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Maybe One Day We’ll Be A Democracy

Kevin Drum points out here that we’ve come to a point where Republicans can run any sort of shenanigans they see fit and no one bats an eye. Of course they’re going to cynically manipulate the political system for their own ends. It’s what they do. It’s not even news any more.

What gets me is is the John Cohn quote he uses to illustrate this, though. Speaking about the nomination of Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Cohn says:

So is Cordray on track for confirmation? Of course not. As Shelby made crystal clear, he and his fellow Republicans really don’t care about Cordray’s qualifications right now. They care about the board itself. They don’t like it. Until Obama and the Democrats agree to modify it to suit conservative tastes, the Republicans won’t confirm anybody to run it.

….Brookings scholar and historian Thomas Mann has called this practice a “modern-day form of nullification.” I agree — and I think it’s worth pondering just what that means.

The consumer protection agency exists because one year ago a majority of democratically elected lawmakers passed a law and a democratically elected president signed it. Now a minority of Senators representing a minority of the country are exploiting their procedural powers (i.e., using the filibuster) to prevent that law from taking effect.

That’s undemocratic. And I mean that with a small “d.”

Growing up at the tail end of the Cold War, it was very important for teachers to emphasize that America is a democracy. But living in a democracy means asking a lot of hard questions that they weren’t interested in. It became a slogan without substance.

Now we’re seeing the institution rot from the inside. None of the basic School House Rock level mechanisms have changed, but instead they’ve being subverted in a more blatant way than ever before. We’ve lost the pretense that everyone is working in good faith towards solving problems.

This is not to say that in the past we were ruled by a benevolent class of Jimmy Stewarts. The issue is how blatant the corruption has become.

It’s entirely possible that Republicans in the Senate truly think that their actions are in the best interest of the nation. I’m sure most autocracies believe in that from the start. The fact is they’ve made it clear that they’re not interested in the rules, in the principles, that used to be part of the national myth. Today, all that matters is results.

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