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Thread: Honest, serious, mature discussion: Is the United States TOO democratic?

  1. #1

    Honest, serious, mature discussion: Is the United States TOO democratic?

    So I'm watching the news about Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize (despite the fact that he just decided to send 30,000 more troops into war). I am a HUGE Obama supporter, however I have no reservations about expressing my personal belief that the ONLY reason why he decided to send those 30k troops into Afghanistan is for political reasons. Obama's been labeled as weak/naive on foreign policy issues since Day One, and here was his chance to be Mr. Tough Guy and prove the naysayers wrong by sending 30,000 troops to war and hopefully win over Republicans and conservative independents in 2012, and also help members of his own party retain seats in next year's mid-term elections.

    The point that I'm making here is that I do not believe that Obama wanted to send 1 troop to Afghanistan, let alone 30,000. He just had to do so for political purposes. And that's bullsh*t. But it's the same kind of political game that all presidents, Democrat or Republican, have to play. And seeing him make that decision, and on top of that accept a Nobel Peace Prize (keyword here: PEACE) really had me thinking - is the office of President of the United States TOO political?

    I've taken a few political science classes in my time. One was called Comparative Politics. As the name implies, comparative politics is the study of, or the comparsion of, different political systems in different countries. In the class we compared the political systems of Britain, France, Germany, Mexico, Russia, India, Japan, and Nigeria with that of the United States. All political systems have their strengths and weaknesses of course, and all are reflections of the nations that they operate in and the circumstances in which they came to be.

    With that being said, I like the German system the best - there is a bicameral national legislature comprised of two houses (the Bundestag and the Bundestrat). The Bundestag is the lower house and the Bundestrat is the upper house. Only the Bundestag consists of elected officials; members of the Bundestrat are appointed.

    Germany also has a federal President and a Chancellor. The federal president serves as the head of state, but has little political power (almost like the Queen of England). The real power lies in the hands of the Chancellor. Neither the President nor the Chancellor is elected by the people. The Chancellor is elected by the Bundestag. In my opinion, herein lies the beauty of the German system - rather than letting the dumb a$$ average voter pick the Chancellor, the Bundestag does the dirty work. I know what you're thinking - why should we trust elected officials to pick the head honcho in the land? I will get back to that later. But let me also add that a unique twist to the German system makes it extremely difficult to remove the Chancellor - not only must the Bundestag file a vote of no confidence, but they must also simultaneously elect a successor. Right there on the spot. If that doesn't happen, there is no deal, Chancellor stays in office. Hence, the Chancellor of Germany has perhaps the most job security of anybody on the planet Earth.

    It also means there is almost zero chance of something like the recall bullsh*t that happened in Calfornia in 2003 where the governor was removed from office mid-term with a simple petition. That, my friends, is TOO much democracy. If an elected official can't even complete his/her term for fear of being removed from office just for being unpopular, what's the point? The Office of President of the United States is almost as bad - the terms only last for four years, and as we are witnessing right now, as soon as someone's sworn into office they have to campaign for the next election. At what point is politics put to the backburner? Never in a place like the United States.

    Getting back to the point of trusting elected officials to pick our head of state as opposed to allowing the people to do so directly - look, 99% of Congress are idiots (or corrupt, or both). I don't argue with that. But I believe that the even bigger idiots are the voters who keep re-electing these people into office. If they're such poor Congressmen, why not vote them out? You hate them, but you're the ones who put them there! I hardly blame politicians for screw-ups anymore, I blame the people who put such people into office.

    Sir Winston Churchill once said that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. People are retarded, they don't know what they want or what's best for them or for their country. And this is on both sides of the aisle; it crosses ideological lines.

    So what do you all think? Is there TOO MUCH democracy in this country? Is it really such a good idea to leave the decision of who gets to lead the free world in the hands of Joe Sixpack?

    Let's have a civil discussion here................I'm not really advocating this point, it's just something that crossed my mind today and I'm just playing devil's advocate for right now, so no personal attacks, please. It's just a thought.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    I think the president's latest troop surge orders are quite consistent with his campaign rhetoric:

    There's no good way in or out of a war. It's either bad or worse. Even if Obama has changed his mind since the election or was outright lying previously, he has to end the war responsibly and at least live up to his ideals mentioned, if not the actions. (It's also important here to keep in mind the president's troop surge is still not what the military commanders had requested.)

    Now, do your arguments make the presidency (or the US system in general) too political or too democratic? I don't think so. I might get blasted for this by some the borderline anarchists and socialists here, but I think the level of democracy in the US government is just right and keeps our nation the most stable it can be with our strange history of individualist-tempered liberalism. Now if you wanted to change our national psyche to support another system as well, it might work. But good luck with that. And personally, I wouldn't want you to. I love this country, it's history, and it's culture (which includes a system of renewal and progress tempered by realism and liberty).

