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What now for Democrats? And for Democracy?(20 posts)

What now for Democrats? And for Democracy?czardonic
Nov 7, 2002 1:18 PM
Now that the Democrats have lost to the Bush agenda in a landslide (well, compared to Bush's last "victory"), what next? I suspect that the party leadership will opt to (once again) shift to the Right in yet another futile effort to steal Republican votes. But would anyone who voted Republican rather have voted for a Democrat who espoused the same values? If I wanted to elect a conservative, I would elect the genuine item rather than a poseur who talks tax-and-spend out of the other side of their mouth.

As a liberal, I am glad to see the Dem's get their hats handed to them. If Democrats want to hold office by toeing Bush's line, why don't they just join the Republican Party? If they are so convinced that liberalism is a non-starter, they'd do better to lose that baggage by jumping ship.

The Republicans will call this a mandate (and probably screw up like they did after the last "Republican Revolution") but it is really a victory of Extra-Medium over Medium. The Republicans deserved to win over Democrats who's only goal is to seem just as Republican as their opponents (while occasionally throwing their "power base" a bone). That being said, I bet there are a lot of conservative voters who are just as under whelmed by the GOP.

Isn't the point of a two party system is to serve the people by effecting a balance between two opposing ideologies? Instead, both parties are pandering to a middle-of-the-road voting block that (by definition) has little conviction about anything other than maintaining the status quo. Is it any mystery that less than half the country votes, when elections are fought over the agenda of less than half of the voters (and both parties are on the same sides of the issues at hand)? As it currently stands, next to nothing is at stake when elections are held. I think we would see a lot more interest in a true battle of tree-huggers vs. commerce-enablers or doves vs. hawks etc. Certainly more than fiscally conservative liberals vs. compassionate conservatives.

I think the real solution to the morass of mediocrity in this country is to radicalize both parties. "Bi-partisanship" has gotten us exactly nowhere. Let the Democrats and Republicans have at each other with their wildest partisan fantasies and let the Constitution sort it out!
Compromise is what democracy is all about,TJeanloz
Nov 7, 2002 1:44 PM
The whole system of any democracy is set up so that the policy that gets implemented is the one favored by the person exactly at the middle of the ideological spectrum. If people far to the left or right were making decisions, we would have, effectively, a dictatorship with somebody making decisions that are supported by fewer than the majority. There are plenty of countries in the world where this system is in place; extreme liberals can move to Cuba if they so desire, extreme conservatives can move to Saudi Arabia. But in a democracy, we are assured of always maintaining a centrist path. A battle between doves and hawks might be interesting, but it will never happen, because we have hawkish doves, and dove-ish hawks.

It is interesting that some people are so offended by the idea that maintaining the status quo is a reasonable goal. I happen to like the status quo, and I think a lot of other people do too. I've lived in or travelled to most of the world, and this is about as good as it gets. So yes, I vote to maintain the status quo. I would far prefer the not-too-hot-not-too-cold approach we currently have to experiencing revolutionary swings as people wane in and out of favor.
Were the Founding Fathers "Centrists".czardonic
Nov 7, 2002 2:25 PM
How about Abolitionists or Civil Rights crusaders? This country was not founded or built by those advocating the status quo. What step forward for this country has been motivated by people who think that everything was just fine the way it was? Rather it is the radicals that keep the status quo loving moss from gathering on our National stone.

Compromise is the end of Democracy, not the means. Checks and balances were built into our system to derive the common good from opposing parties. What is the point of a two party system when there is only one party?

And in case you didn't notice, we already have a minority of the people (39%) making the decisions. Lets's call it a Centrist Dictatorship.
Yes, they were,TJeanloz
Nov 7, 2002 3:01 PM
The location of the center is not fixed- it moves dependent upon the mood of the time, prohibition passed after all, and then was repealed; slavery was legal, and then not; things change. Had the opinions of the Founding Fathers not reflected the general centrist view, they would have been seen as a bunch of lawless kooks - much as we view the Michigan Militia and such other groups.

And actually, we only need one person making the decisions- we just don't know who that person is, but it is whoever has exactly the median view on everything. It isn't a dictatorship of few, and 39%, as long as it's an unbiased sample, is more than enough to poll the feelings of the country. Of course, it's not an unbiased sample, but it's pretty close. You talk about a two party system as though this system is endorsed by the governmental structure. There is no mention of Republicans or Democrats in the Constitution, and if people didn't like the parties, we could get rid of them. Where have you gone members of the Bull Moose Party? The problem is that a lot of people happen to like the parties we have. I would encourage liberals to get active in the Green party- don't sell your ideals short just because you think you have a better chance to manipulate the system by voting Democrat (this also applies to Republicans who should be Libertarians).
voters are representative sampletrekkie1
Nov 8, 2002 8:57 AM
>39%, as long as it's an unbiased sample, is more than enough to poll the feelings of the country.

