Prague Twin

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Democracy

My understanding of democracy is that the will of the majority of the people will be enforced. Now of course we must have representatives because it is not feasible for everyone to be involved in the managing of the day to day affairs of the country. Theoretically, our representatives enforce our general will as a people, or at least the will of the majority.

One of the great failings of democracy is the propensity for people to want things that are bad for them. As a result there are some who believe that our leaders know better than we do. More importantly, the president himself has not tried to hide his belief in this notion.

Yesterday, he announced that Donald Rumsfeld will be staying until the end of his administration. This despite the fact that according to the latest CNN poll, a full 52% of people surveyed think he should be fired. That is with 15% being unsure; Only 33% think he should not be fired. Now, I'm not saying that Bush should fire people based on the latest polls, but to give this guy job security at this point is suspect at best.

Hypothetically, if Rumsfeld grows horns and a spiked tail at a news conference and starts breathing fire he still gets to keep his job, according to the president.

But more to the point, even if 100% of Americans want Rumsfeld to be fired, our elected servant will simply say that he knows better and Rumsfeld will keep his job. In my view, this is not democracy. In a democracy, a people have a right to have their grievances redressed, or at least considered. But in this case, the president has clearly said that he will not listen to the American people no matter how hard they scream. He is the decider, not us.

With regards to secret programs, whether they be wiretapping or waterboading, the president has been consistent in saying that they will not reveal their tactics so that the terrorist will not adjust. This is the most transparent of lies. I don't know how one adjusts to waterboarding. Perhaps you do waterboarding training, or as Jon Stewart suggested, "maybe they will grow gills." The real reason they won't reveal the programs is that a majority of people would not approve of having that done in their name. This is why originally president Bush said that you need a warrent to conduct a wiretap: he knows full well that a majority of Americans believe this to be so. But now he claims that getting a warrant will allow the terrorists to adapt. Now unless he thinks that al-Qaeda has spies throughout the judiciary, there is no reason not to get a warrant. A known terrorist assumes they are being listened to, just like a mob boss does. Keeping the program secret is only an effort to hide what he is doing because he knows full well that a majority of people do not apporve. He is saying, "I know you would disapprove, but trust me, I know better than you do."

True or not, that sir is not democracy.

It needs a new name. Maybe something like, "elective authoritarianism", or "voluntary serfdom". I'm sure we can think of something.

But please stop calling it democracy.

36 Comments:

  • George Bush, as a dry alcoholic who found "jesus," tends to work under the messianic view of gov't, doesn't he?

    Look at how many Republicans/conservatives have repudiated his administration and/or his policies, especially on the war - Andrew Sullivan, Richard Vigurie, Kevin Philips, George Will, Bill Buckley, Brent Scrowcroft, Joe Scarborough, et al. When that kind of GOP/conservative line-up takes a stand against an incumbent Republican Congress/administration, something is wrong in D.C. And in this case, it's the Decider-In-Chief and his decidedly non-conservative policies.

    By Blogger reality-based educator, at 12:16 AM  

  • As far as Rumsfeld goes, I have to disagree. Not that I like Rummy. I don't. I think he's an incompetent dork that screwwing up the war because his head is shoved too far up his own arse to see what's right in front of him (let alone what's over there). However, that being said, his is not an elected position, it's an appointed one. We elected GWB, Bush gets to appoint people to his cabinet. He should appoint people he feels he can work with to do his job -- by which I mean serving the people. That's not to say I think he's done that. That's part of Bush's incompetence. However, we don't get a say in who he appoints, except at election time. And then we only get a say in the appointer, not the appointees.

    As far as the other stuff, with the Habeus Corpus suspension going through Congress it's kind of null and void. Our representatives have spoken in favor of Bush's tactics and they're the one's who get to know, not us. That's the way it works. Could it work better? Possibly, but how to have an informed public while not having overly informed enemies is a real problem, even if Bush is abusing that problem to his own ends.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 1:52 AM  

  • PT

    How about just calling it what it is: a Representative Republic.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 5:53 AM  

  • RBE,

    I agree, the number of party members who have repudiated his administration is astonishing, and very telling.

    Stephanie,

    I hear you, and even said as much with regards to appointees. My point is that he is simply not listening, whether we are talking about Rumsfeld or waterboarding, he is not representing the majority, and in a democracy that is bad.

    Arch,

    I would call it that in any other administration, but since this one refuses to even marginally represent the majority, the word "representative" becomes disingenuous.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 9:01 AM  

  • PT

    Is it the governements job to support the "majority" on all issues?