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    I think the president's latest troop surge orders are quite consistent with his campaign rhetoric:

    There's no good way in or out of a war. It's either bad or worse. Even if Obama has changed his mind since the election or was outright lying previously, he has to end the war responsibly and at least live up to his ideals mentioned, if not the actions. (It's also important here to keep in mind the president's troop surge is still not what the military commanders had requested.)
    My point exactly. McChrystal asked for 40,000. This is one more example of Obama trying to play the middle, but in the end I think what he's done is piss off both liberals and conservatives.

    I know what Obama's said earlier.................all campaign rhetoric (i.e. politics as usual). I do not honestly believe that Obama wants to send a single additional troop into Afghanistan. He just has to for political purposes.............hell, he wants a world without nuclear weapons. I think he's pretty much established himself as an anti-war president, he only does stuff like this in order to maintain poll numbers.

    But I did not mean for this thread to be about the upcoming surge in Afghanistan. I simply used this as an example of how politics can keep presidents from doing what they REALLY want to do or campaigned for.

    Now, do your arguments make the presidency (or the US system in general) too political or too democratic? I don't think so. I might get blasted for this by some the borderline anarchists and socialists here, but I think the level of democracy in the US government is just right and keeps our nation the most stable it can be with our strange history of individualist-tempered liberalism. Now if you wanted to change our national psyche to support another system as well, it might work. But good luck with that. And personally, I wouldn't want you to. I love this country, it's history, and it's culture (which includes a system of renewal and progress tempered by realism and liberty).

    Fair enough. I'll wait for other comments to be posted before I jump in.

  4. #4
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    All forms of government exist on a continuum. Pure democracy (everyone voting on every decision) works wonderfully....for small numbers but even ancient Greek city-states didn't have universal sufferage. The larger the numbers become the more cumbersome the process of decision making becomes and consequently the less efficient the system. We operate under a system of representative democracy and for the most part it seems to have worked pretty well for the last couple centuries. That we have safeguards built into the system to help protect minority interests (e.g. elected bicameral legistures, judicial review, etc.) helps out.

    It really is a question of balance. I can think of examples of over-democratisation, such as all the ballot proposals run amuck in the State of California, but these sorts of examples in America constitute the exception rather than the rule in my view. Generally, the less democratic a system of governance is the more efficient and expedient the means of decision making and implementation becomes. The risk of course is that as more power is concentrated into fewer hands the greater the likelihood of unfairness occurring. The more unfairness that occurs the further away we move from the principle of the social contract (consent of the governed). So, no, I don't think we are too democratic.
    Last edited by Maister; 11 Dec 2009 at 9:25 AM.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian PrahaSMC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    Obama's been labeled as weak/naive on foreign policy issues since Day One, and here was his chance to be Mr. Tough Guy and prove the naysayers wrong by sending 30,000 troops to war and hopefully win over Republicans and conservative independents in 2012, and also help members of his own party retain seats in next year's mid-term elections.

    The point that I'm making here is that I do not believe that Obama wanted to send 1 troop to Afghanistan, let alone 30,000. He just had to do so for political purposes. And that's bullsh*t. But it's the same kind of political game that all presidents, Democrat or Republican, have to play. And seeing him make that decision, and on top of that accept a Nobel Peace Prize (keyword here: PEACE) really had me thinking - is the office of President of the United States TOO political?
    Interesting question; to address your points separately...

    A) Obama's position on Afghanistan was a carefully crafted campaign stance, designed to make him look more hawkish on terrorism. Having come out so strongly against the Iraq War gave him credibility among the liberal base, but centrist dems seemed to forgive Hilary (and Kerry and a great many others who voted for the war) for her vote on Iraq and she had developed a strong reputation as a foreign policy wonk with strong national security credentials. If Obama's foreign policy was shaped around withdrawing on both fronts, he would have looked like too much of a dove... naive... even weak.

    B) The debate over whether Obama's hand was forced in this decision by our political system, is in my opinion, more of a reflection on his own political brand than it is an indictment on our democratic system. Needless to say, Bush/Cheney were rarely guilty of going out of their way to appease the center-left. The Obama Administration handles his policy agenda with extreme delicacy, frankly, because his handlers have revolutionized the year-round campaign. You can already see it with the message delivered by Axelrod, Geitner, Summers, and to a lesser extent Bernanke (who was a Bush appointee, obviously, but wants to keep his job)-- "We've brought the economy back from the brink." Or, alternatively, emphasizing we were in the early stages of recovery, long before the macro indicators said as much. It's all about conveying the impression that America is better off now (and this is a moving target) than it was when he took office. In order to execute "the plan," Obama needs to appease the political center... and everyone in the administration has to be on-board with the plan. Rahm is too divisive, so he'll be the first head to roll when they need a scapegoat.