You actually hit the nail on the head. I heard on the radio of a study that showed that non-voters are fairly well represented by those who do vote -- voters are a representative sample, and nothing would change if more people, across the board, voted. It was reported to be shocking to the people doing the study. I can't find an original source for it, though.
Certainly <i>sounds</i> credible. (nm)czardonic
Nov 8, 2002 10:52 AM
When the winners say "compromise," it means "my way."cory
Nov 7, 2002 4:52 PM
Not to start a battle here, but I'd be pretty surprised if Bush and the people he's surrounded himself with plan any compromise at all with groups like the Sierra Club or those who don't want to go to war with Iraq or people who want limits on corporate greed. They didn't show any signs of it before Sen. Jeffords became an independent--look at Harvey Pitt, maybe the worst possible choice for head of the SEC if you have any interest in reform.
Ari Fleischer has already cranked up the rhetoric about reviving programs that have been "stalled" and getting about "the people's business," meaning to drill for oil in Alaska, privatize Social Security and adopt the HMO-written plan for prescription drug benefits (suppose you'd had your SS money in the stock market two years ago). I'd happily vote for the status quo, too, but this isn't going to be it. This is "people far to the right making decisions."
When the winners say "compromise," it means "my way."TJeanloz
Nov 7, 2002 5:19 PM
Yes, some things will happen that aren't supported by a large number of people. There are hard decisions to be made in government, but, contrary to your assertion, people far to the right are not making decisions. People on the left believe that George Bush is far to the right- but he's really quite moderate. He doesn't favor a super-low tax, small government scenario; he doesn't favor isolationism. When you think Bush is far right, think of Pat Buchannan, and then you see how much farther right Bush could be. Things like drilling ANWR, and privitization of social security are not opposed by everybody. I've been to ANWR, and I could care less if it gets drilled. If my Social Security money was in the stock market two years ago, I am CERTAIN that there will be more money there when I retire than under the current regime- granted, I won't be eligible for more than 40 years. But keep in mind, under no 40 year period in history has the stock market underperformed the social security increase.
You're cherry-picking issues.czardonic
Nov 7, 2002 6:07 PM
Drilling in ANWR and Social Security privitization are not right-wing issues. While Bush himself is just a run of the mill political opportunist, it is who he is peddling influence to that matters.

Example: Bush cut $34 million in funds to the UN for international family planning on the say-so of the discredited right-wing Population Research Institute.

Example: Bush is working to back out of an internatinal accord on population control. Why? Because it seeks to guarantee rights that are already guarunteed under US law. Why would a US President fight to deny rights to those abroad that his own citizens enjoy? Because the right in question is that of a safe abortion (where it is legal), and the anti abortion crowd is a major base of support for the GOP.

Judge Bush based on the issues that the right-wing holds dear (family planning, Israel, church and state separation). And more importantly, judge him based on policy decisions rather than sound-bite platitudes.
Of course I am,TJeanloz
Nov 7, 2002 6:35 PM
These people whom Bush is 'peddling influence' to are just as much citizens of the United States as I am, and have every right to have US policy reflect their views. The fact of the matter, that the left HATES to admit, is that a large group of Americans is opposed to abortion. In fact, according to Gallup (, only 25% of Americans believe that abortions should legal in any circumstance. So, with that in mind, does it seem reasonable that the President might not support abortion in all cases? Does it seem reasonable that he might cut funding to international groups that do support abortion in all cases?

The issue that I have, is that the Left believes they have the correct answers, and everybody else just needs to get on their bus. The problem is that their answers don't have the widespread support that they think they have. We'd like to believe that we live in an enlightened age, where most Americans are pro-choice (as you and I are), but that isn't actually the truth.

So the question is, is a pro-life view a "far right" attitude? I think it's closer to the center than you'd (or I) like to believe.
But how many who oppose abortion. . .czardonic
Nov 8, 2002 10:46 AM
beleive that cutting $34 million to impoverished women and children on the unfounded accusation of a tiny right-wing faction is reasonable? Not all who are anti-abortion are right-wing zealots. Anyone on any side of any issue who beleives that their beleifes justify the pain and suffering of others is a zealot by definition.

Again, we are not talking about direct support or promotion of abortion. We are talking about the guaruntee of safe abortions where abortion is already legal and in practice. Only those who beleive that women who seek legal abortion should be put at greater risk of preventable complications would oppose this.

