Ne’er So Well Expressed

November 30, 2009 at 12:27 am (By Amba)

Doctor Zero at Hot Air’s Greenroom just said something that has been knocking and nagging at me to get said, too.  I concede with relief:  it has found a much better outlet.  This is what has been lost in the partisan and ideological tug-of-war between alternating derangement syndromes.  This is the country, one nation, under God, indivisible, to which too many have abandoned allegiance in favor of allegiance to their “side,” their team, their half a brain.  I will try to resist the temptation to quote it all.

I wonder how truly desirable these uncompromising contests between capitalism and socialism are. Aren’t elected officials, especially Congress and the President, supposed to represent all of their constituents? Wouldn’t that mean listening to the concerns of both liberals and conservatives, and trying to craft legislation that satisfies both sides to some degree? Are the members of a winning political coalition supposed to have absolute power to do whatever they want, even if they won with only about half the popular vote, while the other side sits in obedient silence until their next chance at the ballot box?

In the course of endorsing a Dick Cheney run for the Presidency in 2012, Jon Meacham of Newsweek writes:

One of the problems with governance since the election of Bill Clinton has been the resolute refusal of the opposition party (the GOP from 1993 to 2001, the Democrats from 2001 to 2009, and now the GOP again in the Obama years) to concede that the president, by virtue of his victory, has a mandate to take the country in a given direction.

I don’t think most Americans are under the impression they’re voting for a dictator every four years. Bill Clinton won the Presidency with a mere 43% of the popular vote. What sort of “mandate” did that give him to “take the country in a given direction?”

Of course, we cannot parcel out presidential powers based on the scale of the candidate’s electoral victory. The proper functioning of our government, and the harmony of our democracy, demand that we acknowledge the full legitimacy of the man or woman who sits in the Oval Office. The Left did their country no favors by bitterly dragging the 2000 elections out until 2008. The complementary aspect of this principle is that strong electoral victories cannot logically yield enhanced “mandates” to take the country in various radical directions. If close elections don’t produce miniature Presidents who just keep the seat warm until the next election, then landslide victories don’t produce super-Presidents with turbocharged authority. A President who carries 49 states, and wins 70% of the popular vote, is not entitled to stuff the opposing 30% of the electorate in the trunk and take America out for a joy ride. […]

The American understanding of democracy does not envision voters as slaves who enjoy the privilege of voting for a new master every few years. When the Declaration speaks of the right – and, later the duty – of the people to abolish tyrannical governments, it renders the notion of “mandates” to impose radical change on unwilling citizens absurd. […]

The dissent of a minority is not rendered irrelevant by victory in a popular vote… but the health-care debate in the Senate proceeds on the assumption that victory in a parliamentary struggle between a hundred elected officials will compel the consent of the millions of citizens – now a sizable majority of the population, based on the latest polls – who strenuously object to ObamaCare. […]

The vital role of consent in the structure of a just government is one of the most powerful ideas ever advanced by the human race. […] The need for your consent is not respected when your only hope of withholding it lies in historic midterm electoral victories and the rapid construction of huge Congressional majorities.

Go, read the whole thing.  Now how to put this (I’m in an inarticulate phase):  I do not quite see the health care bill in such dire terms as Doctor Zero does.  I see it as unacceptable — burdensome, bureaucratic, inefficient, vastly overpriced, with many little pit traps hidden in its obfuscating length —  but not as the calculated first step in a Stalinist power grab.  Democratic socialism, European style, may not ever suit America, but neither is it dictatorship.

What bothers me more than the health care bill itself, or inseparably from it, is the way it is being rushed and rammed through.  The majority of Democrats, the Congressional leadership above all, care only about party power and vanity.  They have to grab their chance to piss on the country and put their territorial mark, their stink, on it.  Many Republicans would do exactly the same (thank God or the BFFs — Best Founding Fathers evah — it takes more votes than most majorities get to amend the Constitution), but it’s hard to separate out their motives right now because all they can do is try to stop this juggernaut — whether for partisan or nonpartisan reasons.

But what kind of country is it when whichever rogue fragment is in power tries to impose its will, while the other merely does its best to sandbag that?  The best that can happen is that we go nowhere, because each loco motive is trying to drag the train off the rails.  Why has Afghanistan been subjected to an exhaustive review of all points of view, while health care has been all hugger-mugger?  If you really cared about the state of the country, why would you try to force a prefabricated and dated agenda on it?  Wouldn’t you start fresh, take your time, listen to your citizens, and invite the best ideas from all sides?

