If You Can Keep It

Mark Schmitt brilliantly captures the unique threat that the Bushies pose to our democracy.  All Americans would do well to remember that while there is much to admire in our Constitution, laws, and democratic traditions, they alone are insufficient to guarantee incorrupt government.

I just completed The Secret Man, Bob Woodward’s memoir of his relationship with W. Mark Felt, the granddaddy of all anonymous sources, Deep Throat.  The book provides the final refutation of the myth of the investigative reporter as guardian of democracy; Felt was just another Washington player (with anti-Constitutional hobbies of his own) who used Woodward to damage a White House that Felt regarded as a rival and usurper of the prerogatives of Hoover’s FBI.  Following the Watergate resignations, convictions and pardons, Woodward never again exposed a source to as much peril as he did Felt, nor did he write anything that would have jeopardized the access to power that flowed from his newfound celebrity.

The domination of the American political scene by two large parties is an artifact of our first-past-the-post electoral system.  Ostensibly, the intent of this system is to encourage candidates and parties to moderated their positions to appeal to as large a majority as possible.  Two "big-tent" parties also permit crossover votes in Congress, including the ballyhooed "collegiality" of the Senate, where the longer election cycle results in greater bipartisan cooperation.

The Rove Republicans, however, are no longer playing by these unwritten rules, and they have changed many of the written rules.  By scorning and, indeed, actively suppressing the swing vote while relying on a perpetually outraged and energized base, the Bushies are rejecting decades- if not centuries-old American democratic tradition.  In fact, they are behaving precisely like a party in a democracy governed by proportional representation.

If we cannot rely on either an independent press or the (small-r) republican spirit of our representatives to preserve our pluralistic democracy, perhaps we should change the rules to accommodate the Bushies’ monolithic partisanship.  Let’s toss out the Electoral Collage, as well as the 435 congressional districts.  The president/vice-president shall be elected by a straight plurality of all national votes, and the seats in the House of Representatives shall be apportioned by proportional representation (the states can keep the Senate as is).  Then let the Bushies try to build a coalition without an over-represented FatherHomeland or their beloved Southern strategy.

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