Everything that you say about the Left is equally applicable to the Right. In general, the difference is that while the Left may think that everyone should "get on their bus", the Right seems to think that everyone who disagrees with them should be shunned, jailed or executed.
I don't know,TJeanloz
Nov 8, 2002 11:25 AM
I don't know enough about your specific reference to give any kind of credible response. But I do think that the "tiny right wing faction" is probably bigger than you believe it to be. From what I understand you're saying is that the lack of a gaurantee of a safe abortion causes undue pain and suffering by the person unable to assured of the abortion. Frankly, I don't see the connection, and I understand that many Americans would not support paying for a program that advocates or provides abortions. Again though, I don't have nearly enough idea of what you're talking about to give a credible, or even very thoughtful, response.

You are correct that everything I say about the left is equally applicable to the right- or extremists at any end of the spectrum. People on the right (at least in the US) aren't inclined to jail people who disagree with them, that I know of, but they are likely to conclude that everybody to the Left of them is going to hell...
Here's what I know. . .czardonic
Nov 8, 2002 12:13 PM
Despite its innocuous name, PRI is indeed extreme. The Virginia-based group is a spinoff of Human Life International, a hardcore antiabortion organization founded by Benedictine priest Paul Marx, a notorious anti-Semite known to blame Jews for abortion. In a 1993 HLI newsletter, Marx wrote, "Today, certain members of this people whose ancient religion and culture managed to survive Auschwitz and Buchenwald are presiding over the greatest Holocaust in the history of the world. American Jews have been leaders in establishing and defending the efficient destruction of more than 30 million preborn children in this country."

Marx started PRI in 1989, and according to an HLI press release from two years ago, HLI has invested more than $1 million in the group. In 1995, Marx hired Steven Mosher to head PRI.

Mosher's history is as checkered as Marx's. He was thrown out of the anthropology program at Stanford University 19 years ago for what the university, quoted at the time by Science magazine, called "illegal and seriously unethical conduct" that "endangered his research subjects." Mosher had been doing field work in his then-wife's village in Southern China, and was accused of bribing local villagers and smuggling rare coins. Perhaps most seriously, he published pictures in a popular Taiwanese magazine of Chinese women undergoing late-term abortions without concealing their faces, which could have led the government to retaliate against them.

Let's just hope that this is a tiny faction. Even if you want to discount the story because it is posted on Salon, you'd be hard pressed to put the direct quotes into an innocuous context.

It is not the opposition to abortion that is abhorrent so much as the willingness to see an inevitable practice devolve into a dangerous black market activity. Essentially, until the anti-abortion crowd gets the okay to execute women who have abortions, their hope is that they will die of complications that could be prevented with proper funding and oversight. And if that means depriving hundreds of millions of other women and children who have never had abortions of basic medical care, that's also fine with them. What is sickening is that you are no doubt correct. More American's than there are those who are willing to admit to it care more about unborn people than millions who are already born and in need of help.

People on the right are indeed more inclined to persecute those that do not adhere to their beliefs. Aren't the liberals the ones who are always accused of wanting to put criminals back on the streets? Its the right wing that is on a crusade to criminalize abortion, throw drug users in jail etc. It is also tends to be the right wing that is pro death penalty. So not only do they want to see people go to hell, they want to send them there personally.
Interesting enough,TJeanloz
Nov 8, 2002 1:02 PM
It is interesting, and I hope that few people share the views outlined in your post. However, it is entirely within their right to be heard by the US government, and the President should weigh their (as well as your, and my) opinions when making policy decisions. Everybody has a right to be heard, even if what they have to say isn't pretty.

When it gets to a point of discussion whether the right wants to jail people for not sharing beliefs, I retract my previous statement. Laws are based upon shared moral beliefs. Murder and rape are only 'crimes' because the vast majority of people believe them to be morally reprehensible. So, I suppose, if the majority of people believe that drug use or abortion is morally reprehensible, it too can be a crime. Are you proposing a construct whereby the Left wants a world devoid of laws? And without law, what do we have?
Thier voices should be counted.czardonic
Nov 8, 2002 1:44 PM
Because an honest count would reveal that the PRI represents a lunatic fringe. But instead of counting them and weighting his decision accordingly, Bush ignored your voice, mine and hundreds of millions of others not to mention the State Dept. Bush's record has shown time and again that he does not count voices. He counts dollars and votes. Everyone else is out in the cold.

