Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Kevin Drum has a great post up about how the manner in which McCain has chosen to conduct this campaign is likely to unleash forces which will make it very difficult for whoever wins to actually govern this country effectively.

One of the things that doesn't get emphasized enough about the nature of democracy as a practice (and something the Bushies clearly totally don't get, or they would never have believed that democracy would emerge from the detritus of Saddam's Iraq) is that in order to function, democracies must have as part of the normative political order certain core political civilities. These civilities cannot be legislated, but rather must simply be part of the shared expectations about the way politics works.

What is so destructive about what the Right has done to the country during the Gingrich-Rove era is that they have set out to systematically destroy these core political civilities. Basic fundamentals like
  • An expectation that political and policy decisions should be made on the basis of rational discourse and careful consideration
  • The concept of a loyal opposition
  • The idea of orderly successions between rulers from different parties (e.g. if you lose an election, you don't intentionally make a mess right before you leave office)
  • The notion of ongoing, continuous accountability on the part of leaders (versus a single "accountability moment" on re-election day)
  • The ideal of openness and transparency in policy-making
  • Etc.
Countries that don't have these things, these fundamental political decencies, don't produce functioning democracies. None of these are things that can be mandated by law; rather, they either are or are not part of the culture of a given political community.

What's profoundly pernicious about what the movement conservatives have done is that, in the name of holding onto power, they have set about systematically tossing over board these values, which form the moral ballast of democracy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How do our citizens ever reverse this terrible trend? My brother, a life-long Republican, was leaning toward Obama in the primary, mainly because "he's trying to run a clean campaign" (brother's words verbatim).

But when your opponent smears, and smears, and lies about you--what choice do you have but to fight fire with fire? Nice guys ALWAYS finish last.

Unless both sides agree at the outset to play nice, there's no way out of this mess. And as long as Rove is alive, there's no way out of this mess.