Monday, November 28, 2011

Our Latest Authoritarian Temptation

Everyone's approval ratings are scraping the ground. People are talking about a third party candidate. People have a low view not only of politicians, but of politics itself. But that means a low view of the mechanics and possibility of self-government.

In my column at last week ("Doubting Democracy at the Impasse"), I recount some recent developments that has turned people off in this way, and I give some shocking examples of some prominent people who toy with the idea of autocracy--just for a while--and who should know better.

North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue suggested that we suspend the upcoming election cycle so that congressional leaders would be free simply to do what is right for the country without having to worry about political consequences:

I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. You want people who don’t worry about the next election.

This brought to mind the public nostalgie du fascism of another prominent political liberal, multiple Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman, who just 18 months ago repeated ever so cautiously what he boldly published in his 2008 book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, that if we could just have Chinese government for a day, we could nicely Obamafy the country into proper shape, then go back to our usual gridlock.

I conclude, "In 1944, Judge Learned Hand described the 'spirit of liberty' as 'the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.' That is the democratic republican spirit. It is humble regarding oneself and respectful of one’s neighbor. Living by the rule of law is one way we express that spirit. The answer to political paralysis is not less politics, but more: political discussion, political involvement, and political accountability on Election Day."

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