Disenfranchising America

The right to vote, that keystone of American freedom, has been around for quite a while. For so long, in fact, that we take it for granted. But we shouldn’t anymore because, today, it’s disappearing before our very eyes. Barack Obama, who promised transparency and renewed bipartisanship on the campaign trail, has proven to be nothing other than peremptory in office. In the past twelve months, he’s raced at breakneck speed to turn our democracy into an autocracy. And he shows no signs of slowing down.

How is Obama gathering unto himself alone the reigns of power? He’s using three very potent weapons of mass deconstruction. The first, and most powerful, is secrecy. Revealed early in his term, Obama’s preferred method of governing is private meetings. He still refuses even to name the individuals from hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry who negotiated their cut of the massive healthcare package. Can you imagine the horse-trading that went on behind those closed doors? You’ll have to, because imagination is all you’ve got.

And, there have been other private meetings such as those with unidentified representatives from the coal industry. Then there was the National Endowment for the Arts debacle where the President’s appointees asked artists to create works in support of his political agenda. When the Administration refused to provide a transcript of the teleconference, one was made public by an attendee, and the Administration quickly retreated.

Obama’s second weapon is the Congressional majority his party enjoys. It allows him to contrive bills with party leadership and then accuse Republicans of being partisan. After the Bay State rejection of these tactics, the President when down to Baltimore looking for some Republican thunder to steal. In a contentious exchange, he claimed that, by objecting to his policies, Republicans had shut themselves out of any negotiations. In other words, not only will disagreements with Obama’s agenda be ignored, they will be silenced. Without his Congressional predominance, he would actually have to fulfill his bipartisan campaign promise rather than marching to his own drummer.

How does duct taping the mouth of every politician who has a different viewpoint vaporize the right to vote? Take the tens of millions of people who elected Republicans to Congress in 2008. When their chosen representatives are silenced, these voters lose their voice, too. Their ideas cannot be heard. They cannot be given fair deliberation. Their persuasive influence cannot be felt. The strength of inter party co-operation is lost and the ballot box with it.

Why do Democrats, opposed to many provisions of a bill, vote for it anyway? Enter Obama’s third weapon, the power to influence elections. Once a place of limited public service, Congress has become a career for too many of our representatives. And getting re-elected requires party support, which takes several forms such as campaign funding and barrels and barrels of pork for the folks back home. None of this happens without currying the favor of those who pull the party strings.

So, what’s the big deal if you’re one of those who are happy with the way things are going now? You’re getting your way and everyone else is just a bunch of whiners, right? That’s the trouble with an autocracy. No one, but The One, matters. Not even you.

See you on the left-side.