    I think Obama is a uniquely intelligent and capable leader; I voted for him in '08 and will probably vote for him again in '12. That said, Roger Cohen of the Times made a really good analogy last month, when he compared Obama to a chess master who plays 12 games at once, but never actually finishes one. He's an excellent strategist, but even with a majority in two houses, he refuses to wield a firm hand. This is why the stimulus, pitched as a major infrastructure and jobs initiative, was ultimately 11% infrastructure and 25% taxbreaks, at the insistence of Republicans. In February, he didn't need Olympia Snowe's vote or Gov. Charlie Christ's endorsement... he just wanted it for his own gain-- to call it a "bi-partisan measure." This, IMO, will be his downfall.

    It remains to be seen whether future candidates will take this same approach to governance (the perpetual campaign), but Obama is certainly a radical departure from Bush/Cheney in this sense.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    All forms of government exist on a continuum. Pure democracy (everyone voting on every decision) works wonderfully....for small numbers but even ancient Greek city-states didn't have universal sufferage. The larger the numbers become the more cumbersome the process of decision making becomes and consequently the less efficient the system. We operate under a system of representative democracy and for the most part it seems to have worked pretty well for the last couple centuries. That we have safeguards built into the system to help protect minority interests (e.g. elected bicameral legistures, judicial review, etc.) helps out.

    It really is a question of balance. I can think of examples of over-democratisation, such as all the ballot proposals run amuck in the State of California, but these sorts of examples in America constitute the exception rather than the rule in my view. Generally, the less democratic a system of governance is the more efficient and expedient the means of decision making and implementation becomes. The risk of course is that as more power is concentrated into fewer hands the greater the likelihood of unfairness occurring. The more unfairness that occurs the further away we move from the principle of the social contract (consent of the governed). So, no, I don't think we are too democratic.

    Your point about too many players in the democratic system making it cumbersome is a good one.............and is part of the reason why I started thinking maybe the U.S. needs to adopt a more parlimentarian form of government.

    I mean, the way the Electoral College system is set up, many Americans don't have a say-so in the presidential election anyway. For example, I voted Democratic in a state GUARANTEED to go Republican (Alabama). McCain carried 60% of the vote in 2008, and thus, all nine of the state's electoral college votes. It's not like I live in a swing state (Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, etc). I live in a state that everybody KNOWS is going Republican. Even with the HUGE black voter turnout in this state, Obama only garnered 37% of the vote. He never had a chance at those nine seats. Thus, I'd have been better off staying at home on Election Day. Most people across the country do not live in swing states, they live in places like Alabama where it's already known from the beginning whether or not the state will swing Democratic or Republican. So as far as I'm concerned, I already don't have a say-so in picking the presidency. At the very least we need to fix the Electoral College system.


    Quote Originally posted by PrahaSMC View post
    Interesting question; to address your points separately...

    A) Obama's position on Afghanistan was a carefully crafted campaign stance, designed to make him look more hawkish on terrorism. Having come out so strongly against the Iraq War gave him credibility among the liberal base, but centrist dems seemed to forgive Hilary (and Kerry and a great many others who voted for the war) for her vote on Iraq and she had developed a strong reputation as a foreign policy wonk with strong national security credentials. If Obama's foreign policy was shaped around withdrawing on both fronts, he would have looked like too much of a dove... naive... even weak.

    Exactly what I said.


    B) The debate over whether Obama's hand was forced in this decision by our political system, is in my opinion, more of a reflection on his own political brand than it is an indictment on our democratic system. Needless to say, Bush/Cheney were rarely guilty of going out of their way to appease the center-left.
    I've said this before on here I'm sure, but I don't think America is all that liberal. I think that's why this situation is not unique to Obama. I think that overall this is a moderately conservative country, with just enough liberals on the coasts and in the big cities to tip the scale over to the Democrats every few years - and the Democrats who are elected into office are almost always moderate, not true-blue liberals (including Obama).

    On the other hand, the Republicans elected to the presidency tend to range anywhere from moderate (Bush 41) to far right-wingers (Bush 43 and Reagan). The U.S. is, overall, a conservative nation. That's why Bush had to do little pandering whereas Obama has to do more of it.


    I think Obama is a uniquely intelligent and capable leader; I voted for him in08 and will probably vote for him again in '12. That said, Roger Cohen of the Times made a really good analogy last month, when he compared Obama to a chess master who plays 12 games at once, but never actually finishes one. He's an excellent strategist, but even with a majority in two houses, he refuses to wield a firm hand. This is why the stimulus, pitched as a major infrastructure and jobs initiative, was ultimately 11% infrastructure and 25% taxbreaks, at the insistence of Republicans. In February, he didn't need Olympia Snowe's vote or Gov. Charlie Christ's endorsement... he just wanted it for his own gain-- to call it a "bi-partisan measure." This, IMO, will be his downfall.

