Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Conservative contempt for democracy

Political elites increasingly seem to view democracy as something to be subverted if the will of the people is for something they don't like. In the US, Republicans in the Senate are busily looking for any possible way to deny the wishes of the American public, a majority of whom, voted for a Democratic President, voted for a Democratic majority in the House and Senate and support the introduction of a public health care plan.

Sen. Judd Gregg, (R-NH) has penned the equivalent of an obstruction manual -- a how-to for holding up health care reform -- and has distributed the document to his Republican colleagues.

Insisting that it is "critical that Republican senators have a solid understanding of the minority's rights in the Senate," Gregg makes note of all the procedural tools the GOP can use before measures are considered, when they come to the floor and even after passage.

If you're getting a strong sense of Déjà vu - that's not surprising:

OTTAWA – The Harper government is being accused of a Machiavellian plot to wreak parliamentary havoc after a secret Tory handbook on obstructing and manipulating Commons committees was leaked to the press.

Opposition parties pounced on news reports Friday about the 200-page handbook as proof that the Conservatives are to blame for the toxic atmosphere that has paralyzed Parliament this week.

"The government's deliberate plan is to cause a dysfunctional, chaotic Parliament," Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale told the House of Commons.

New Democrat Libby Davies said the manual explodes the Tories' contention that opposition parties are to blame for the parliamentary constipation.

"So much for blaming the opposition for the obstruction of Parliament," she said.

"Now we learn, in fact, that the monkey wrench gang have had a plan all along and not just any plan, a 200-page playbook on how to frustrate, obstruct and shut down the democratic process."

Add in gerrymandering - the practice of carefully designing election boundaries to limit the worth of votes to aid one political party or another - both sides have done this but arguably the political right has done it more and more shamelessly. Factor in the long term neo-liberal/neocon project to 'democracy proof' the economy, limiting the power of voters to fundamentally change anything with corporate bills of rights disguised as trade agreements and is it any wonder we have such an increasing disengagement in the practice of democracy?

We are witness to a wide array of successful efforts to make sure the power of democracy is diminished to the purely symbolic, as anarchists say 'If voting could actually change anything, it would be illegal.'

More and more young people have internalized this drumbeat message, have never voted and never plan to.

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