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:04 PM  

  • Arch,

    Whenever possible, yes.... at least in a democracy.

    That is the idea isn't it?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 3:27 PM  

  • PT

    So then if the people mandated through their legislature a plan to drill in ANWR the president should yield. Correct?

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 5:29 PM  

  • I would have to agree with Arch. Few people realize it, but we, the US, is not a democracy. We are a republic.

    Kyle Chase

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:49 PM  

  • Yesterday, he announced that Donald Rumsfeld will be staying until the end of his administration.

    Mikevotes had an interesting observation on this...that this says more about how things are going to go in the last 2 years of the Bush administration that just about anything else The Deciderer has said.

    By Blogger Kvatch, at 11:35 PM  

  • Honestly, with the waterboarding thing, I really don't know what you're talking about.

    As far as Bush not listening, that's really not news. Despicable, yes, but not news.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 4:09 AM  

  • Arch,

    I'm not saying that the president has to rubbber stamp everything Congress comes up with, but rather that he should be sensitive to the will of the majority.

    So the answer to your question is, probably.

    Kyle,

    Welcome. I had always thought it was a "democratic republic". Is that not possible?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 1:21 PM  

  • Kvatch,

    I read that. In fact I should have given Mike a hat tip for the inspiration.

    I think the message is loud and clear: complain all you want people, nothing is going to change my mind or my policy.


    Stephanie,

    My point about waterboarding is that a majority of people do not want this done in their name, and yet he is going to do it anyway.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 1:23 PM  

  • PT

    So you are saying that there is a balance between the "will of the people" and some un-definable dynamic?

    Please elaborate on what this elusive dynamic might be.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 4:49 PM  

  • PT,

    It was the term waterboarding that I was unfamiliar with.

    I would have to say that soldiers using waterboarding techniques would be very bad indeed. I'm less opinionated about the CIA. The CIA is in another ballpark altogether, because they don't exactly come upon their targets by chance, the way soldiers frequently do.

    Is waterboarding torture? Yes. Does that mean it's totally despicable under all circumstances? Not in my opinion. If the CIA knows something is going down, and they have someone in custody who knows the details...if they have to torture the individuals to get them to talk, then I'm pretty much okay with that. Would I be able to do it myself? Probably not unless it was my own kids. However, if it were my kids, I'd gladly punch someone intent on hurting them repeatedly in the face in order to get them back safe and unharmed.

    Waterboarding is something that relies heavily on context for use. How many Americans would be against waterboarding in specific situations is something I doubt has been determined, so saying that Americans are against waterboarding and Bush doesn't care seems rather ingenuous.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 2:39 AM  

  • Arch,

    You've hit the nail on the head. Part of this dynamic you refer to is rooted in practicality. I'm beginning to wonder if our whole system of representative democracy isn't becoming outdated with the ability to reach people directly. That is to say, did the founders comprehend a world in which the will of the people could be ascertained without the medium of a representative?

    But more to the point, we elect people that we feel will represent our wishes. If they fail to do that when they get into office, we punish them by electing them out. But in the case of a lame-duck president, he has four years to do what he wants without fear of reprisal. Clinton acted much the same way as Bush is now: with impunity.

    Certainly a leader can be more efficeint if he does not have to worry about pleasing his constituancy, but is this what we want from "democracy"?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 1:02 PM  

  • Stephanie,

    Clinton mentioned the example that you cite. His take is that 1. Of course in this case you would do whatever you needed to, and there would probably be no reprisal. People accept that. But 2. He doesn't know of a case in the history of the CIA that was that clean cut.

    When I say people are against waterboarding, I mean that they are against the institutionalization of the practice, which would logically, eventually lead to its being practice on innocent people.

    It is the institutionalization of waterboarding and other questionable practices on large numbers of suspects to get any information they can that most people object to. This is what we want renounced and stopped, so that we don't get more cases like Moazzam Begg.

    It is not okay to start rounding up people who the DoD suspects of having links to terrorism and subjecting them to torture and suspending their right of habeas corpus.

    Once we do that, then the moral high-ground is lost, and this becomes just a strugle of power and not of right and wrong.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 1:15 PM  

  • PT

    At the time of our nations founding there in fact were (and still are) more "pure" democracies at hand, to wit; Switzerland. (It has been said that our founding fathers ideas surrounding firearms ownership by private citizens and citizen armies was inspired by the Swiss) So I think that "direct democracy" was a working system that the founders were aware of and they decided to go with a representative republic instead.

    So, in that they are/were lateral systems both then and today I don’t think the term "outdated" is applicable here.

