July 23, 2024

The undermining of democracy


Founded by Drew Pearson 1932

The undermining of democracy

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – Winston Churchill said it best, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried.” Watching the spectacle on Capitol Hill this week, a talk-a-thon staged by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., to discredit Obamacare accompanied by threats to shut down the government if the Affordable Care Act isn’t de-funded, bring to mind Churchill’s words, along with another familiar saying from the Charles Dickens novel, “A Tale of Two Cities”: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . . .”

The richest and most advanced country on earth can’t figure out how to avoid a collision between two political parties. This is what qualifies as breaking news. What is at stake in the next few days is Congress’ ability to pass a stopgap measure that keeps the government open until they can figure out a more lasting solution, an elusive goal with the current crowd on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Cruz crystallized the challenge facing the country with his filibuster that wasn’t really a filibuster in the sense it didn’t stop anything from happening, it just filled the time available and made him a super hero among his Tea Party supporters. He personifies the gridlock that grips Congress, making it almost impossible for legislation addressing the nation’s problems to even reach the House or Senate floors for a vote.

This is no way to run a country, and the only hope, bizarre as it sounds, is for the gridlock to get so bad that members reach a tipping point where they say, enough. Democrats keep mentioning unnamed Republicans who tell them in private they’ve had it with the Tea Party wing of their party, and they’re ready to blow the whistle. Some like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other Republican senators like Bob Corker of Tennessee have spoken critically and publicly about Cruz’ kamikaze tactics. But too many Republicans fear primary challenges from the Tea Party to take action that might offend these voters.

The damage done goes beyond individual members, or even the legislation stalled as a result of gridlock. It goes to the very heart of how we think of our democracy. People look at Congress like it’s some kind of bad joke; they have long since lost hope that meaningful legislation could come out of a body where everybody is constantly at odds, with the Red team versus the Blue team. It seems there’s never a winner, just more fighting.

The prestige of Congress has fallen dramatically from the days of Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson, or Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan, or even Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, the strangest of bedfellows, yet they could still find their way past their differences to achieve welfare reform and a balanced budget.

The advent of Obamacare, a government program to provide affordable health care insurance to millions of Americans who have been locked out of the system, should be cause for celebration. Instead, the administration faces great odds to convince the public that this is a good program, much like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and Prescription drug coverage for seniors. They were all controversial when first enacted. But this time is different. Opponents of the program see it as a cause célèbre that they demagogue into political capital, which is why Ted Cruz and the Tea Party fear the success of Obamacare, not its failure.

Today there is heightened skepticism about government doing anything right, an attitude systematically hammered home by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, a wing that no longer believes in government. And such political Luddites might just convince enough Americans to believe likewise. Already, most voters have intense disdain for politicians in general, and it is only a short leap for them to give up on the system altogether.

© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.


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