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As I See It: Democracy is messy – West Hawaii Today

Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 | Today’s Paper | few clouds 71.771°

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The Democratic Party seems disorganized, perhaps because democracy is messy. In a democracy everyone is entitled to an opinion, and almost everyone has one, or several. On a given topic there may be as many opinions in a room as there are people, maybe more as they debate, argue and opine. Some people will be steadfast in their opinion regardless of facts, others will blow with the wind. There will be some thoughtful ones who revise slowly as facts or powerful arguments emerge. One debate could go on forever and never resolve, like abortion or bearing arms. Churches have divided over a single line of scripture. Need I say, getting an entire nation together in one discussion would be challenging.
The Democratic Party seems disorganized, perhaps because democracy is messy. In a democracy everyone is entitled to an opinion, and almost everyone has one, or several. On a given topic there may be as many opinions in a room as there are people, maybe more as they debate, argue and opine. Some people will be steadfast in their opinion regardless of facts, others will blow with the wind. There will be some thoughtful ones who revise slowly as facts or powerful arguments emerge. One debate could go on forever and never resolve, like abortion or bearing arms. Churches have divided over a single line of scripture. Need I say, getting an entire nation together in one discussion would be challenging.
For these reasons, most democracies are actually republics. Instead of trying to get a nationwide consensus, we elect representatives. We vote for people whose attitudes, values or opinions come closest to ours. We seldom find exact agreement, but usually can find a sympathetic one. Such an assembly may be just as diverse and factionalized as the population, but it can have a manageable deliberative size. Even those can get too big to work efficiently. The US House has grown from 65 members in 1790 to 435 today and the Senate to 100. Four times the size of a classroom.

The original Senate had 26, the founders considered 13 but felt that would not provide enough range of opinion. They wanted two from each state to create overlapping terms. A hundred is really big to manage, and 435 obviously chaotic, thankfully the Supreme Court is a manageable nine, although we might consider 11 to ease the workload.
Other forms of government may seem more efficient. After all, with no loyal-opposition, decisions are quick and final if not necessarily optimum. An extreme example: As it became more and more obvious that the Axis was losing World War II, the generals begged Adolf Hitler for trains to move soldiers and materiel where they were needed, but he committed the railroads to hauling Jews to the death camps instead. Less extreme, China bragged last year about putting up a 57-story building in 19 days, impressive, but it started as an 80-story building and they had to stop in mid construction because it was blocking an airport. Nobody dissents in a dictatorship. Much of the material for an 80-story building was wasted because they built the bottom 57 then suddenly quit. The Soviet Union pushed hard to achieve more nuclear power, there was no loyal-opposition to ask questions so the engineers just went ahead and built Chernobyl.
Very few of the worlds 160 some countries have maintained democracy for more than a few generations, let alone 232 years. Several had it then lost it to one ego. Some democracies maintain a royal family, an aristocracy, or rigid class distinction. In 1982, only Cuba in Latin America remained a dictatorship. Today, there are three dictatorships in Latin America. Democracies rarely invade democracies.
Loyalty is important in politics, but loyalty to whom? Most of us are loyal to our family, and we hope most citizens are loyal to their nation. In between there are some questionable loyalties. Some are fanatically loyal to a sports team, even a losing team that used to be their home team, but moved away. That at least is self-contained. When loyalty to a cohort interferes with the rights of others it becomes a basis for conflict or hate. Some are loyal to their state, but not the nation. Some place their loyalty to their party above the national interest. The most dangerous is loyalty to one person. The person will probably be self-centered placing himself above even party.

We stumble along, debating everything too long and making lots of mistakes but so far, at least, not making a catastrophic one like a nuclear war. Perhaps we need a progressive party to offset the extremes on the right. Let most democrats move a little to the right and some republicans move a little closer to the democrats so bipartisanship can return.
Ken Obenski is a forensic engineer, now safety and freedom advocate in South Kona. Send feedback to [email protected]




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