Opinion: Despairing for democracy – The Register-Guard
I’m beginning to despair for democracy, at least the style of it that we’ve practiced for the last century. It doesn’t move fast enough to keep pace with the ever-accelerating attitude and appetite of most Americans. The regulatory state has made it impossible to deliver tangible change quickly enough for elected officials to get credit for their work.
Any policy changes legislated today will undoubtedly be slow to be implemented, quick to be challenged in court and sure to be obfuscated by political challengers. Good governance almost never produced effective sound bites, but that didn’t matter when an incumbent started with the benefit of the doubt.
It’s different today. There are many causes. Politics has become nationalized and popularized. Campaigns are more ruthless. Social media makes everything worse.
Which party has abdicated its public trust depends almost entirely on which side makes sense to you. I personally see the Republicans as nihilistic, anarchists working from the inside. Others see it differently. I acknowledge that and I do my best to respect the difference.
That respect, or my attempt thereto, should not be confused with equivalence. The false equivalence peddled by media has practically created the problem we’re facing today. Republicans have used the rhetorical habit of equivalence to legitimize increasingly radical policies and practices in pursuit of power.
I don’t see Democrats matching them, or even wanting to. Call Democrats principled statespeople or call them wimps or call them small-d democrats. The result is the same. Democrats can’t make any change happen quickly enough for voters to feel satisfied. Republicans shamelessly promise things with no coherent plan for accomplishing them.
The electorate is constantly dissatisfied, compulsively looking for a change. Voters no longer recognize or value competence in either party.
Sometime in the next month, the federal government will run out of money. Republicans have refused to lift the debt ceiling because they have every intention of blaming Democrats for wild spending sprees, ignoring their own. If the government shuts down, Republicans will blame Democrats for failing to govern.
I see only one way out for Democrats, but it will take more stomach than they’ve shown and it might not work. If they refuse to cave and let the government shut down and then default on its credit, maybe that will convince Manchin and Sinema to dispose of the Senate filibuster altogether.
The pain will be substantial. Credit ratings will be lowered. Financing our debt will be more expensive. International prestige and trust will be lost. Democrats will rightly determine it’s not worth it — Republicans are counting on that — unless they use their filibusterless Senate to quickly assert the rules of law and majorities across the nation.
Voting rights must be restored and guaranteed. Elections must be shielded from partisan meddling. We may need term limits for court justices. The Electoral College may have outlived its usefulness. Puerto Rico and Washington D.C deserve to be states.
I don’t see Democrats using their majorities to punish their opponents, but I also don’t see any other way that their ideals can prevail against these Republicans.
Don Kahle ([email protected]) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.