Wouldn’t that, among many other things, have been the best way to get reelected?


  1. Peter Hoh said,

    I forget where I read this, but the run-up to the war with Iraq and the run-up to health care have a lot in common. Partisans in favor confuse good intentions with careful analysis and wise planning.

    I expect the GOP to put up a stronger fight over health care than the Dems put up over the war with Iraq.

    I’m suspicious of any president who claims a mandate for things not spelled out in the campaign. Presidents can claim a mandate on the policy proposals they ran on, but those policies had better be specific. Doing “something” about healthcare does not constitute a specific policy.

    However, it’s been clear since the failure of the Clinton health plan that Democrats would try something like this again, were they ever to regain power. The current plan is something less than the single-payer schemes favored by many of the party’s most active supporters.

    When they held power, the GOP might have enacted a few of these market-based reforms that you now hear them touting. It’s not like they did nothing to address the healthcare issue, but the largest of their efforts were directed at Americans who were already covered through Medicare. Cynics might point out that these were also the Americans most likely to vote, but, uh, yeah, that too.

    There were some questionable procedures involved in passing Medicare, Part-D. I suspect that if Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi attempted something of the same scale, we’d never hear the end of it. But what Hastert and DeLay did to twist arms is largely forgotten. And don’t get me started on Tauzin and Scully.

    As always, I want to learn more about the underlying principles by which Medicare, Part D is okay, but the current proposals are not.

  2. amba12 said,

    One such underlying principle was that Medicare Part D was allegedly a bonanza for the drug companies. I’m only repeating hearsay, though, because it’s not an issue I know a lot about.

  3. PatHMV said,

    Peter… the arm-twisting to pass Part-D was not, actually, largely forgotten. There’s a reason the GOP got voted out, and that sort of crap by the DeLays of the party was a big part of it. One of the reasons it required so much arm-twisting is because there were in fact a lot of GOP congressmen opposed to it. The politics of the situation was such that they couldn’t directly oppose the president of their own party on the issue, unfortunately. You’re not going to find many actual conservatives defending Part D. That the politicians who railroaded it through were feckless is, well, all too expected from politicians, of either party.

  4. Spud said,

    Hi Amba, as a moderate liberal, the hardest part for me in communicating with conservatives, is when I’m told I am anti-God and anti-country for my political views. How can there be an honest discussion about hot subjects like abortion when I’m told I am pro-abortion because I don’t agree with conservatives in how we deal with the tragedy of it? And how can we have an honest discussion when the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world are telling me because I’m liberal, I hate my country? For me, there’s just no way to have an honest discussion until we can get past that nonsense.

  5. amba12 said,

    I agree with that, Spud, but it’s like disarmament; it becomes a matter of “You first.” “No, you first.” Besides, people tend to have contempt for the moderates who do want to find a way forward, consider them “mushy” and unprincipled and not sufficiently “red-blooded.” Which I sometimes think is code for “not sufficiently entertaining in the gladiatorial arena. Bread and circuses! Thumbs down!”

    Many people are much more interested in getting off emotionally and self-righteously, again and again, than in actually getting anything done. The real world is always somewhat gray, so it’s better to stay in your black-and-white, or white-and-black, fantasy world.

    It’s a little more complicated than that because absolutism in rhetoric can be useful; it pushes the argument in one direction or another. For example, I think the pro-life movement has had the effect of getting many people who aren’t absolutists to change their thinking about abortion. Likewise, the people who relentlessly evangelize for condom use have gotten through to a Sarah Palin, who talks about the dangers of “unprotected” sex. The problem comes when people confuse rhetoric with reality and think that the absolutes that can be imagined as ideals can and should be fully realized; that anything short of black or white is unacceptable.

  6. Ron said,

    Spud, I’m not even a conservative, and I wonder how I can converse with liberals in my town who ostracize you when they deem you not liberal enough! Both sides are insanely guilty of this kind of craziness…

  7. Peter Hoh said,

  8. PatHMV said,

    What amba said, Spud. For myself, I generally work pretty hard not to question the patriotism or godliness of those with whom I have political disagreements. I’ve found myself able to have entirely productive conversations with folks like Peter Hoh, who I know I disagree with a lot. But I have very clear memories of speeches by the likes of Ted Kennedy saying that I, being a conservative Republican, must want children in this country to starve because I opposed additional welfare spending. We have the recent example from Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who says I “want you to die quickly” because I oppose Obamacare. I’m informed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives that dissenting against Obamacare means that I am afraid of “the facts themselves” and that I am “un-American” to voice my dissent loudly.

