Friday, February 17, 2012

The Dishonesty and Hypocrisy of Republican "Stars"

I am often appalled by the idiocy and the hypocrisy of mediocre Republican figures. but when the idiocy and the hypocrisy come from one of the supposed "rising stars" of the Republican party, I find it even more appalling. Take the example of Gov Chris Christie.

In vetoing a bill that legalized same-sex marriage in New Jersey, Gov. Christie made the following statement: "I am adhering to what I've said since this bill was first introduced – an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide." If that statement does not bother you, think again: it should.

We live in a nation that established representative democracy as a form of government: We elect representatives to legislate and execute laws on our behalf. If we do not like what our representatives do, we can vote them out, and someone else in, at the next election. By this measure we judge everything our representatives do: Increasing or lowering taxes, enhancing or reducing social services, strengthening or . weakening law enforcement powers vs. the protection of individual rights, and so forth.

It really bothers me when some politicians think that some things are too sacred to be decided by legislators and sent the back to voters for further approval: The majority of the people already voted you in, so do you fucking job, which is to make a stand on principle from time to time, call an issue as you see it, and make decisions on our behalf, without making pitiful excuses.

Often, appeals to voters are made by reactionary politicians who want to maintain the status quo, and know that it is easier for 30-40 somewhat enlightened representatives (or 3, 4, or 5 judges) to repair a wrong, than it is for millions of voters that often include a majority of backward-thinking, religiously-motivated dullards who think that (their) God's view of morality be driving their vote, instead of rational, humane considerations. Do you think we should have patiently waited for the majority of Americans to eliminate racial segregation, antimiscegenation laws, or to decide whether Genesis or the theory of evolution by natural selection should be taught in science classes? If so, you need to live in a gated community of like-minded freaks. It's better for all of us if you do.

Referenda are the means that voters can use to right what they perceive to be a wrong perpetrated by a minority (their elected representatives or a handful of judges) after a decision has been made that is contrary to their general sensibilities. And courts have the final say because they are supposed to be composed of individuals of above average intelligence and education (and hopefully, some sense of impartial justice), who can recognize when a law goes against constitutional principles.

What bothers me even more is that referenda are often called into play with the excuse that the issues they are meant to decide are of foremost importance and consequence, but which in reality are fairly trivial, like gay marriage, the legalization of pot, the legalization of gambling, and so on, when compared to things that are hugely consequential in people lives. I would like to be called to vote on whether corporations are "people", in the sense that they should enjoy the same privileges that individuals do, without suffering any of the ill effects (like being sentenced to death when they wreck the world economy.) I would like to be called upon to decide whether we should have a national health care system, with a good deal of government intervention, versus a fragmented one in which the influence that power players exert (health care corporations, insurance companies, and Wall Street) greatly exceeds the ability of individuals to oppose them. I would also be liked to call to decide whether the water that I drink, or the food that I eat, or the drugs that I take, should be safe, whether the fuck the politicians want them to be or not. But that's not what happens as a matter of routine.

As a matter of routine, we let politicians represent us in the hope that they will weigh the public interest versus the private, and that they will legislate in good faith. And if, and only if, we disagree with the decisions they make, do we then have recourse to the courts or to undo what they did via referenda. For a number of reasons that make eminent sense,  that's the way things should work and that's the way, for the most part, they have worked. I am sure that Gov. Christie knows that; which is why he is both a hypocrite and dishonest when he says that "an issue of this magnitude and importance... should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide." But if there is no dishonesty or hypocrisy in his statement, that might be an even worse fault, because it would be a sign that the governor does not understand how representative democracy works. If so, he is not fit to be a leader in one, and the people of New Jersey would do well to replace him as soon as they get a chance. And the rest of us should so hope that he never ascends to higher power than that of Governor, if that's his idea of how politics should work.

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