tricks that propaganda plays on those who are less informed. It is not that these people are necessarily superior, but that their position gives them both opportunity and motivation to make sounder, better-informed decisions, and in this manner to stand a level above the tides of sentiment.

With regards to Iraq, the Democratic Congress-people (and I'm mostly referring to the party leadership, as many of the rank-and-file, particularly in the House, voted against the resolution) acted, not in a manner consistent with core values or campaign promises, but based on their observations of polls like this. They saw that liberals were split on the issue while moderates and conservatives supported war. They saw that the public did not trust them nearly as much as they trusted the Republicans on the issues of Iraq and Terrorism.

The core party values are those of multilateralism, benevolence, and cooperation with international rules and bodies. The war went against these things and introduced Bush's concept pre-emptive aggression and the Neo-con Pax-Americana security strategy. The liberal public has never supported these ideas and rejected this war before and after it occurred, and were evenly split on the issue only during periods of intense pro-war propaganda (primarily Oct '02 and Mar-Apr '03).

The Democratic leadership who jumped on board with this resolution rejected their core values in an effort to play the polls for the fall elections. They figured that since liberals were split, they would take the same hit from them either way, so why not go the direction that will be more appealing to moderates and conservatives and that might make them more convincing on the issues of Iraq and terrorism. That was the calculation they made. Our core values versus a possible few percentage points in the mid-term election.

Did they actually believe in what they were doing? No. After voting for a resolution to give President Bush the unlimited authority to wage a pre-emptive war, Dick Gephardt said: "[this is] not an endorsement or acceptance of President Bush's new policy of pre-emption". Said Hillary Clinton after voting for a resolution that made possible a unilateral pre-emptive war of unparalleled arrogance: "My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for uni-lateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose, all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world." Other Democrats made similar statements, directly contradicting the action they had just taken. And that was at the time the resolution was passed. Now that war fever has declined amongst liberals, the Democrats who voted for this resolution are running away from it just as fast as they can run. They don't believe in it now, and they didn't then. They were just playing the polls.

In my view this act of betraying core values on a critical issue for temporary political gain is a betrayal of the implied contract between voter and candidate. That is why I state that my opposition on this issue is of a different quality than that of disagreeing over policy (as I do with Dean on various topics). If I cannot trust a candidate to abide by the things they claim to represent, then it matters not whether those claims are in line with my views. In fact, it is a more offensive position; I prefer the candidate that disagrees with me on policy to the one who seeks to deceive (or more accurately doesn't have the backbone to stand by what they believe).

Sen. Jim Jeffords (I), voted against the resolution, as did one Republican senator (I don't recall the name). If they had wanted to, the 50 Democrats in the Senate could have killed the bill without even resorting to a filibuster. They had the power in their hands to prevent a war that they didn't believe in and they did not do it. I find it hard to hold Democratic voters responsible for that.. They were stabbed in the back by their own representatives. I can only hope that they will do the right thing now and dump all these ass-clowns out on the street.

ps. long post... whew.. Notice the lack of banner ads at the top of our page now. Thank our friends at I was going to sign us up for the ad-free version ($15/yr) but their billing system is broken, and when I complained they said they were revamping their system, but would give us the ad-free version as a courtesy. :) Cool.

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