Obviously, there are many laws that the Left favors that the Right does not (Freedom of all kinds of Speech, Freedom of Reigion that includes non-Christian religions, gender equality laws, hate crime laws, corporate oversight, etc.). But simply assembling a majority is not, in fact, the basis on which right and wrong are determined in this country. That would be mob-rule, and our system of government, from the House of Representatives, to the Electoral College, to the Constitution itself were designed precisely to counter the tyranny of the majority. As such, majority opinion is no more a valid basis for jailing addicts or executing abortionists as it is for electing the President.

But to answer your question, without law we have, among other things, Freedom!
Counting dollars and votes - A proxy for counting voices?TJeanloz
Nov 8, 2002 3:31 PM
Isn't counting votes the same as counting voices? Everybody who has a voice has a vote. And vice-versa.

And as for counting dollars, as an economist, I think that its a pretty wise thing to do, because the politician can then measure the degree to which people care- not just whether they care or not. It is a measurable metric by which we can make more people better off. But that argument is hopelessly esoteric, and frowned upon by many.

As an aside, while we're on campaign finance reform, what do you think the results would be if campaigns could only accept money from the government (no private contributions), but each person was given an "allowance" by the government to donate to the campaign of their choice. Aside from the obvious corruption, I think it would make for some interesting times.
Yes on one. No on the other.czardonic
Nov 8, 2002 3:59 PM
I guess you could reasonalbly argue that the President should only listen to people who vote for him. You won't hear him admit that though! In any case, it is the very essense of partisanship.

As for counting dollars, you would have to assume that money was evenly distributed among the electorate in order for contributions to be an accurate barometer of public opinion.

I think proposals akin to yours are the only way to ensure that the Government is an accurate representation of the People's will.
Put up or shut upmohair_chair
Nov 7, 2002 2:27 PM
Why should the Democrats get too upset? Now it's put up or shut up for the Republicans. There are no more excuses for not improving things. They must come through with their promises, because there is no one to blame if they don't. The Democrats have a get out of jail free card are essentially blameless. If the Republicans blunder and screw up this opportunity, they are all out in two years.
That light at the end of the tunnel. . .czardonic
Nov 7, 2002 2:45 PM
may turn out to be a train headed their way.

The opportunity is there, to be sure. But it will require the Democrats to spend the next 2 years vociferously opposing Bush. As it stands, they are on the record in support of the same wrong headed policies that are currently dragging this country down. If Bush can keep selling his wartime mumbo-jumbo, the Democrats will have to find the courage to oppose a popular president. This will mean taking some short-term heat for flip-flopping and for impeding national unity (gag). Otherwise, the Ralph Naders of the world will be back in 2004 to tell everyone that both parties are exactly the same, and this time they will be right.
A quick word about Ralph, the "defender" of our rights...sn69
Nov 7, 2002 6:15 PM
In 1988 I was excited to go to the O'Connell Center at the University of Florida to watch Ralph Nader speak about environmental activism (I consider myself an environmentalist). During this particular lecture series, I also had the opportunity to listen to David Crosby talk about drugs and the new "war on drugs." His speech was enlightening, especially since he showed himself to be a self-described flower child/activist turned staunch proponent of armed intervention against the drug traffic. I thought that Ralph Nader speaking about environmental custodianship would be equally intriguing.

Well, I was fortunate enough to witness Ralph's arrival at the arena. He showed up in a stretch limo that, at best, got 5 miles to the gallon. That action spoke volumes about that man's integrity and committment to his cause.

While I suppose one could argue that power corrupts, I would suggest that extremism corrupts. It takes the core values that sit at the root of many good causes and twists them into institutional excuses to do horrible things. You suggest that middle of the road is possibly a cop-out, a lack of intestinal fortitude or moral courage on the part of the American people.

I certainly respect your opinion and your right to it, but I cannot disagree more. Again, like I've mentioned before, therein lies the sublime beauty and brilliance of the Marketplace of Ideas. Generally speaking, the American public will choose the right course of action. The extremists need to be there and need to be heard insofar as their moral and ethical corruption must be exposed for the sham/deceivers they represent.

You suggested that we need more extremism on the part of both parties to realign the nation. I say no, no we do not. One one side, you would have the KKK and the Neo Nazis, on the other you'd have Earth First and PETA. At either end of the political spectrum, the desired result is the same--the institutionalized control of the freedoms that the Constitution guarantees.

No sir. Not on my watch, not in my nation. Middle of the road might have its detractors and less-than-desireable qualities, but it doesn't lead to lynchings, prohibit animal research for the betterment of mankind, etc.

What just happened is not history. It's not surprising. Rather, it's the constant study in soceital behavior that American politics represents. Fortunately, the system is larger than any one individual and it always seeks equilibrium.

Extremism upsets the balance and truly is...unsafe at any speed. (Lord, that was horrible. Sorry. Gotta lay off the single malt.)

Best regards,