In the United States, our democracy works through a representative process. That is, we elect individuals to represent us in the legislature and we hold them accountable by making them run for re-election. Of course, the cynics need no further introduction to begin asserting “All politicians care about is getting re-elected!” I’m not sure that that statement is wholly accurate, but I’m also quite certain that it contains a great deal of truth. Still, that’s not the point. The point is that our elected representatives are to be held accountable for representing us.
To be held accountable, however, requires two conditions to be met: the representative must have the responsibility to act in our best interests–or as we wish them to–and perhaps more importantly, they must have the authority to act. In the title of this post, I assert that the republicans hate democracy, which is perhaps hyperbolic, but the basis for the accusation is that absent a 60-seat super-majority in the Senate, the minority party can be as obstructionist as it wants to be, and this republican minority has been just that.
Now, if it were the case that the democratic majority was elected as a fluke, and its agenda did not reflect the will of the people, then the republicans would be embracing democracy by taking a stand against the majority. On health care reform, however, polls show that this is not the case. What’s more, republicans have framed this whole affair such that the responsibility of governing falls squarely on the democrats, while republican obstructionism has not provided democrats with the authority necessary to uphold that responsibility. It’s as if the democrats have been tasked to eat soup with chopsticks, but first had their hands tied behind their backs by the republicans.
It’s highly unfair, to be sure, but that’s politics. So what can the dems do? Well, sunshine is the best disinfectant. It’s important to bring the message to the American people that you can either ask the majority party to govern and give them the authority to do so, or you must acknowledge that their inability to push legislation through Congress is not a failure on their part as much as it as a resounding success of your “just say no” politics. Of course, no party will readily admit to such self-incrimination. Therefore, it’s the democrats who must make it abundantly clear that the lack of bipartisanship–in fact, the lack of Constitutional government process (I checked and the filibuster’s not in there)–are rendering the legislative branch of government useless.
As a recent (Jan. 2010) Pew poll shows, it’s a tall order. As politically active and as fervently opinionated as Americans can be, most have no idea of how our government works or has been working. More than two-thirds of those polled were unaware that no republicans voted for health care reform. Three-quarters had no idea how many votes are required in the Senate to end a filibuster. In fact, more of those polled knew who Stephen Colbert was than knew who Harry Reid was. (Stephen: If you’re reading this, I know who both of you are, and I would love to come on the show and bask in the warmth of your awesomeness.)
My point is simply this: Democrats have been assigned the responsibility to govern and Republicans have denied them the authority needed to do so. That’s a flaw in the design of our government (the filibuster) working to ensure that the voices of the people aren’t heard–let alone acted upon, and that’s why the right hates democracy.