The Debt Deal: Democracy Hammered

Ilyse Hogue of The Nation:

A CNN poll conducted after the deal shows that a whopping 77 percent of Americans believe that elected officials acted like “spoiled children.” The yawning gap between the mindset of decision-makers in Washington and the daily reality of most Americans is a grave threat to what organizers call “little-d democracy.” This is about neither the Democratic Party nor the procedural machinery by which our nominally democratic government operates. “Little-d democracy” is the basic idea that ordinary Americans, regardless of rank or stature, can have a voice in shaping our own destiny.

When all is said and done, the process that created the deal may end up being as destructive as the deal’s effects. While the country watched helplessly, each new turn and every talking head in the seemingly endless saga demonstrated that ordinary people had no real part to play. Unless we employ an army of lobbyists or have a key to the Congressional washroom, it seemed there was no reconciling the debate on the Hill with the needs and desires of those most affected by the final deal.

Hogue goes on to remind us that for many months, polls have shown that most Americans, including an overwhelming majority of independents and surprisingly a small majority of Republicans, believe that some sort of tax increase should have been included in the solution… on the wealthy, on oil and gas companies, etc. In other words, a gigantic percentage of the American population believes the solution we ultimately got is unfair. But no one in either major political party paid any attention. Even if the problem really were the deficit rather than the unemployment rate, members of Congress opted for the preferred solution of their clients… wealthy individuals and corporations… while ignoring utterly both the wishes and the needs of the great majority of Americans.

Hogue tells us that Americans actively rallied for a clean debt ceiling bill, a bill of a sort we have seen dozens of times in the past (including during all recent Republican presidential administrations). But Congress succumbed instead to Tea Party and corporate blackmail (“Tea Party” = “corporate” in my opinion; I won’t separate them in the next reference), to the threat to blow up the U.S. economy if they didn’t get what they wanted. Yeah, that’s real democracy.

Then there’s the “Super Congress” that is supposed to be part of the “solution.” Put aside whether such an elite subset of Congress can be depended on to address the problems other than in accordance with their individual self-interest and ask yourself this: where in the Constitution is Congress given the right to form a third branch of itself, with the power to force the other two branches to take its conclusions unamended, on an up-or-down vote? Whether or not it’s constitutional, the Super Congress is a bad idea. And it is far, far from the notion of representative democracy as conceived by… well, yes, by our nation’s founders, but by anyone else in power since the founding… until now. Whatever it is, it isn’t democracy of any sort.

The only remaining question is where we go from here, and I must admit I don’t know. It seems likely that the only way the remaining body politic of sane people in America can have any influence on this out-of-control legislature and presidential administration is to protest, probably in the streets, preferably peacefully, probably in quantities sufficient to overwhelm attempts by the current government to shut down the “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (and goodness knows there have been too many such shutdown attempts in the past 30 years or so). Some of us will inevitably go to jail, including even some of those who voice their objections peacefully. In these times, those people are unlikely to get a fair hearing. But this can be done now or it can be done later; it cannot be simply skipped if we intend to restore our government to a representative form.

 

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