Fear for American democracy
Gerald Matlin says:
Perhaps the problem with the Democrats is not dominance by the Republicans but the inability to pick a winner. Given the closeness of the past two elections, it would not have taken much to beat Mr. Bush. As an independent looking for less government, I'm delighted the Democrats have again nominated a person who can not win; whether from inexperience, racism, personality, or or any other reason. As of now, 9/15, it appears to me that the Democrats are running Mr. Obama against Mrs. Palin. No matter who wins, the lobbyists and vested interests will control what happens anyway. I'm not optimistic about any tangible improvement in border security, fiscal responsibility, education improvements, efficiency in government, or improved moral behavior on the part of our elected officials. I guess we get what we vote for. Which brings me to a question for the professionals in the blog: Why with congressional ratings always low, are upwards of 90% of incumbents reelected?
Amen Rabinowitz. If McCain wins we’ll be electing a man with centrist proclivities who essentially ran against his own party. This combined with the facts that everyone knows his victory will be race-aided and that he’ll have to govern with large Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate doesn’t provide much of a mandate for the GOP “to use the levers of government to consolidate their power and to insure that while the Democratic Party will survive, it will never represent a serious challenge to their dominance.” Fear not Prof. Sawyer, the demographics on youth and ethnic partisanship so lopsidedly favor the Dems that we’re if anything headed towards Democratic dominance in the years ahead. But, then again, let’s not be alarmist.
Sawyer's response that "undivided government is not the same as a one party state." Is not a (logical) retort to the point that one partyism and divided government are incompatible.
Democrats control the House and the Senate, and are expected to pick up seats. And their chances appear about even at getting the Executive branch. But you foresee a one-party state controlled by Republicans? And that this will threaten our democracy? Is this the type of analysis you provide in the classroom? This is worse than Fox news.
I share Dr. Sawyer's concern. This election will determine the future of our democracy. It is in a frail and weakened condition by design. It is not just that the Republicans have created this situation, but that the Democrats have not been able to respond to the Republican vision with a compelling vision of their own. This is not an election based on issues, it is about framing a vision of what we want a federal government to do for its people and a president that can bring this about. It is about capturing the hearts and minds of Americans, and the Republicans have been much more successful at this than have the issue oriented Democrats. Not that the Republicans have delivered on their promised vision after the election, but that's about governing, not campaigning. They have proven unable to govern with the best interests of the citizenry as a priority. The Democrats simply fail to learn the critical difference between framing the vision and focusing on issues election after election. It is not a question of bad republicans good democrats, it is a question of our vision of what a federal government should be. Is it to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people? Or is it to be a government of some of the people, by a few of the people for a few of the people. If the Republicans win in the fall which I think quite likely, we will have decided that an oligarchy is the form of government that we wish to have as a citizenry. I believe the Democratic Party has been unable to respond because it shares many of the values of the oligarchy itself and therefore has no alternative vision of the kind of country we wish to be. I also think that this will be the last stand for the Democrats. If they fail, a new party, most likely based on progressive principles will need to be formed, since the Democratic Party will have proven incapable of winning national elections because it has been unable to perform as an effective opposition or form a compelling vision that captures the public's imagination and its votes.
If Republicans win this November, it will not be because their failures are being ignored by "true believers", but because the public's faith in the Democrats is lower than its opprobrium for Republican failures. Mr. Sawyer isn't an alarmist, merely a partisan, which is why he sees the American political spectrum in such absolutist terms. It's a shame that he has such a narrow worldview ("profiteers at Halliburton", "Rove's plan for a one-party state", "imperial presidency") as one would hope that the students seeking a politcal science education at UCLA would get a more nuanced point of view on political matters rather than the latest talking points from DailyKos or Code Pink. It's difficult to believe that a PhD at one of the top univeristies in the country genuinely believes that the country is about to tip into an oligarchy, and the rational assumption is that the piece is a use of hyperbole by the author to attempt to drive home the author's point about a Democratic win in November. That the failures of a Democratic Congress over the last term are not acknowledged in the piece, and that blame for the current credit and housing crises are laid uncritically at the feet of the Republicans ironically points the accusation of an undeliberative electorate directly back at the author. Rational minds can recognize the special interests that influenced Barney Frank to strenuously oppose reforming Fannnie Mae and Freddie Mac and that caused Joe Biden to support Bankruptcy reform that hurt consumers to the benefit of corporations. Mr. Sawyer's premise also ignores a material fact, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans. Were the author serious about his thesis, he would compare the political participation in true one-party democracies in recent times and compare the relative party affiliations of registered voters in those countries. Such an analysis would quickly show that in true one-party states, the dominant party typically enjoys a two to three-fold lead in party affiliation over its nearest rival.
In reply to my friend Shabazz. Undivided government is not the same as a one party state. The Republicans have been so dominant over the last 25-30 years that essentially it threatens to reduce the Democratic Party to weak token opposition. A formal loyal opposition who may control congress from time to time and win some local races but that can't drive policy on the national level. If Republicans can win Presidential elections regardless of conditions it means there is no real opposition to speak of.
Shazz Wilson says:
Mark, I actually agree quite a bit about a 1 party state, and how detrimental that can be. I live in Massachusetts, where there is virtually a 1 party state. Would you also fear a 1 party state held by Democrats? Though I lean to the right, I too am afraid of a 1 party state by ANY party, Republican, Democrate, Green, Libertarian, etc.
Worst case scenario: a Republican president and a Democratic congress. What kind of one party state is that? You are beyond alarmist. Alarmism requires the air of plausibility.