    I’m all for getting past the nonsense… on both sides. It’s not terribly easy to do, and it gets worse when the Speaker and the President (as he did in his major address to Congress on health care) choose to address only their least rational critics, and act as if all opposition stems only from fevered minds. Genuine debate is only possible when you acknowledge that there are rational critics of your proposals.

    Also, there’s an important distinction to be made between rhetoric which accuses the other side of desiring a claimed result (like Rep. Grayson’s blunt statement that Republicans “want” people to die quickly, and rhetoric which claims that a particular result will occur, regardless of the intentions of those making a proposal. If I say that enacting Obamacare will bring America closer to socialism, I’m not alleging that the President or others actively desire socialism, simply expressing an opinion on the merits of the proposal. If the Democrats wish to claim that millions of people will die without their bill, that’s likewise entirely within the realm of proper, if useless, debate.

  9. Icepick said,

    But what kind of country is it when whichever rogue fragment is in power tries to impose its will, while the other merely does its best to sandbag that?

    There are those of us that consider that a feature of the system, not a bug. I don’t WANT the federal government to have ever growing power, and do not like the fact that it has all the power it currently does. The federal government should have sufficient power to act as a counter-weight to states, should use regulatory powers to keep private groups (corporations) from becoming threatening powers in their own right, and should defend the Republic from outside enemies. Outside of those limited functions I don’t want it doing a damned thing, be it healthcare or ethanol subsidies, or cracking down on people smoking dope. Bring back the federated republic, sez I, complete with a small federal government.

    But that’s irrelevant. The Constitution has been getting shredded for a long, long time. We have a governing class now, and we can’t be surprised that they favor an expansive role for government. That favors them, and they WILL act in their own self-interest, Devil take the rest. Thus the travesty of Medicare Part D by the self-proclaimed “small government” party. (As I recall, the Dems were mostly upset that it wasn’t (a) much bigger and (b) rewarded Republican special interests instead of Democratic special interests.)

    Vote all the bastards out. To Hell with the tea party, we need a pitchforks and torches party.

  10. michael grant said,

    Rogue fragment? A very convincing majority in both houses of Congress, plus the White House? And, by the way, if the Senate were elected proportionally the Democrat’s lead would be larger still.

    Rogue fragment? Democrat party ID is about 50% larger than Republican party ID.

    You’ve moved into Glenn Beck country.

  11. amba12 said,

    Pelosi herself is a rogue fragment, to me. Both parties are being led by same, officially and unofficially, including the likes of Glenn Beck (whom I’ve not listened to). You could have that unofficial slot on the left if you wanted it.

  12. amba12 said,

    In fact, Michael, you’re getting to be a better and better example of the problem, a mirror image of the people you love to hate.

  13. Spud said,

    Pat, here is Rush Limbaugh yesterday. “We have an ideological chasm in this country, and the left, the far left, the kook fringe, whatever — the combination of the American left is the greatest threat that we have right now. And the only way that that threat’s going to be understood is through a simple, understandable explanation of who those people are. So, that’s why I say: progressives — eh, just trying to cover up the fact that they’re leftists. They’re socialists, they’re Maoists, they’re Marxists. They’re all liberals, as far as I’m concerned. They’re all leftists.” Now what very important player in the Democratic party says those kinds of things about conservatives?

  14. PatHMV said,

    Well, Spud, just 2 days ago, Chris Matthews said that the President of the United States had gone into “enemy territory” by going to West Point to give his Afghanistan speech. “Enemy territory.” Pretty offensive, to me.

    Then, as I noted above, there’s Rep. Grayson, who claims I want people to “die quickly.”

    Ken Olbermann once said that the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States was a “delusional lunatic.”

    In a speech on the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) said:

    Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.

    Video of his remarks at the link.

    I could go on, but why bother, as you didn’t even address the 2 specific, linked comments I noted in my earlier post? Note, please, that those 2 comments, and the last, deeply offensive comment about Robert Bork, are by Democratic ELECTED OFFICIALS, not mere pundits and talk show hosts.

    Oh, and Maoists and Marxists may be going a bit far, but no less than the chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean, said last April, at a speech in Paris that: “the debate between capitalism and socialism is over.” He did not follow that sentence with “capitalism won.” No, he followed it with the idea that “we are going to have both.” Now, perhaps that seems middle-of-the-road to some (and as Hot Air points out, it really merely states the obvious, that we’ve had some form of socialism in this country since the New Deal), but I fail to see how it is improper politics to point out that the man (and presumably the party who made him its chairman) favors socialism, at least some aspects of it?