    It remains to be seen whether future candidates will take this same approach to governance (the perpetual campaign), but Obama is certainly a radical departure from Bush/Cheney in this sense.

    Yeah and this is what frustrates people like myself who were hoping for a more liberal agenda from the president.

    In any case, carry on.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    ........
    With that being said, I like the German system the best - there is a bicameral national legislature comprised of two houses (the Bundestag and the Bundestrat). The Bundestag is the lower house and the Bundestrat is the upper house. Only the Bundestag consists of elected officials; members of the Bundestrat are appointed.

    .........

    ...But I believe that the even bigger idiots are the voters who keep re-electing these people into office. If they're such poor Congressmen, why not vote them out? You hate them, but you're the ones who put them there! I hardly blame politicians for screw-ups anymore, I blame the people who put such people into office.
    ..........
    Be careful about German systems. Their system is specifically designed to stop someone like Hitler from showing up again. They are terrified of that. Because they know they have that in them.

    There is a long history of a "German Problem" in Europe. As a reference, I point to Roman history. Germans were half of a fierce slave revolt (Spartacus was real, Third Servile War (73-71) BC). They also managed to stop the Romans at the Rhine and put several roman legions to the sword (Battle of the Teutoburg Forest 9 AD).

    Also, the Germanic groupings have a loooonnnngg history with democratic styles of organizations. While still rooted in the cult of personality of a strong warrior chief up until the present era, a leader who did not politic or spread wealth, was not a leader very long.

    Are you sure you don't have some German in you Jazzman ? Were a cranky lot with a streak of arrogance a mile wide and the idea that democracy allows the idiots to rule the roost is very German.

    <--- admit it, this smiley looks a lot like Otto Von Bismark!

    Either voters are idiots and democracy is doomed OR people vote their own best interests correctly the vast majority of the time. Even if they can not properly (easily) communicate those same complex calculations verbally.

    I will take the later.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia View post
    Be careful about German systems. Their system is specifically designed to stop someone like Hitler from showing up again. They are terrified of that. Because they know they have that in them.

    We need a system that is specifically designed to stop someone like Sarah Palin from becoming president. I forget who said this (maybe George Carlin). but it's true - the problem with America is that ANYBODY can become President.


    There is a long history of a "German Problem" in Europe. As a reference, I point to Roman history. Germans were half of a fierce slave revolt (Spartacus was real, Third Servile War (73-71) BC). They also managed to stop the Romans at the Rhine and put several roman legions to the sword (Battle of the Teutoburg Forest 9 AD).

    Also, the Germanic groupings have a loooonnnngg history with democratic styles of organizations. While still rooted in the cult of personality of a strong warrior chief up until the present era, a leader who did not politic or spread wealth, was not a leader very long.

    Yes I'm aware of that, and if I'm not mistaken Germany (or at least the land called Germany) has not been one unified nation for most of its history, right?

    As stated in the beginning of the thread, I know that each political system came to be due to circumstances surrounding their inception. As you said, Germany designed their system so that they could do their best to keep out fascism. For the most part, we are a nation full of people who escaped other countries where we were being oppressed so that we could be free here, therefore that is reflected in the very strong democratic tradition of the United States.

    Who knows though, maybe after another 250 years of existence and another 250 years worth of terrible leaders, there'll be a revolution in the United States to switch the political system to a more parliamentarian form of government, to take some democracy away for everyone's sake, to save us from ourselves.


    Are you sure you don't have some German in you Jazzman ? Were a cranky lot with a streak of arrogance a mile wide and the idea that democracy allows the idiots to rule the roost is very German.

    Not a drop. But I'm surprised that that idea hasn't caught on very much in the U.S. Oh wait a minute, I'm not surprised............if the people were smart enough to realize that, then they would be smart enough to pick better leaders (or be better leaders) in the first place.


    Either voters are idiots and democracy is doomed OR people vote their own best interests correctly the vast majority of the time. Even if they can not properly (easily) communicate those same complex calculations verbally.

    I will take the later.

    I mean..............let's be honest. How many voters actually spend time researching the issues? The candidates? Most adults don't have that kind of time - people have jobs, kids, families, things to do (and of course, this assumes that given the time, they actually would be smart enough to conduct the necessary research anyway). So we see a 5 or 10 minute blurb on CNN, MSNBC, or FOX News (depending upon your political affliation, of course) and vote accordingly. One five-minute sound bite or talking point from O'Reilly or Olbermann, and we've pretty much made up our minds. Picking the President of the United States is a pretty serious task, but it seems to be taken lightly. As I said before, probably 95% of voters don't do any more than a few minutes' worth of research on the candidates and the issues at hand and we vote for the president on our lunch break on Election Day. Election Day should be a national holiday. It should be a serious day, a day when people make a deliberate, conscious decision. People shouldn't pick the leader of the free world with a sandwich in one hand. As you can probably tell, I'm frustrated with both parties at this point and I actually think that the political process (in addition to the candidates themselves, and the voters themselves) are to blame.

