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
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.