  15. Spud said,

    Pat, I see I a difference between Dean saying, “the debate between capitalism and socialism is over.” and Rush calling liberals “Marxist and Maoists”. Furthermore, I don’t condone people like Keith Olberman. He’s disrespectful. Rush has way more influence on the Republican party than Keith does on the Democratic party. The one thing you don’t see is liberals accusing conservatives of being un-patriotic and un-Christian. When it comes to socialism, there’s no difference between Republicans and Democrats as far as I’m concerned. It’s all socialism when it comes to spending taxpayer money. Here’s what the “influential conservative” in America had to say today “Of course he told the truth about what he thinks, but it’s an outrageous truth. Why should we be — why should we — OK, you want to praise him for being honest? Fine. But the United States Military Academy is not the enemy camp. The enemy camp: MSNBC. The enemy camp is the White House right now.”

  16. amba12 said,

    The one thing you don’t see is liberals accusing conservatives of being un-patriotic and un-Christian.

    No, only of being stupid ignorant redneck bigots, heartless profiteers, and jingoistic imperialists.

    Maybe there’s just a wee grain of truth in both sets of insults. There are liberals who ARE unpatriotic and unChristian, and proud to tell you so! There are conservatives who believe God created the world and all existing species 5,000 years ago, hate and fear anyone too different, and/or think capitalism and America are without sin. There are people at both ends of the bell curve who appear to embody caricatures. Possibly, though, if you knew them personally, even they wouldn’t.

  17. amba12 said,

    By the way, I think it is equally outrageous for Chris Matthews to call West Point “the enemy camp” and for Rush to call the White House that. (If MSNBC and Fox want to call each other “the enemy camp,” all right.)

  18. karen said,

    Not only did he call West Point ~the enemy camp~ he also said that Wolfowitz would go there to rabble-rouse.

    HHhhhmmmm– what’s ~rabble~, then?? And, to whom is Matthews refering?? Aw, doesn’t matter, eh? Just the finest and breavest of our country. Thank goodness he’s patriotic, though. And i’m just a dumb hick.

  19. amba12 said,

    Matthews is just an ass.

  20. PatHMV said,

    Amba, re: your point at #16, last paragraph. Right on. The reason these accusations and counter-attacks have life is because they represent some limited truth among some segments of the population. You can choose to either treat all of the opposition as being embodied in their most extreme elements, or you can choose to assume that there are plenty of sane, rational people who disagree with your position (just as you believe that your own opposition to their position is sane and rational).

    Complaining about the opposition’s “extremism” is an easy target, easily hit by people whether they actually understand any of the policies or political issues at all. You don’t have to think much, frankly, to find examples of the other side being what you consider extreme. It takes a lot more work and thinking to cogently disagree with the mainstream of the opposition. (oh, and it takes even less intellectual effort to claim that more of the other side is outside the mainstream than your side is).

    In shorter terms: Tired about the nastiness in political fights? IGNORE IT! Elevate the debate, don’t complain about it. Complaining about it and attacking the other side for bringing the debate down only makes you part of the problem. The solution is to ignore the bullshit and choose to conduct your own debates about the real, substantive issues.

  21. amba12 said,


    That’s exactly how I feel about Chris Matthews’ stupid remark.

  22. Spud said,

    Amba, the difference between the extreme left and the extreme right is as I see it anyway, is the extreme right has gone main stream, aka Glenn Beck and Limbaugh. What influence does the extreme left like Code Pink and the 9/11 truther’s have compared to those two? There is no comparison in my mind.

  23. amba12 said,

    The people who would have said “The extreme left is in the White House!!” may have second thoughts now with Afghanistan.

    I agree with you, Spud, that there is no one on the left who corresponds to Beck or Limbaugh (though I’ve urged Michael Reynolds to make a bid for the spot). On the other hand, the values of the left permeate about three-fourths of Hollywood and simply are the wallpaper of popular entertainment. Rush and Beck stand out; Hollywood surrounds.

    I pretty much detest Limbaugh and Beck, but at the same time, I have to give them grudging credit for going to the other end of the seesaw and jumping up and down. A couple of them bouncing out at the end versus a bunch of entrenched, often anonymous people sitting in a row down the other arm of the seesaw. Just by yelling loud enough, they brought conservative ideas back into the national conversation. Unfortunately, they also made yelling the prevailing mode of discourse.

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