Saturday, April 9, 2011

Minority Rules: The Right Wing and the Budget Mess

It is fascinating to watch our crumbling government struggle to remain relevant, reaching deals that satisfy nobody at the last possible second, averting disaster narrowly and planning nothing beyond the next crisis.

Last night's budget deal, heavily weighted toward the political philosophy of a small minority of our citizens and a minute number of representatives, gives lie to the notion that "the majority rules in a democracy."

Congress, at this moment, is reacting to the perceived outsized influence of 16 percent of its members, the 87 freshman Republicans elected to the House of Representatives (half of Congress) in the most recent cycle. Congress represents a third of our government branches. The dollars the most conservative wing of Congress wants to cut from the nation's budget represent far, far less than 1 percent. The issue of negating abortion rights, according to the New York Times, is supported strongly by about 19  percent of Americans, but last night it came very close to the sticking point that would shut down the government of all the people.

Abortion has had a lopsided role in the worst divide in American politics in my memory--and I was a kid during the McCarthy era. Civil War scholars are saying that the mood of the nation closely resembles that in the 1850s, just before we were cast into a bloody mess for four years.

I sympathize with those who are opposed to abortion and who genuinely believe it to be the mass slaughter of defenseless children. I support bloody revolution--so did Thomas Jefferson--when the nation's policies become unacceptable. What we are getting here, though, is a passive-aggressive legislative process that satisfies nobody, legislates to no good purpose, becomes stalled on the slightest pretense and is, for all intents and purposes, locked tight without a possibility of becoming functional in the near future. Conservative Norman Ornstein of  The American Enterprise Institute says, "It is one thing to be deeply opposed to a policy and look at every vehicle you can for changing it. It’s another when you frame the entire narrative around the debt crisis we face.”

Congress is without significant leadership. So is the executive branch. Barack Obama abdicated his role in the budget battle early when he could have had a huge impact and his attempt to recover that primary role at the end was not successful.

Much of our difficulty has to do with those small numbers, the ones that give the most ardent, extreme and persistent of political junkies all the power. How else to explain the dominance of the loud, but still small, far right of a conservative party? They vote in the primaries and people like Susan Collins, a relatively moderate Republican from Maine, know their seats are in jeopardy, not from a Democrat, but from this tiny minority that votes in force and as a block. If her supporters did that, the voice from these revolutionaries would be stilled or at least turned down a few notches.

But, as a people on an individual level, we are too damn lazy to become informed, to get off our lard asses and vote in primaries, to become involved in any way. It is far easier to bitch about the result and go buy something we don't need.

(Graphic: North Carolina Letter Carrier Activist.)


  1. Well Dan...I think your last paragraph summed it up quite accurately. Great blog.

  2. Trina:

    Thank you, ma'am. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.