WHAT WE NEED IN CONGRESS

July 2nd, 2010

“Democracy is the worst form of government,” declared Winston Churchill in a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947, “except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”  Democracy is messy.  It is inefficient.  It takes too much time and effort to do things and make changes and work through all the desires and changing demands of the diverse masses.

Dictatorship is so much more efficient and less messy.  It is much simpler.  Things can be done quickly.  The demands and desires of diversity can be ignored.  Saddam, Hitler, the Ayatollahs of Iran, the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Wonderland, can simply say, “Off with their heads,” and things get done!

The Founding Fathers created a very messy system, the worst form of government (except for all those others).  As its procedures and practices were set in place two centuries ago, it was designed to be messy, to be inefficient, to be slow in producing change and getting things done.  In fact, it was designed to take into account the cries and desires and demands of the mass of diversity, of different ideas and ways of looking at life, and do it with considerable regard for that very diversity.

Our republican form of democracy is the very opposite of dictatorship.  Our system was designed at the outset and has subsequently evolved so that each potential law must work its way through a maze of committees, discussions, debates, hallway meetings, backroom deals, intern researches, and yes, even filibusters, getting altered and polished and refined and clarified, possibly discarded for a time, maybe surviving in some altered form that finally addresses the diverse interests and concerns of the melting pot of peoples and ideas that represent these wonderful United States of America, and even requiring the approval and signature of another branch of government, before becoming the law of the land.

The magnificent and unique social contract that binds three hundred million diverse souls of every ethnicity, race, religion, color, and genealogy into one people, “WE THE PEOPLE of the United States . . . ,” the document that, as amended, sets forth and guarantees rights to the people, that was intended to protect the people FROM the government, that created the most noble experiment in government by the people ever attempted by humankind, also set up the messiest and most inefficient government ever created.  It is the very epitome of what Churchill was describing!  It was set up by men of strong opinion who disagreed with each other on how it should be done!  The one quality they possessed that is missing in Congress today was the ability to compromise, to look at the best good for the most people,  the quality of true STATESMANSHIP!

Our government was conceived as a two party system and works best when its legislative bodies are basically balanced between the two parties.  When one party has a super-controlling majority, as now exists in Congress, we then have dictatorship.  The will of the one party can be imposed on the other.  It becomes way less messy, and can be way more efficient.  But it is dictatorship, none the less, representing only one perspective.  And when there is dictatorship in a republic, there is also loud opposition, perhaps acting in obstruction, even becoming in frustration a voice of NO!  And the complicated maze that guarantees that the diversity of the people is heard and considered, is lost.

Our Federal government now looks a lot like such a dictatorship.  Our Utah State government already acts as such a dictatorship.  Some dictators believe they are benign or righteous, some believe they represent God, some believe they are destined, but dictatorship is narrow and the diversity of the masses is ignored.  That is NOT what the inspired founders had in mind.  Yet it is what we now have!

The Founders were Statesmen.  They placed a much greater importance on the good of the nation and the good of the people than on being re-elected.  Where are the statesmen today?  Our elected representatives seek re-election by “bringing home the bacon” in the form of pork, earmarks, local largesse, and accepting lobbyist gifts and campaign contributions, selling their own votes and buying the votes of their constituency.  Ethics is for sale.

If our government is “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” then the people need to demand better of our representatives.  We need to hold them accountable for statesmanlike behavior and choices.  Narrow ideological movements like the “Tea Party” and MoveOn.org work against the very system we cherish!  Congressional personalities like Sen. Bennett and Congressman Matheson in Utah are exactly what we need, because they can work across the aisle, yet they face opposition from the extreme ideological wings of their own parties!  We need to elect more balanced legislative bodies to end the gridlock and really solve the problems facing our nation today!  Our most pressing problems, health care, immigration, unemployment, the financial and banking system, etc., will only be solved with compromise across the aisle.  Narrow ideological interests will only produce ongoing deadlock, frustrated continuing NO!, and bitter divisions among us.

Churchill made his comment after he was defeated in election.  He remarked “They have a perfect right to kick me out. That is democracy”. When he was offered the Order of the Garter, he asked, “Why should I accept the Order of the Garter, when the British people have just given me the Order of the Boot?”  Do we value our democratic form of government as much as Churchill?  Do we cherish its messiness and inefficiency that assures that the diversity of us is honored and respected?  Are we willing to hold our elected representatives, even our Presidents and Governors, accountable for statesmanlike behavior?  Do we truly accept what it means to have, and participate in, government “of the people, by the people, and for the people?”  That is you and me, and our children and grandchildren, us, WE THE PEOPLE!  Or could we possibly stand aside, in apathy, in dependency, and watch it perish from the earth?

If we want to solve the many problems facing us, we must get off narrow ideological bandwagons and elect moderates, and create a Congress that can compromise into the middle, or we face long term gridlock, or dictatorship of one side or the other.

Cam Mosher

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