Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Republicans have proven that a balanced budget amendment is a terrible idea

It would make sense to support a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as long as it had a provision for overriding it in an emergency, except for one thing: the Republican Party of today has proven that its congressmen can't be trusted to recognize an emergency that would require overriding it.

Or they might, but then they'd use the emergency as a hostage to forcing the majority to enact other legislation that a majority of Americans would oppose.

So a balanced-budget amendment is really a minority-rule amendment--especially since Republicans are considerably less inclined to compromise on legislation than Democrats are (as polls show is true of GOP rank and file as well).

Minority rule represents the death of democracy--the overthrow of its most central principle.

But it's easy to understand why Republicans might give up their belief in democracy, because a minority of Americans are Republicans--even when you add in the 45% of Independents who consistently vote Republilcan. A recent Gallup poll has the difference at 74 million people who usually vote GOP vs. 87 million who usually vote Demo. When they vote. More about that later.

So the only way Republicans can win is through the various minority-rule tricks you see them pulling all the time in the U.S. Senate, through whipping its own voters into a frenzy that guarantees turnout...and, less talked about, from doing every single thing in their power to prevent Democrats from voting.

That's why current the GOP is in a vote suppression campaign across all the states it controls, comprising laws ostensibly designed to prevent voter fraud--based on no evidence whatsoever of actual voting fraud going on by more than a single-digit number of people in any given state. They're setting voter ID requirements aimed at preventing college students and poor blacks from voting, along with things like reducing advance voting provisions so people who work long hours won't be able to come in to vote, and even reducing polling places in Democratic areas. But since this campaign isn't going on at a national level, and is being done on the down low, it hasn't captured the attention of the national media, who are busy trying to find out where that lady who got away with murdering her daughter is.

And in general every law and rule that makes it impossible to pass a law unless a supermajority votes for it is a piece of minority rule. California state legislature Republicans have used our 2/3 majority requirement to pass budget bills for decades to get their way.

I'm not arguing that Democrats' idea of spending is good. I'm arguing that majority rule is good, as long as the minority's rights are recognized. The irony is that whenever Republicans get the slightest majority they treat it as a 100% majority with a mandate to ram through everything they want without taking the minority into any consideration at all.

So the Republicans are minoritarian when they're in the minority, majoritarian when they're in the majority. Again, this shows a profound lack of respect for Democratic principles in favor of reverting to raw tribalism.

And for us true independents, the worst thing about Republican obstructionism when they're in the minority is that it enables the Democratic majority to avoid taking responsibility for their actions--they can always blame what goes wrong on Republican obstructionism, thus getting cover for much of what they do wrong.

Parliamentary government is truly majoritarian, able to enact whatever rules/legislation the majority wishes, but with the minority able to force elections whenever the majority goes afoul of the electorate. I'm not advocating abandoning our two party system necessarily--just pointing out that Paliamentary forms tend to place credit and blame more squarely than we can.

The downside of that form is that you often get two major parties that are nearly evenly divided, thus giving small radical parties disproportionate influence--as seen in Israel for example.

So we're probably better off trying to tweak our system.

Meanwhile, though, don't forget to oppose a balanced budget amendment, despite its emotional appeal. It's really a poison pill with a sugar coating.

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