    There are some pretty ingenious “tyranny of the masses” safe guards that come with our system of government, of which one is the Electoral College. In light of how our media twists public opinion to its will, safe guards are in fact necessary.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 5:28 PM  

  • I would love to know what the electoral college accomplishes in your view.

    As far as protections from the tyranny of the masses as well as of the leaders, I'll take my cues from the constitution.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 7:46 PM  

  • PT,

    "I'm beginning to wonder if our whole system of representative democracy isn't becoming outdated with the ability to reach people directly."

    Notice our voter turn out rates? I don't know about the Cech Republic, but America isn't ready for full-contact democracy. The apathy is just way too omnipresent for that sort of thing.

    "That is to say, did the founders comprehend a world in which the will of the people could be ascertained without the medium of a representative?"

    No, nor did the founders foresee a world where women, black and non-land-bearing males got to cast a vote.

    "If they fail to do that when they get into office, we punish them by electing them out."

    Well, that's the general idea, but the statistics really don't support that claim.

    "Certainly a leader can be more efficeint if he does not have to worry about pleasing his constituancy, but is this what we want from "democracy"? "

    No, democracy is more having a leader who genuinely cares about his constituancy, which is something we haven't had for a while now -- long before Bush or Clinton. Unless, of course, you consider "constituancy" to means those who fund their campaigns, versus those who live in this country. Then their constituancy has been properly represented all along.

    "2. He doesn't know of a case in the history of the CIA that was that clean cut."

    Sorry, but I think what Clinton (or Bush for that matter) doesn't know about the CIA could fill an encyclopedia. Certainly what I don't know about the CIA could. The reason we have a CIA is so they know, and most people (globally) don't. Considering how much attention Clinton/Bush/ect. paid to their campaigns and the campaigns of their friends, and considering how often lack of communication botched jobs between Clinton and the CIA...I really don't trust Clinton to know squat on this.

    "When I say people are against waterboarding, I mean that they are against the institutionalization of the practice, which would logically, eventually lead to its being practice on innocent people."

    Yeah, I got that part. However, saying "people are against waterboarding" implies a whole lot more than that. And, again, I doubt anyone really knows what "people are against," because the information hasn't been gathered. Would it be nice if people were against waterboarding in the manner you describe? Yes, of course it would, but that doesn't mean they are.

    "Once we do that, then the moral high-ground is lost, and this becomes just a strugle of power and not of right and wrong."

    Do you honestly believe that it was ever anything else? Moral high-ground is something that generally comes before and after a war, not during. That's the nature of war. And, considering that our enemies video tape beheadings, and torture their captives -- who are more often civilians than soldiers -- until think we're really at risk of losing the moral high-ground. Sullying the high-ground, perhaps, but not losing it.

    As much as you might want to claim it, Bush and his "atrocities" are nowhere near the evils that Saddam Hussein committed. Nowhere near.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 8:48 PM  

  • PT

    You don’t know what the Electoral College safeguards against?

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 1:13 AM  

  • Arch,

    I suspect it's more of a matter of disagreeing at the usefulness of the Electoral College. Or, do you think our State Representatives should still get to determine who are Senators are, since Americans are just too ignorant to decide for themselves?

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 5:41 AM  

  • PT,

    Do you do that whole tracks back thing I have yet to figure out? Because, if you do, I've linked you. And if this doesn't make sense, rest assured it makes sense in my own mind at least.
    ;-)

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 6:19 AM  

  • PT

    Do you think that the only safeguard provided by the Electoral College is potential voter ignorance?

    I'm sure you can think of others.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:42 PM  

  • PT

    Sorry, I ment to post my response to Stephanie.

    Stephanie

    Do you think that the only safeguard provided by the Electoral College is potential voter ignorance?

    I'm sure you can think of others.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:44 PM  

  • "Once we do that, then the moral high-ground is lost, and this becomes just a strugle of power and not of right and wrong."

    Do you honestly believe that it was ever anything else?


    No, but the GOP sure as hell sell it as something else, so either they are stupid and naive, or they are evil and full of shit.

    Take your pick.

    Arch,

    Enlighten me on the wisdom of the electoral college.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 4:16 PM  

  • PT,

    The GOP aren't the only ones who've used that tactic. All wars are power struggles. One set of ideals set against another -- may the mightiest triumph and call itself the best. That's consistent throughout human history; blaming it on the GOP rings a bit hollow.

    Arch,

    The intention of the Electoral College was two-fold: 1) to protect the Presidency from being determined by ignorant yokels; 2) to give the states a separate say than their people.

