Too Much Democracy

Quite a morning for the NY Times—effective repeal of Miranda; Congressional ethics office used to target the Black Caucus; a Mexican murdered by a cop for resisting deportation; Blacks still excluded from Southern juries, easily and often; and Matt Bai’s piece on Tea Party agitation for repeal of the 17th Amendment–that is, a movement to end direct election of the Senate.  Not to mention that little incident off the coast of Palestine and the death throes of the Gulf of Mexico at the hands of the oil industry and the U.S. government.

Bai’s piece is particularly interesting for this paragraph: “That the idea has taken hold among a vocal subset of activists does, however, tell us a few things about our times. The first is thast skepticism of government generally has reached such intensity that it has become commonplace for the losing side in any political argument to scrutinize not just their party or the candidates, but the system itself.”

It’s hard to tell whether Bai thinks this is an absurd thing or merely a dangerously bad one. As I said to Frank Joyce, “If he actually understood the implications of that paragraph, he’d…be fired, I guess.”

Do not fear Bai losing his gig, though. “It is a fair point that too much direct democracy can be debilitating,” he writes, citing California’s ballot initiative statute.

As someone who believes that exactly the opposite is true, I would much rather see repeal of the mere law that fixes the size of the House at 435 members, with the result that each member now “represents” 650,000  humans.   In the U.K. and France each member of the parliament represents about 108,000 Americans. Perhaps if the proportions were similar in the U.S., we might have a government that could respond to the worst environmental crisis of most of our lifetimes (so far) instead of merely being “in control” of it for a few months while nothing changes except to get worse.

The only way America could suffer from an excess of “direct democracy” (think about that term) would be to rewrite the rule book.

But this obviously cannot be, because of the neoliberal First Commandment:

What is is inevitable.

What is not is impossible.