Monday, December 12, 2011

Need to Know, We have a democracy

Was watching a new PBS Sunday pundit show yesterday. "Need to Know" they call it and it has Ray Saurez of the Newshour as one of its hosts. They had a panel of elderly Congressmen and newsies, bewailing the current problems of Congress. They had a clip of Elmo from Sesame St saying that a nice playdate would solve all the problems. The panel talked as if Congressmen were both the cause and the solution to the current deadlock. They talked about the good old days when Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan, or Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton could get together and cut deals that would stick. If only Congressmen would socialize with each other more, all the bad partisan feelings could be soothed and we could pass some of each side's favorite bills. The entire focus of the discussion was upon Congress and Congressmen, as if the real world didn't exist.
In the real world, Congressmen have to vote their district. A lot of democratic Congressmen became former Congressmen last November because they forgot that rule. On issues that the district cares about, Congressmen have to toe the line.
In the real world the country is evenly and deeply split over many issues, taxes, spending, abortion, immigration, oil drilling, coal burning, Iraq, global warming, Afghanistan, bailing out Detroit and Wall St, to name just a few. Many districts have strong views on these issues and insist that their Congressmen support their views. When the country is split, Congress will be split too, at least a democratically elected Congress. Which is the way it ought to be.
Not only that, Congress is set up to to prevent the "tyranny of the majority". We cannot allow a slim majority to impose its will on a large minority that is dead set against the change. The country won't hold still for it. The way things are now, the country closely split, it's better to keep things the way they are, than pass laws that 49% of the country will detest.
And that is what is happening. On the deeply divisive issues, the Congress is leaving things the way they are, because it cannot muster the votes to push thru changes that are stoutly opposed by one side. And that is the way it ought to be.
Too bad no one on this panel of supposedly wise men understood that.

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