    Again, let me reiterate - this is beyond ideology. Yes, I'm liberal for the most part, but I'm definitely conservative on some things. I don't always agree with the liberal or Democratic candidates, or their various paid advertisers (i.e. "commentators") on the cable news networks.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    My husband and I were having a similar discussion this morning. Our conclusion is that the U.S. has become almost ungovernable. I blame our system of government. The democratic President and the democratic Congress was elected and together they cannot get anything (except military spending) done through the legislative process. Health care? bank reform?

    My husband's a Canadian so we always do a lot of comparison with the Parlimentary government in Canada. When a government is voted in in Canada, it IS the legislature and it can accomplish it's policies (for the most part). In the US, any agenda takes so much deliberation and compromise that by the time it comes out the other end, it really isn't particularly effective.

    Look at how long it took this country to implement civil rights? That is a complete shame on our nation's history and a testiment to how the bi-cameral legislature and the separation of powers between the legislature and administration is not necessarily a good thing. One could almost say that we don't have enough democracy -- in that our President isn't even elected the the people. (Gore v. Bush???)

    I also wonder if there's something real about this red state/blue state thing. Could it be that the northern and coastal states really do have a different set of national characteristics and political philosophies that make them incompatible with the southern and lower mid-west states? Perhaps we shouldn't be a nation of states? Perhaps we could be two or three nations? I know which one I'd prefer to live in.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    ...but I don't think America is all that liberal... I think that overall this is a moderately conservative country, with just enough liberals on the coasts and in the big cities to tip the scale over to the Democrats every few years - and the Democrats who are elected into office are almost always moderate, not true-blue liberals (including Obama).
    I disagree. Perhaps not with what you meant to say, but with the whole concept of "liberal" and "conservative" used in the United States. Both predominant political parties in the United States are liberal - the Democratic Party a mix of progressivism and social liberalism, and the GOP a mix of libertarianism and classical liberalism. The country was founded in liberal principles, which are enshrined in our founding documents any way you look at them. So, in essence, American "liberals" (at least with the current ideological bent) are looking to progress the evolution of liberalism toward what they view as a more just society, while American "conservatives" are trying to preserve the principles of classical liberalism they believe the country was founded on and which fall in line with human nature.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally posted by southsideamy View post
    My husband and I were having a similar discussion this morning. Our conclusion is that the U.S. has become almost ungovernable. I blame our system of government. The democratic President and the democratic Congress was elected and together they cannot get anything (except military spending) done through the legislative process. Health care? bank reform?

    My husband's a Canadian so we always do a lot of comparison with the Parlimentary government in Canada. When a government is voted in in Canada, it IS the legislature and it can accomplish it's policies (for the most part). In the US, any agenda takes so much deliberation and compromise that by the time it comes out the other end, it really isn't particularly effective.

    Look at how long it took this country to implement civil rights? That is a complete shame on our nation's history and a testiment to how the bi-cameral legislature and the separation of powers between the legislature and administration is not necessarily a good thing. One could almost say that we don't have enough democracy -- in that our President isn't even elected the the people. (Gore v. Bush???)

    I also wonder if there's something real about this red state/blue state thing. Could it be that the northern and coastal states really do have a different set of national characteristics and political philosophies that make them incompatible with the southern and lower mid-west states? Perhaps we shouldn't be a nation of states? Perhaps we could be two or three nations? I know which one I'd prefer to live in.

    Agreed.


    TexasOkie, I am aware of the classical definitions of conservatism and liberalism; however, those definitions refer to political and economic views - I am primarily referring to social conservatism - the right's stance on gay rights, abortion, etc. On those social issues, America is overwhelmingly conservative.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    So what do you all think? Is there TOO MUCH democracy in this country? Is it really such a good idea to leave the decision of who gets to lead the free world in the hands of Joe Sixpack?
    This comment stood out at me and reminded me of something I thought I had read about the Constitution's authors.

    Indeed, James Madison, in talking about the reasons for having an elected body of representatives described their role (the Congress) as being to:

    . . . refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the same purpose.
    And also...

    There are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice and truth can regain their authority over the public mind.
    This second quote, in my mind, accurately describes some of the frightening activities around gay marriage and health care reform where I certainly feel that people have been "misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men."

    So, from the beginning of our country, there has been a sense that one maybe cannot trust the whims of the populace in deciding things that will have a very strong lasting impact.

    I expect the framers of the Constitution would not be in favor of the referendums many states now have. If we let all the people decide in a popular vote on slavery, do you think the South would still have them? It served to protect their economic interests for sure (those who relied on slave labor) and so in that vein, many would likely have voted to uphold it. Especially if it was to be decided state by state.

    So, there may be some validity to not giving everyone an equal voice on all decisions being made. To be honest, I would not trust the health care reform vote to a referendum because, frankly, I think many people have no realistic idea of the particulars of how such a behemoth of a system functions now and could be improved. I know I don't. Even though I try to follow the details. In the absence of that level of knowledge, many people express their opinions based on one or a few key issues - the belief that there will be "death panels" or that, in the case of gay marriage, there will be an ensuing conspiracy to turn us all gay (incidentally, I saw a great protest sign opposing gay marriage ban proposals that said "They're the one that keep having gay babies!") These are not informed positions from which to make such significant decisions. I'm not sure I am comfortable with someone who makes these kinds of decisions based on a specific point of interest and not the entire system and taking the entire populace in mind.

    What disturbs me even further, however, is seeing how many of our elected officials are no more above the fray in terms of playing knee jerk politics or being special-interest driven and small minded just like the electorate.

    I was also having a discussion recently about how inefficient our form of democracy can be and this is another factor. We talk a lot about wasteful government spending, for example, but the nature of our system is in itself prone to waste.

    I recently re-watched a TED video with Jaime Lerner, the many time Mayor of the Brazilian city of Curitiba. One thing he emphasizes over and over in that talk is the importance of acting quickly. In a different interview, he even acknowledges that a lot of what he was able to accomplish in Curitiba would be much more difficult in the US because of the nature of our governments.

    Ultimately, though, I don't have a better government solution, so I'll stick with what we have.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  13. #13
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    It seems like the current system doesn't work because it is fueled not by the nations' best interest but rather those of the people in power. The proof is our enormous national debt - it doesn't matter when the bills are due because the people in power will be long gone and they can say "Look at what I built for my constituents." I believe Alexis de Tocqueville is often quoted as saying (paraphrased) "America will exist until the people realize they can vote themselves money from the coffers". As long as we have "democratic" competition fighting for that money the system doesn't work. Another example is our tax code. It is so long because one politician promises a certain tax break to one group or another and suddenly all 535 members of Congress want to - at least that's what we studied in an undergrad PoliSci class.

    Yes, this system may be the best in the modern world but I have long thought two things should happen as an experiment:

    1 - have all the conservatives and liberals split up and form two distinct nations and see what becomes of that. Which one will thrive and which will fail? What would be the economic benefits of each?

    2 - have states that do not need to follow federal law if they vote not to but they are on their own hen it comes to federal money. The federal government makes too many unfunded mandates and states should have the power to opt out as they see fit.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post

    Yes, this system may be the best in the modern world
    .
    I don't believe this anymore. The system is rigged. 99% of congress is in the pocket of corporations. Its not going to change- and I really do think that the US is going to very quickly go the way of the soviet union.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    TexanOkie, I am aware of the classical definitions of conservatism and liberalism; however, those definitions refer to political and economic views - I am primarily referring to social conservatism - the right's stance on gay rights, abortion, etc. On those social issues, America is overwhelmingly conservative.
    Off-topic:
    Why is it that 9 times out of 10 the issues American "conservatives" bring up in political debate are economic or political in nature and, in the same ratio almost, American "liberals" bring up social issues? I think you'd be surprised at the number of American conservatives who hold to classical liberal political philosophy, including the arena of social issues.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    I don't believe this anymore. The system is rigged. 99% of congress is in the pocket of corporations. Its not going to change- and I really do think that the US is going to very quickly go the way of the soviet union.
    Sadly, I'm inclined to agree. IMO, the country has become ungovernable, and without a constitutional convention in the near future, there may come a time when the country breaks apart. We have collectively lost the ability to talk to one another, the most fundamental quality a democracy needs to function, and the political sphere is now so poisonous that I don't see a way out from here. I want us to succeed but nothing I've seen as of late gives me hope.

  17. #17
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    Sadly, I'm inclined to agree. IMO, the country has become ungovernable, and without a constitutional convention in the near future, there may come a time when the country breaks apart. We have collectively lost the ability to talk to one another, the most fundamental quality a democracy needs to function, and the political sphere is now so poisonous that I don't see a way out from here. I want us to succeed but nothing I've seen as of late gives me hope.
    I guess I think it is sad that people refuse to agree to disagree, or say okay to some things and no to others, not just no based on political ideology. I am not saying that democrats didn't fling a whole lot of mud at Bush, but the far right (tea baggers, birthers, etc.) who would rather see nothing passed, nothing changed, and nothing happen for the next four years, than to see a moderate bill passed. This is the current democratic process at work.

