The three (or four) steps essential to a democratic republic: Part Three

Well, I’ve delayed this long enough. I kept hoping for some inspirational way to close this, and nothing has been forthcoming.

I’ve already written about the first two essential steps for a successful democratic republic:  fair and open elections, and that the electorate must accept the results of the election. Step three is that the “losing” must offer what is often referred to as the “loyal opposition.”

Here is where it gets tricky, and where I was searching for a bright line to draw to better define the goal. What I do know is that there are a variety of ways in which an opposition canbehave, and that those ways can be placed on a continuum. At one end of the continuum is for the minority party to just roll over and allow the majority to have its way, without restraint. This probably sounds appealing if you are part of the majority, but it is very destructive in the long run. I would not want to live in a country in which every policy I believed I wanted would be granted; the ideas would become stale and would never stand a chance of improving. Only through an active marketplace of ideas can the best results be achieved.

On the other end, it is just as dangerous to have a minority that does nothing but obstruct the majority and prevent it from governing. Sadly, even Republican intellectuals  have pointed out that the current Republican policy is very close to this end of the spectrum. While Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) is most infamous for his statement that the only vital goal for Republicans was to ensure the defeat of President Obama in his bid for re-election, other GOP leaders have made similar comments on the record. This is not loyal opposition; it is disloyal to the United States and its citizens who badly need for Congress to work toward solutions.

So what is “loyal opposition?” It means both upholding the duty to challenge the majority party and force it to come up with the best possible policies, but it also means remembering that government loyalty is to the constituents and to the government as a whole. This means realizing that, as an elected official, you may not get exactly what you want, but it is more important to create policy that helps those who elected you and, more importantly, your country or state. Obstructionism might succeed in defeating your political foes, but then what is to stop them from turning around and doing exactly the same thing to you? This is a slippery slope that no republic can afford, and it is unfortunate that there seem to be so many GOP legislators at this time who think like Jim DeMint. I am old enough to remember great Republican legislators who managed to craft or strongly influence legislation that has been good for our entire country. When loyalty to ideology supercedes loyalty to citizens, that is selfish and immature, and you have no business being part of the government.

UPDATE:  In the wake of the growing  J.P. Morgan Chase scandal, Mitt Romney’s economic spokesman comes out and says that government should stay uninvolved and that the private sector can solve the problem. This is a perfect storm, combining obstructionism with a ludicrously rabid adherence to Ayn Rand-style ideology.


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