Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Jammed down our throats"

Politicians love to talk about things being "jammed down our throats." It's such a violent metaphor. The thought of having your airway blocked..I know this, more or less, from my scuba diving training. At one point they had us kneel on the bottom of Monterey Bay, then came around from behind and turned our air off. It was safe--they had assistant instructors ready to save our lives if we screwed up--but believe me, if you can't breathe, that fact trums every single other thing in life.

Now in politics, this phrase is used to complain about rights being trampled--by a legislative majority acting contrary (it's claimed) to public opinion, by "unelected judges," or the like.

Which raises the whole majority-minority rights thing.

The Republican legislators demand what amounts to a veto on all legislation and appointments that require Senate approval. It should go without saying that they didn't regard this as the definition of minority rights when they were in power. When they were in power they demanded an "up or down vote" on everything they were willing to put to a vote and not lock up in committees.

Their justification is that the polls are on their side.

But even it that were true, it means the Republicans are saying we should become a direct democracy, with legislative decisions determined by polling.

And whether that's desirable or not, it's against the Constitution.

So if they want direct democracy/democracy by polling, they need to propose discarding our Constitution--which they've done, in effect, by their words and deeds.

It's only legitimate to use "jammed down our throats" politically when the majority in control of Congress does something the minority objects to--and in a way that's unconstitutional. It's more appropriate when the minority uses congressional rules in a way never envisioned when those rules were created, in order to block the majority.

The term is also used when people object to rulings by "unelected" judges that run contrary to the will of the people (as evinced by either opinion polls or noisy demonstrations). Again, this isn't legitimate unless the judge's ruling turns out to be unsconstitutional--not when it's simply unpopular.

Again the undercurrent is an unspoken demand that the country be run by opinion poll. So it should be obvious why this is unspoken, since it's so radical (and unworkable)--no genuine conservative would ever propose overthrowing the Constitution in favor of opinion polls. But self-styled conservatives use this appeal all the time, hoping that no one will point out how radical and completely unAmerican it is.

Conservatives among our founders--like Alexander Hamilton, for one--knew that mob rule led straight to the French Revolution and its barbaric excesses. They'd be spinning in their graves if they knew that their supposed descendants were sounding more and more like Robespierre and his gang.

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