    Sean Hannity (my favorite stupid talking head) said that he would never "give up his belief system" to have a bill passed. He wouldn't give up his rights or morals. Don't we all give up our belief system a little bit for compromise? Isn't that what a democracy is about. I think it is extremely arrogant to say that your system is best and therefore you won't vote for anything that doesn't match up exactly. This litmus test (are you conservative enough) is the worst idea I have ever heard of. The 2008 election was about bi-patisanship... wow what a year has done. Not one republican voted for the stimulus (even though they voted under bush), not one republican voted for the healthcare discussion (not the bill, the ability to discuss it). I respect that the republicans can gather a united front (something the democrats fail miserably at), but honestly, does this stonewalling create a more democratic government?

    I think in the end our country has been put in a place where we cannot have a strong democracy because the two parties are too divided, and there is not a viable option. If we move towards two "democratic" parties, say "blue dogs" and "liberal commie socialists" and two "republican" parities, say "tea bagging birthiers" and "fiscally aware" we would find that this country still has the ability to communicate. The problem is that it is a me versus you problem. You are either with us, or against us. We need more ability to have the democratic process evolve without stonewalling or closed door politics. I vote that we are not democratic enough.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  18. #18
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink_Planner View post
    I guess I think it is sad that people refuse to agree to disagree, or say okay to some things and no to others, not just no based on political ideology. I am not saying that democrats didn't fling a whole lot of mud at Bush, but the far right (tea baggers, birthers, etc.) who would rather see nothing passed, nothing changed, and nothing happen for the next four years, than to see a moderate bill passed. This is the current democratic process at work.
    I'm right there with you guys. I think that something has happened in our society where people seem to almost always place their own personal interests before that of the collective and even will allow everything to crumble around them, harming others just to get their way. Sometimes this may be appropriate, but when I hear people like, say, Angelina Jolie lambast the president for not fulfilling his promise to do something about Sudan, I get a little frustrated, And this issue impacts me probably as much as her (I have friends who have been displaced and even a friend's younger brother in Uganda who died as a result of Sudan's funding an insurgency there).

    But I realize that the guy has been, well, a little busy.

    There is a lot of this same attitude being thrown around in the healthcare debate with people saying "well, I don't want to be forced to be on government insurance, so we should do nothing." Well, if you're happy with your coverage, you don't need to do anything. Nothing will change for you. But for all the other people with NO coverage, this is a good thing.

    But back to democracy, I think that for a system dealing with so many people to work, there needs to be an ethos among people that not everything can go your way and not everything needs to improve your personal life. Its astonishing to me, for example, that none of the super wealthy have come out to say, in times like these, "you know, maybe we do need to pay a little more in taxes this year - its for the good of the people." Not a single person that I know of. I mean, no one is trying to make those people paupers through taxation. Instead, you have CEOs saying they will return bonuses and then not doing it. Protect yourself, circle the wagons, worry about your own interests and screw all those others. In fact, if they don't have health coverage or have no job, lets just get mad at them for being low lifes and dragging the rest of us down. That seems to be an attitude for at least some of our fellow citizens. Very disappointing.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Actually, our form of government has been based upon self interest from the beginning. It has also ben quite successful.

    To some extent, our political downfall is that there is to much centrism. By this I mean that when the people of the country can not decide a political direction, the political center becomes unstable and prone to rapid oscillation from one political side of the spectrum to another.

    Sooner or later the populace will pick a direction and realign for a few decades. That has been the general flow of our democracy. The fact this hasn't happened yet but will is in the fact that while people are unhappy with democrats, republican popularity hangs around the drinking age and is not going up.

    At the moment, the old and ruthless are able to stall where the majority of the populace is heading. Demographics are against them. So as they daydream of a miracle like 1992 mid term elections again, the reality is a loosing rearguard action over the long haul.

    However, the future will take time to make changes. Self interest will be part of those changes. Appealing to mans better nature when he does not have a job, or many chances at improving his lot in life is a waste of time.

    And NOBODY wants a constitutional convention because all kinds of CRAZY things could come of that!
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  20. #20
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    To everyone suggesting or mentioning the option of a constitutional convention: how does that address the issues brought up by this thread about the current political climate? Cause a separation or split? Until people regain their heads, a constitutional convention is a very, very poor idea unless you aim for even greater political dysfunction or possibly a national divorce.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Quotes

    "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." - James Bovard

    "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." - Thomas Jefferson

    "The United States is a nation of laws, badly written and randomly enforced." - Frank Zappa


    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  22. #22
    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    Off-topic:
    Why is it that 9 times out of 10 the issues American "conservatives" bring up in political debate are economic or political in nature and, in the same ratio almost, American "liberals" bring up social issues? I think you'd be surprised at the number of American conservatives who hold to classical liberal political philosophy, including the arena of social issues.


    Now you know that conservatives are just as likely to bring up social issues - gay marriage, abortion, prayer in schools, etc. Both sides have interests in either changing or retaining the status of certain laws/public policy in regards to "social issues".

    As for the other comments............one thing almost everyone in America seems to be able to agree on is the disconnect between the left and the right. Maybe it's because right now I am a fish VERY far from water (an outspoken anti-war, anti-death penalty, staunchly non-religious person living in Alabama of all places)..................but I feel like the political climate of this country is VERY polarizing. I'd like to think that life is about much more than politics and that I can in fact be friends with and have a good time with people who think much differently than I do. I'm starting to doubt that.

    A very good friend of mine is in the Army and has been for about 5-6 years now. Another very close friend is a former Marine. Though we have a great time together and can generally agree on a number of different issues, there have been times when I've had heated debates about Iraq and American foreign policy in general with these guys that would turn into full-fledged arguments and honestly, by the time it was all said and done, I was about ready to punch them in the face. I would get so angry at them that I would seriously question if I ever wanted to associate with them.

    I think we may be on to something here when we talk about differences within the American populace that may prove to be irreconciable. How San Francisco and Nashville are in the same country is beyond me. The pragmatist and idealist within me wishes that there could be some way to bridge the gap, to reconcile differences, but another part of me wonders if it would just be best if people who thought alike just lived in one country, while people on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum lived in another country. Liberals and conservatives could just go their separate ways.

    But we all know it's not that simple. Even though I'm fairly liberal, as I just mentioned, I have very close friends and family who are staunchly conservative. And yes, I'd like to think that our friendship and family ties are stronger than any differences in ideology or political opinion, no matter how wrong I think they are.

    Sigh.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    Now you know that conservatives are just as likely to bring up social issues - gay marriage, abortion, prayer in schools, etc. Both sides have interests in either changing or retaining the status of certain laws/public policy in regards to "social issues".
    While what you say is technically true, the social conservatives bring up such issues in reaction or as a reaction to social progressives' actions or stated intents. If social liberals (as opposed to social progressives) ever take back majority in the Democratic party, I can imagine we would be looking at another stretch of 40 years of Democratic government.
    Last edited by TexanOkie; 17 Dec 2009 at 10:14 AM.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Guys, ANYONE who thinks that things are badly divided and polarized now should read into the annals of the history of the 19th Century USA (ie, see: American Civil War) and especially the late 18th Century/early post-Revolution USA - when, for example, there were many times when the Constitution Convention of 1787 came very close to failing due to those deep divisions and other issues cost us a Sec-Treas (when Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a dual).



    The so-called divisions of today are nothing compared to then.

    Mike

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    ........
    I think we may be on to something here when we talk about differences within the American populace that may prove to be irreconciable. How San Francisco and Nashville are in the same country is beyond me. The pragmatist and idealist within me wishes that there could be some way to bridge the gap, to reconcile differences, but another part of me wonders if it would just be best if people who thought alike just lived in one country, while people on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum lived in another country. Liberals and conservatives could just go their separate ways.
    ..........
    UTOPIAN!

    The interesting thing about us planner types is that each one of us is a UTOPIAN! Any attempt at UTOPIA ends in disaster, hence the development of DISTOPIA.

    Preventing a distopian outcome is the essence of "The Center" and our political system. The center is never stable, but the poles are understood at a genetic level to be evil incarnate. Arguments against government run ________ (anything) work because people instinctively know giving up power to something else can end badly. Many examples abound in "command/centralized economies", oligarchies, dictatorships, and the list goes on.

    We as a people also understand that the idiots who claim that all government and social services are bad are also the enemy of civilization. For example, we need police and a military. They are a necessary evil. Include a legal system as well as government in that. Regulation of industry is also a necessary evil but required all the same.

    Separating into like minded individuals would not solve our problem, it would reset the problem to begin the process all over again. Time solves a lot of the issues we argue over. Also, rapid change is often less successful than slower change. Rapid change also causes backlash politics. "NO CHANGE EVER" also creates the pressure to adjust.

    The political fighting will calm down when the populace as a whole develops a critical mass of people in the center who decide a direction over the long term. Its called political realignment. These last from 20 to 80 years in length. The right wing does not want health care fixed because it would cause that realignment for the party who does it successfully.

    I for one, would be in favor of pounding on the south again if they try to secede. Fortunately, this will not happen. The south thinks they were cute in luring so many non-union jobs. People go where the jobs are. Thus, as northern states have lost population, the south and west have gained. This is the really good part of the joke on those in the south and west. People don't leave their politics or beliefs behind when they move. Thus Colorodo, has become more democratic. Demographics are against the south, west (not the coastal states), and southwest. Changes are coming to you weather you like it or not. The more you resist, the worse it will be when the changes do happen!

    HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHa
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

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