They Just Don't Get It

My jaw dropped when I saw this article in in Time Magazine online describing how the Bush administration is now punishing industry folks who supported Kerry. Don’t these people understand how a _stable_ democracy works, as opposed to an unstable one?
More below . . .

The article describes how the Bush administration bumped industry reps from an international telecom conference on the grounds that they (as individuals) had supported the Kerry campaign (including one individual bumped because of a $250 campaign contribution). An administration spokesman saw nothing wrong:

“We wanted people who would represent the Administration positively, and–call us nutty–it seemed like those who wanted to kick this Administration out of town last November would have some difficulty doing that,” says White House spokesman Trent Duffy.

It’s not just nutty, it’s freaking dangerous to our democracy you moron! Policy functions in a democracy because participants recognize the following basic principles:

1) Democracy is a process for achieving political consensus, not a means by which 50.1% of the electorate screws the other 49.9%.

2) The man is separate from the office, and the needs of the country are paramount over all. Elections are fought between candidates offering different visions and operating on different principles, but each side respects the other and after the election works to the best of its ability for the country as a whole.

These principles do not mean that the major parties don’t constantly jockey for political position. Nor does it negate the expectation that partisans of the dominant power will exercise greater influence. But until this administration, politics was never a game of winner take all where actions of individuals in an election (especially as trivial as individual campaign contributions) are used as a litmus test on vital matters of policy where professional expertise or industry representation is considered important. Sure, you chose your best buddy to head the delegation, but an executive from Qualcomm or whatver is going to be there saying what is best for Qualcomm, not trying to sabotage the administration out of some personal vendetta.

When politics becomes a matter of personal and party loyaties above all else, it destabilizes the democracy as a whole. The risk for participation in democracy is too high, and the penalties if you lose are too severe to tolerate. It becomes a matter of total destruction of the opposition, because failure to do so results in your own destruction. This is not merely wasteful, it is in the end utterly paralyzing. It is also an open invitation to graft and corruption, because the closed culture and reliance on political/personal ties acts to prevent any serious investiagation or oversight.

While this has become the norm in Congress since the initiation of the “K St. Project” by the Republican leadership in 1994, the current administration has brought the same ideology into the heretofore secure realm of technical and economic policy. Within this realm, the culture of expertise and an understanding of unwritten rules dampens partisan feuding to philosophical disagreements. Do you favor state ownership or regulation? How much and under what circumstances? While this does not prevent sometimes bitter debates, the debates act to achieve policy consensus rather than merely to re-enforce political loyaties.

Consider Iraq. Why is representation by every group so important to them? Because exclusion from government means utter exclusion from the decision making process. Worse, it turns over the power of the state to people who have no inhibition on screwing you, since you are (a) perceived as powerless, and (b) perceived as prepared to do the same to them if _you_ hold power.

“Nutty”? “Nutty” doesn’t begin to cover it. Ignorant, stupid, morally bankrupt, confusing the man with the office, completely at odds with the ideals of democracy we have embraced in this country since we started a professional civil service one hundred years ago. That’s what I’d call it.

Stay tuned . . .


  1. Harold,

    Welcome back. Now, tell us how you *really* feel. Have you seen the reports on how Dick Cheney and others have begun to use the phrase "those of the other faith" to describe their political opponents? I am not making this up.

  2. Michael A. Burstein

    Reading this, now I’m frightened…

  3. People always ask, re: the Bush junta — "don’t they realise…," "don’t they understand that…," etc. As if they were screwing up rather than doing exactly what they have always intended to do.

    The Bushies may not in fact know how a stable democracy works, but they’re not attempting to run a democracy. They’re using fascist tactics to (further) establish a plutocratic society, and they’re doing a brilliant job at it, thanks largely to a mainstream press asleep at the wheel.

    This may be the worst administration in the history of the nation, but it’s a mistake to think of them as ignorant or incompetent (okay, Bush is both, and then some, but he’s not running the show). When it comes to their agenda, they know exactly what they’re doing.

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