    The states-rights versus individual-rights argument was pretty much settled by the Civil War, though there are some lingering disputes over it.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 5:05 PM  

  • Stephanie,

    So what I'm saying is, if that is true, the execution of this war represents an epic failure. After promises of a cakewalk and rosy post-war scenarios we find ourselves in a real fist-fight, perhaps undermaned but certainly (and listen to the troops on this one) without the power to truly wage war.

    This half-assed approach is costing Amercian lives and prolonging the conflict and it is due to either lies or incompetance.

    Take your pick.

    Just because other people have done it before, we expect something better. And if you are going to wage war anyway, at least do it right, and don't pretend you are doing something humane.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 7:19 PM  

  • PT

    As someone who claims to champion the cause of the "little guy" I really thought you would have gone into greater detail about the Electoral College. I guess 2000 is still clouding your thinking.

    In the words of Kevin Murphy:

    In order to accommodate the small-state/big-state compromise that led to the 2-vote-per-state Senate, they (the founding fathers) needed a method to allow small states slightly greater weight in selecting a President. There was great fear that, in a strict popular vote election, the urban states would decide all contests, and no candidate would even consider the issues of the smaller and rural states.

    Mr. Murphy gets it dead on & the founders were so on the money it is shocking.

    Let me ask you a question PT: If in fact the president were elected by a popular vote, why would there be any need at all to venture out of one of our country’s great metropolis’s’? The Founders were way ahead of their time on this one.

    In the aftermath of the 2000 election, the real story of the election (for people who claim to want to “speak for the little guy”) got lost. And that story is that, little insignificant “West-by-god-Virginia” decided the 2000 election.

    I respect your intellect a great deal PT, but you have got to come around on this one.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 9:35 PM  

  • PT,

    "And if you are going to wage war anyway, at least do it right..."

    That I agree with 100%. But, there's really no such thing as a "humane" war. It's a matter of critical thinking. It can be just (which can only be determined after the war, usually after the hate has died down) but it cannot be humane.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 2:32 AM  

  • PT,

    "And if you are going to wage war anyway, at least do it right..."

    That I agree with 100%. But, there's really no such thing as a "humane" war. It's a matter of critical thinking. It can be just (which can only be determined after the war, usually after the hate has died down) but it cannot be humane.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 2:32 AM  

  • Arch,

    The electoral college also has its problems. When was the last time you saw a presidential candidate campaigning heavily in California? Here is the most populous and most economically significant state in the nation. It also happens to be the state where both of us were born.

    I understand your point about making rural areas important, but I think that letting a few hundred people in Florida decide who the next president will be is equally as unfair.

    I don't know what the answer is, but the electoral college is anachronistic and it warps the process in it's own way where Florida and Ohio are essentially all that matter.

    That aint good either.

    Stephanie,

    I'm well aware of the fact that you can't wage a humane war. That is why I am generally against war, including in Iraq. :) Thanks for setting me up for that one.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 4:22 PM  

  • PT

    It is simple logic that "when one doesn’t know the answer" he doesn’t just simply scrap the existing plan.

    But please answer the question: Why would any campaigning outside the major city limits in a popular vote mandate be at all advisable?

    Until you have an idea or solution, it is not acceptable to just say, "I don’t like the way this works". Fair enough?

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 4:32 PM  

  • Why would campaigning in California under the current system be at all advisable, Arch?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:05 PM  

  • But to answer your question, because 42% of the U.S. population lives in either rural areas or in urban areas with less than 200,000 people.

    I think that is a significant amount of people and any candidate would have to do some campaigning outside of the major cities if he or she expected to win an election.

    What you are failing to see or give any solution to is that candidates currently focus almost all of their attention on a few battleground states, like Ohio, leaving the majority of the country including the major cities off their travel map.

    I think the expression "six of one, half dozen of another" is appropriate here.

    One person, one vote. Seems fair to me.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:12 PM  

  • PT

    That 42%? It represents approximately 90% of landmass of this country.

    Hmmmmm???? Campaign in 10% of the country for 58% of the vote or "waste my time" trying to cover 90% of the county for 42% of the vote?

    Your partisanship is clouding your logic here.

    WAKE UP! (I mean that in a friendly way)

    This is simply not "6 of one". A popular vote mandate would be a tragic mistake.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:55 PM  

  • What is clouded is your logic, sir.

    58%? So you think that by campaigning in the Urban areas a candidate can get 85% of the vote there and win the election? Come on.

    I don't see how it would be such a tragic mistake. It would still be better to have them focus on Urban areas than just on the battleground states. I'd love to see California become significant.

    You haven't addressed that at all.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 5:57 PM  

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