Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hyperbole or Right on Target?

Andrew Sullivan is an interesting guy. Early in the Bush Administration, he was a defender of the president, but these days, he is solidly against the Administration. Sometimes he is incredibly insightful, and at other times, he is given over to hyperbole-his postings being nothing more than rants.

Today, he continues to express his objections to the torture "compromise." I agree with him on this, but then he veers into this:

Whatever else this is, it is not a constitutional democracy. It is a thinly-veiled military dictatorship, subject to only one control: the will of the Great Decider. (emphasis mine.) And the war that justifies this astonishing attack on American liberty is permanent, without end. And check the vagueness of the language: "purposefully supported" hostilities. Could that mean mere expression of support for terror? Remember that many completely innocent people have already been incarcerated for years without trial or any chance for a fair hearing on the basis of false rumors or smears or even bounty hunters. Or could it be construed, in the rhetoric of Hannity and O'Reilly, as merely criticizing the Great Decider and thereby being on the side of the terrorists?

So, the question is, has democracy ended here? Is it 1973, when Augusto Pinochet overthrew the elected Chilean government and took over?

If this was a few years ago, I would have easily dismissed this. But hearing more and more about how the Bushies have sought diliberately to enlarge excutive power makes me at least wonder. However, I don't think we are a dictatorship; unless Bush and Cheney are planning to halt the 2008 elections or something. I do believe that the Bushies are eroding democracy in our country, but I don't think it has left us.

I'd like to know what others think. While I don't trust the Bush Administration anymore, I have a hard time seeing this as the end of American democracy. Please don't send rants. I want to hear reasoned speeches. Thanks.


WeekendPundit said...

It’s very important to recognize that the changes we see are the result of changes within a political party, not a political process.

Bush & Co. have a very definitive view of how the presidency should be shaped, and it’s based on the changing base of support for the Republican Party. With religious voters feeling “under attack” – fewer people go to church and science/pop culture challenge basic beliefs – they are using their voting power to push for federal enforcement of their views on abortion, gay marriage and so on.

The GOP of today is simply not the same GOP of yesteryear. After all, the Republicans have added massive layers of government, run up huge deficits and increasingly inject the federal government in state and even family issues (Terri Schiavo, for instance).

I won’t offer opinion on whether these are good or bad changes. After all, the deficits and increased layers of government are in reaction to the War on Terror, and some would argue the government has a duty to step in on certain issues. But an impartial look must recognize the fundamental changes to the party.

Is greater involvement always bad? No. The Clinton administration should have held tighter controls on the dot-com market to prevent the economic turmoil that later resulted, rather that let the dot-coms run wild. Each party, each president leaves its own stamp on the Oval Office. The foundation remains firm and unchanged.

Halfback Jack said...

The difference between then and now is that the executive branch appears to be able to operate as an oligarchy, while the legislative branch of government (e.g. Congress) sits idly by. For many in Washington, "checks and balances" are more likely to refer to their personal wealth instead of the responsibilities that come with the title of "Senator" or "Representative."

In those days the "checks and balance" principle worked in the sense that the Congress--at that time--was controlled by the Democrats and had been for some time. In today's environment, the congressional republicans have acquiesced their individual and collective conscience to the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

More importantly, the congressional leaders of that era were leaders who did not ignore the larger forest on account of a few groves of trees (or bushes, for that matter).

Does the war matter? Of course it does (ask any family member of a loved one who is deployed), but it is not the only show in town.

There is a long list of domestic policies that have been left to fallow. Even if both the House and Senate revert to Democratic majorities, the intrasingence and arrogance of the executive branch will make the task of reprioritizing all the more difficult. If the republicans do maintain a majority, the oligarchy that now exists will be a fait accompli. The current policies of bloated budgets, massive bureaucracies, privacy concerns, etc. will all continue unchecked.

As Sir Winston Churcill once said, "Democracy is the only form of government where the people get exactly what they deserve." With that thought in mind, the ultimate responsibility to get our leaders to address the issues WE want them to address is to vote in November.