Sunday, February 20, 2005

While You Were Otherwise Engaged

Though you won't find it on their website, the new edition of Harper's has a Lewis Lapham essay, "Democracyland", that is a must-read. Pick it up at your newsstand if you don't a have a subscription. Sad, elegant, and full of sardonic outrage as usual, Lapham lays out the current state of the Democrats as opposition party today...that is, they aren't much of one. Given the runaway theft of representational government by the Republicans, including vote-jiggling, gerrymandering, rules-changing, and sheer non-responsiveness, Lapham hoped there might be a chance that Democrats might stand up and fight back, on behalf of their disenfranchised consituencies if for no other reason. Yet after speaking with a number of Democrats whose stances in the media he has admired, he reports how helpless they themselves feel:
"None of the four respondents (Waxman, Pelosi, Dorgan & Markey) quarreled with the observation that what was now at risk in the 109th Congress was nothing more nor less than the principle of democratic government...what was surprising was both their sense of ineffectualness and their agreement as to the obstacles standing in the way of the animated debate that I'd been pleased to think possible when talking to myself in New York."
The four then run down their grievances: strong-arm methods of pushing through laws and amendments to laws, lockouts of Democrats from chambered considerations of upcoming bills, lack of due process, refusals to reply to requests for information, refusal to grant power of enforcement to Democratic committees seeking evidence of malfeasance against Republican sweethearts like Halliburton. They moan that the Bushco stable does as it pleases, at its own whim, and Markey says, "They wish to wipe us out."

What does this mean for the almost 50% of voters who voted against Bush and his policies? It means that we have been frozen out of the running of our own government, and that those of us with Democratic representatives have no more say in what happens in our country now than the Canadians do. It means the Democrats, who we rely on to keep our concerns out front, are throwing in the towel, and not even giving us the favor of a notification of this dereliction. Instead of shouting out this outrage from the rooftops, and enlisting the people who voted for them to rise up and pay attention, the Dems have slunk off into a corner to lick their wounds and wait patiently for the next election cycle. We have been cut off, set adrift, and told "Good luck with that."

Lapham goes on to describe the shameful spectacle of the Gonzales confirmation, and the impotent show of concern made by the Dems before most of them held their noses and went along to get along:
"Nor did the Democratic members of the committee hold (Gonzales) accountable either to the facts or to the tests of scorn and ridicule. Senator Edward Kennedy and Patrick Leahy expressed concern, even tried to make sense of the bowdlerized record, but neither of them was willing to risk their depleted store of political capital on a bet already lost."
As The Rude Pundit pointed out in an earlier post, the administration minions have gotten used to having their way and to behaving with the droit du seigneur of feudal lords when dealing with the likes of us. Rumsfeld gets up in the middle of a hearing, refuses to answer further questions, and goes for lunch. Instead of providing the public a truthful headline on this outrage, which would read something like, "Rumsfeld to America: Go Fuck Yourself", his behavior is described by MSNBC as "gruff". The media colludes, the Democrats cringe, and the rest of us lose our constitutional right to representational government. Lapham goes on:
"Or, in plainer language, power is as power does, and if it's accountable to no law other than its own, well then dear reader, at least you've seen the pictures and heard a government spokesman say that America never tells a lie. What else do you expect?...Maybe a souvenir. Something to remind me of what was once a great republic before it lost the war of else to interpret the practice of torture as state policy, the nervous habit of official secrecy, the military entrenchments around the Supreme Court and the Capitol?"
We've been focusing on the little battles and lost the scope of the war. We are losing our right to representation. How will we get it back?

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