Saturday, February 19, 2011


Joe Klein, blogging for Time about Wisconsin labor protests:

Revolutions everywhere--in the middle east, in the middle west. But there is a difference: in the middle east, the protesters are marching for democracy; in the middle west, they're protesting against it. I mean, Isn't it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting "Freedom, Democracy, Union" while trying to prevent a vote? Isn't it ironic that the Democratic Senators have fled the democratic process? Isn't it interesting that some of those who--rightly--protest the assorted Republican efforts to stymie majority rule in the U.S. Senate are celebrating the Democratic efforts to stymie the same in the Wisconsin Senate?

An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that....

But didn't we just spend two years in America learning that elections don't have consequences if enough people (especially enough people backed by enough ideological media figures and self-interested plutocrats) resent the election's outcome? And didn't the entire political establishment, even those who criticized the teabaggers and town hall disrupters, ultimately come to agree on that point? (Yes, Joe, I know you had harsh words to say about the "nihilists," but I don't think you ever said they were anti-democratic, did you?)

At the national level, this is the third presidency in a row that the right has approached on the assumption that elections should be only incidentally related to consequences. Republicans began working to destroy Bill Clinrton's presidency from the moment of his election, and destroyed the signature initiative of his first two years, health care reform, simply because doing so was good for their own party. The 2000 election, won in the Supreme Court by George W. Bush, was supposed to lead to an era of bipartisanship -- it was widely assumed that Bush, humbled by his loss of the popular vote, would tread carefully and refrain from pushing an assertive right-wing agenda. That was an absurdly naive assumption. And, of course, the tea party movement started mere months after Barack Obama won the presidency with a 7% popular vote margin and more than twice his opponent's electoral votes; the movement's leaders knew that Barack Obama's approval ratings were in the mid-60s when they got started, and they just didn't care.

Shouldn't elections have consequences? On the one hand, the answer is obviously yes -- but that idea shouldn't be used to shut popular protest down altogether. (Taken to its logical conclusion, "elections have consequences" is a euphemism for "Silence yourself except on election day.")

But it doesn't matter what we believe about this, because (at least at the national level) we've already decided: elections don't have to have consequences.

Or at least they don't have to have consequences Republicans don't like.

No comments: