It's the Democracy, Stupid?

One of the most offensive tendencies of beleaguered establishmentarians faced with the utter collapse of their precious conventional wisdom is to bemoan—or to rethink, they might protest—this brilliant representative democracy bequeathed to us by the Founders in unabashedly elitist tones. To be sure, this line of thinking often bears the appearance of innocuous experimental thought but bespeaks, at best, fecklessness, and more likely are signs of intellectual depravity. As a liberal—affected by what may be called trademark self-flagellation—I am wont to focus on this insidious tic when it is found on the left. Conservatives and reactionaries craving for the relative warmth of authoritarianism is, to me, rather unsurprising and therefore barely worth noting. What can we expect from “small-government” folk with a nary a peep to say about the warrantless surveillance of American citizens or the stupid morality of strictly-enforced marijuana prohibition?

I can think of at least three prominent liberals that gave voice to this dangerous nonsense recently—the first of whom is quite brilliant: Woody Allen (Manhattan, Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors—I mean, c’mon!); Tom Friedman, the unfortunate suck-up; and Joe Klein in Time magazine just today.

I had been minding my own business, reading Time’s mild-mannered attempt to explain what has come to be regarded as Barack Obama’s stunning failure as president, when the title “How Can a Democracy Solve Tough Problems?” on the right side of the screen seemed to lunge at me. (Who knew the unlikely symbiosis of ganja and righteous indignation could be that kickass?)

If you asked me, what's the most disappointing thing Barack Obama has done as President? I'd say, He appointed a "blue-ribbon" commission to study the federal deficit. I mean, how boring and worthy and worthless! Such commissions are an instant admission of defeat: We lack the political will to deal with (insert long-term crisis here), so we're appointing a blue-ribbon commission to study it. The process is inevitable, especially in these days of rising partisan contentiousness. A consensus won't be reached on the really tough issues. A high-minded, peripheral idea or two may emerge — frosting on a soap bubble — and then evaporate ... or worse, actually be implemented, as was the 9/11 commission's foolishly redundant suggestion of a Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI), plopped atop the CIA and military spook agencies. No doubt yet another commission will eventually be appointed to study abolishing the DNI.

Let’s rest here for a second. While this represents a digression from our main point here, Joe Klein’s treatment of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform as some sort of passing joke requires special attention and derision. Rather than being a source of amusement, this commission is a sinister assembly co-chaired by former senator Al Simpson (who’s more like the comically evil Creed Bratton than Homer’s dad as far as I’m concerned) and includes the likes of Paul Ryan, the House Republicans’ resident budget wonk. (Yes, there’s only one—and even he demonstrates how carelessly that encomium is bestowed these days.)

Obama’s administration had originally envisioned a binding role for the commission and was thwarted but the potential damage remains stark nonetheless. Those of us committed to sending this president, via primary, back to Hyde Park can only hope the incoming crowd of prodigious reactionary busybodies, endowed with all sorts of investigative tools, will inadvertently save FDR’s legacy—precisely the way Miss Lewinsky once did in a roundabout way.

But what if there were a machine, a magical contraption that could take the process of making tough decisions in a democracy, shake it up, dramatize it and make it both credible and conclusive? As it happens, the ancient Athenians had one. It was called the kleroterion, and it worked something like a bingo-ball selector. Each citizen — free males only, of course — had an identity token; several hundred were picked randomly every day and delegated to make major decisions for the polis. But that couldn't happen now, could it? Most of our decisions are too complicated and technical for mere civilians to make, aren't they?

Actually, the Chinese coastal district of Zeguo (pop. 120,000) has its very own kleroterion, which makes all its budget decisions. The technology has been updated: the kleroterion is a team led by Stanford professor James Fishkin. Each year, 175 people are scientifically selected to reflect the general population. They are polled once on the major decisions they'll be facing. Then they are given a briefing on those issues, prepared by experts with conflicting views. Then they meet in small groups and come up with questions for the experts — issues they want further clarified. Then they meet together in plenary session to listen to the experts' response and have a more general discussion. The process of small meetings and plenary is repeated once more. A final poll is taken, and the budget priorities of the assembly are made known and adopted by the local government. It takes three days to do this. The process has grown over five years, from a deliberation over public works (new sewage-treatment plants were favored over road-building) to the whole budget shebang. By most accounts it has succeeded brilliantly, even though the participants are not very sophisticated: 60% are farmers. The Chinese government is moving toward expanding it into other districts.

A signature beauty of the American system is that we have wonderfully smart mechanisms that allow for the change that is often necessary. What’s required beyond this is mobilization of the citizenry. But reading Joe Klein’s possible prescription makes me think his sarcasm may have gone past his snark regarding the president’s blue-ribbon commission.

One of the major problems we have to contend with in this country is a corporate media which has failed in its ostensible responsibility of educating voters and facilitating the substantive exchange of ideas—intentionally so, the cynical among us will assert. How will such a problem be ameliorated by a bunch of “experts” stuffing a relative few of us randomly-selected plebs in a room for the purposes of personally presenting our choices to us? At least the false choice between politicians provides us with the occasional adventurous and drunken Election Night. This fantasy experiment of Joe Klein’s sounds like something straight out of some sterile utopian future where sex is banned. Um, no thanks.

While the rejection of the frighteningly vague, “non-political” jive of manipulative demagogues like Glenn Beck is obvious, it’s also imperative that we dismiss the notion that explains Klein’s angst and that has been rapidly gaining currency of late: It’s the notion of the ungovernability of the United States. It’s a convenient trope that characterized the malaise of our sad-sack 39th president and was thought to have been swept out of town with the advent of his successor, the senile reactionary from California.  

Democratic politics is often ugly and never simple, but what else is there? I personally prefer the Iowa caucuses and such to the beautiful minds of Joe Klein and Tom Friedman—and feel no need to apologize for it either.

Tags: Joe Klein, TIME Magazine, Obama Administration, tom friedman (all tags)

Comments

33 Comments

Liberals?

Woody Allen, Tom Friedman and Joe Klein are hardly prominent liberals. Woody Allen, whatever his political views, is barely heard of. And the later two are squarely in the pseudo-middle.

by vecky 2010-09-02 11:26PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

They're not progressive--and they certainly not populists--but these men, broadly speaking, belong to the left. Particularly in the era of this black Democratic president they seem so fond of, I don't think any of them would take exception to that characterization. 

by Jack Landsman 2010-09-03 06:50AM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

"Broadly speaking, belong to the left" is quite a climb down from "prominent liberals". Why didn't you just say that originally.

by vecky 2010-09-03 10:23AM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

NO! NO! NO! Tom "Suck on This" Friedman does "belong to the left".  I fail to see how he belonged us before Iraq -- saying free trade and globalization will solve every single one of the world's problems might get you invited to speak at a DNC fundraiser but that's hardly a position of "the left."  But regardless of his pre-2003 views, his vile Islamophobia and war cheerleading got him exiled firmly and permanantly from the left.  Every time someone of the right refers to "liberal" Tom Friedman we should sue them for slander.  He does not belong to us.

by Fire Tom Friedman 2010-09-03 11:39AM | 1 recs
RE: Liberals?

"Liberal" isn't necessarily a guarantee of something good. Liberalism has many tenets and Tom Friedman belongs to at least one: neoliberalism. Rest assured, I despite him as much as you clearly do.

by Jack Landsman 2010-09-03 12:23PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

Point taken.  My 2nd to last sentence is bad.  It's the "of the left" I object to.  Actually, it's the fact that everytime Tom Friedman says something incredibly stupid (a not rare event), Jonah Goldberg et. al jump up and down and point to it as a sympton of the left, not just Friedman's stupidity, despite the fact Friedman has a lot more in common with Goldberg than he does w/ the leftists I know.

What does this have to do w/ your original post?  I don't think you have any more of a responsibility to refudiate Friedman's (or Klein's) authoritarian streak than you do, say, Michael Savage's.  They're not ours. Period.

by Fire Tom Friedman 2010-09-03 12:51PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

Your second passage is a salient one, I can't quite answer it except to say that Tom Friedman is close enough (to me) ideologically that I feel compelled to vigorously refute him. The right-wingers are a complete and utter waste. We know what they're all about. People like Tom Friedman, however, have a lot of unfortunate sway with otherwise good people who consider themselves "liberal"--or whatever sort.

by Jack Landsman 2010-09-03 01:26PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

What are we squabbling about, sweetness? "Prominent liberals" is a perfectly acceptable description of Tom Friedman, Joe Klein and God-like filmmaker Woody Allen.

by Jack Landsman 2010-09-03 12:05PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

This was directed to my vecky.

by Jack Landsman 2010-09-03 12:07PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

Sorry Jack, your vecky has already found her own personal messiah.  It's all so sad, but you won't get anything but squabbling if you try to pose such rational and considered discussion to her.  

by 2010-09-03 02:41PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

I fail to see how, since you just admitted they are neither particularly liberal nor particularly prominent, both of which would be a pre-requisite for the label " Prominent Liberals ".

by vecky 2010-09-03 03:04PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

Vecky, we're squabbling inanely about semantics here. I never said these men weren't particularly liberal or prominent. They aren't progressives or populists but they are liberals. They're liberals of a regrettable sort but liberals nevetheless for our purposes.

by Jack Landsman 2010-09-03 03:28PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

What purposes? Surely their ideology should be based on what they are, rather than on what you wish for. You basically said they only qualify "broadly speaking", which would seem to disqualify them from any sort of "prominent liberal" characterization.

Bit like me saying Andrew Sullivan broadly speaking, belongs to the right. True enough, but a prominent conservative he is not. So let's not equate the two ok?

by vecky 2010-09-03 03:38PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

I'm quite sure this is the most ridiculous semantical scuffle you or I have ever been involved in. By "prominent," I meant famous. By "liberal," I was referring to their general ideological predisposition. C'mon.

The point about Andrew Sullivan is a good one but superficially so. If we did a poll asking people to choose between A) Classifying Woody Allen, Tom Friedman, and Joe Klein as "prominent liberals," or B) Rejecting such a designation as imprecise, most people would probably write-in choice C) What the hell are we even arguing about? Sullivan is different because his unorthodox conservatism doesn't have much of a constituency in what David Brooks calls the conservative mansion. People like Friedman have tons of prominent neoliberal brethren.

by Jack Landsman 2010-09-03 04:27PM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals?

But their general ideological predisposition is not liberal, it's centrist. And they are hardly "famous" which is not a synonym for prominent anyway. 

I would say most people would say B) and leave it at that. Unless they are vainly trying to defend themselves by burrowing deeper down the rabbit hole. As for Sullivan, he does have quite the constituency, he's only one of the most popular political bloggers out there. 

by vecky 2010-09-03 06:44PM | 1 recs
I think we need to establish context

There is a context here, that is dangerous to omit. If you take a second rate entertainer, and by some chance allow him to transform himself - through talk radio or by means of effusive commentary broadcast in the filler space of your 24/7 news cycle.

First, you're likely not .. thinking... anymore. You turn on the TV just to hear the noise.

Second, you're wont to pronounce his name - if all is said and done well. We seem to live in a world of manufactured consent.

I vote that we do not use it as an echo chamber. The term 'second rate entertainer' applies equally well to people who could not complete their term as Alaska governor,  as it does to mormons with talk radio aspiration - who choose to enrich themselves through demagoguery.

As it does to front page bloggers who ask the question "what else is there, besides democracy?" imho.

A catholic review of governmental structure around the world, yields growing economies in socialism, communism, capitalism, and to a lesser extent, fascism. Libertarian economies are the worst performing entitites on the planet, but they do a pretty good job of begging for cash when earthquakes rock the country.

 

The concept of 'liberal' or conservative, is staid. The question is no longer whether we should have larger or smaller government - a smaller, and more effecient government - passing small, and effecient bills like Alan Grayon's 4 page cash value to medicare bill - are easy points to prove. It's what government +does+ with power that is where our focus point should be. Smart government.

We need web-services enabled tracking, epa integration with the FDA, smart, simple, effecient single payer healthcare, streamlined fair tax, elimination of wars of convenience, and disintermediation in political process - to the exclusion of any sphere of influence a lobbyist should retain, our congressmen should be looking to their own blogs and websites to find out what their constituents want them to do. It should be verifiable, and we should be comfortable enough to let someone hold the tokens. And we should have pajama clad bloggers tracking down the facts.  Any person you quote or mention. Should be worth mentioning.

This is the context of the blogosphere. Use it well.

 

Winston Churchill said:

 

"It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary."

 

 

by Trey Rentz 2010-09-03 10:04AM | 1 recs
Good stuff here

Lawrence Lessing:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-lessig/neoprogressives_b_704715.html

 

The Neo-Progressive Movement needs to encourage these Republicans. It needs to be willing to put aside part of the agenda of each within the movement, recognizing that no change, on the Right or the Left, will happen until the fever is broken, because the disease has been stopped. Mainstream parties have lost the credibility for reform. As in 1912, only a breakaway, trans-party movement, possibly with no single leader, could have an effect in 2012.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-09-03 11:15AM | 0 recs
RE: Good stuff here

I enjoyed his editorial, and I guess in principle I agree.  But the devil, as they say, is in the details.  If he would have only provided name of a conservative as an example.  What people (or person) is he talking about?  Can you provide a name of a person that would fit his example? 

by zmus 2010-09-03 12:10PM | 0 recs
RE: Good stuff here

I don't think its a name, but a number of issues. For example, the DeMint idea to end earmarks. That needs to happen. I have no problem with his making that an issue against both sides of incumbents that prolong that happening. Other issues, he's wrong, but the polarity is the problem. Thats 2011 at least. In 2012, all bets may be off if an Independent run happens-- they don't even need to win outright; just throw it into the House.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-09-03 03:54PM | 0 recs
RE: Good stuff here

If Obama/Pelosi/Reid proposed eliminating earmarks, DeMint would be the first person to come out against it because it

a. Raised taxes

b. Encouraged abortion

c. Was soft on Islam

d. Increased the debt

DeMint doesn't have ideas, he has strategies, and the strategy is to win elections for conservatives.  You want to see the truth of DeMint?  Next week, Obama is going to propose a round of tax cuts to stimulate the economy.  Will DeMint support it.  Nope, he will have some reason why red blooded God loving Americans have to be against it.

Conservatives don't have issues.  They have strategies.  This has been proven over and over the past two years as Obama has sadly tried to find middle ground.

by zmus 2010-09-03 05:21PM | 0 recs
Count me among those people...
...who are losing hope in democracy to solve our great problems. When you look at the vast array of very serious problems that we face, and it seems like we are not even able to seriously approach even the least difficult of them, it does not give one much hope. It seems obvious to me that a great experiment is taking place in the world and the world is watching. What is the best way to get things done? In a system like the United States, or a system like China? I don't think our government or our country gets this. If we lose this competition of ideas, then we will become more like them, not the other way around. And what use is freedom, if it does get you freedom? That was the argument of the conservatives during the Bush admin as they endorsed things like torture and warrant-less wiretapping, and it is what liberals were saying as they endorsed ideas like mandatory health insurance. If democracy cannot solve problems, then democracy is going to fail.
by zmus 2010-09-03 11:59AM | 0 recs
Once again

You might look into a topic before you write on it.

"A signature beauty of the American system is that we have wonderfully smart mechanisms that allow for the change that is often necessary."

Very much a debatable topic. Numerous writers - George Packer, Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, Eric Alterman, Ezra Klein, Gail Collins among journalists; Mike Lux, Chris Bowers, and myself among bloggers; Norman Ornstein, Mickey Edwards, Matthew Mayer and Barbara Sinclair among academics (to name just a few) have written on the limitations of our Constitutional system and its increasing inability to produce meaningful legislation quickly or transparently. It is not just that our politics have become poisonous which is a separate matter but that there are good reasons to believe that the American political system is showing its age and has design flaws. But I guess in your view we are all just over-educated elitist establishmentarians apparently beleaguered to boot.

The US Constitution is now 221 years old. Being the first modern written constitution, it served as a model for other political constitutions the world over sometimes almost word for word, clause for clause. But whereas other countries have found and corrected the designs flaws, we haven't.

In México, for instance, the Districto Federal is modeled on DC. Originally residents of the DF were denied voting and representation rights. That was long corrected (in the 19th century) but here DC is still denied voting representation in Congress. 

I have written at least three major substantive posts on the dysfunctional US Senate noting that it over-represents rural, conservative interests and under-represents urban, progressive interests. This isn't even controversial. Any political scientist can tell you that rural interests are over-represented in Thailand, Japan and the United States. It's common knowledge and the reason is that in the US each state gets two Senators. I've argued that this is becoming an issue that is tearing the fabric of the country apart.

Now other countries have Senates but they are able to overcome representation problems in different ways. Australia has a bicameral legislature. Its House is a pure Westminster system but its Senate is more like the US Senate than a British House of Lords. While each Australian state is guaranteed 12 senators and territories each get two, they are elected via proportional representation. That has a huge impact. It's why five Greens were elected to the Senate and why only one Green was elected to the lower House which is elected in a first past the post single member district system. Electoral systems do make a difference.

Colombia elects its Senate nationally. That is no Senator represents any Colombian department (province) but must run on a national list. Moreover, Colombians living abroad get to vote and both indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities each get their own Senator. In Uruguay, the 30 member Senate is also elected nationally but unlike Colombia which uses a first past the post system, Uruguay elects its Senate via proportional representation. These electoral mechanisms provide a far different outcome and thus impact policy. The Senates in Colombia and Uruguay have a national constituency instead of a local provincial one. In Uruguay's case, that representation is proportional to the desires of the electorate.

In Brazil, each state gets three Senators in the Brazilian Senate. Even though the Senate has more competences - the Senate must approve govt appointments and all treaties - than the Chamber of Federal Deputies, there is no difference between them when it comes to voting laws; there is not an Upper and a Lower House. Every law must be approved both by the Chamber and the Senate (and eventually promulgated - or vetoed - by the President of the Republic); if one of the Houses changes anything in the draft of law being appreciated, the draft returns to the other House for a new appreciation. Senators are elected for a eight year term; every four years, either 2/3 or 1/3 of Senate is renovated in a first past the post system. The Chamber is selected via proportional representation. But the biggest difference between Brazil and the US is that Brazil is a multi-party system while the US is technically a two party system though some argue that it is effectively a mono-political system (i.e. corporatist). Multi-party systems have one advantage, they tend to forge consensus. Belgium is the big exception to this tendency but Belgium's has other factors that explain its dysfunction.

Argentina is another country whose Senate is chosen just like the US. Each Senator serves a six-year term with a third of the Senate elected every two years. Each province get three Senators. Buenos Aires also get three Senators because the city has been made into an autonomous district separate from the historical province of Buenos Aires. However, Argentina does not use a first past the post system to select its Senators. Instead, the party with the most votes is awarded two of the province's senate seats and the second-place party receives the third seat.

But Argentina, like most Latin American nations, have much more powerful executives. Latin American presidents have power of decrees. In Argentina, that power is known as Decrees of Necessity and Emergency (DNUs) and is often referred to as a decretazo. Carlos Menem and Néstor Kirchner were both profligate in their use of DNUs, signing an average of 67 a year each. DNUs have the force of law but are temporary, that is, they expire. Laws require Congressional approval and are permanent. Often a President will issue a decree and then attempt to codify it into law later. Kirchner, for example, used decree powers to jump start Argentina's high speed rail project and then sought Congressional approval later. His wife and successor, Christina Fernández de Kirchner ran into problems when she tried to raise export taxes on soy and wheat via a decretazo.  She was forced to back down and ultimately the Congress overruled her. Chávez and Ortega rule by decree. The National Assembly in Venezuela has effectively abdicated its constitutional powers and widen Chávez's presidential powers. My point is that institutional design matters. And ours has serious flaws. I personally would like to see way the Senate governs itself changed but ultimately giving Wyoming and California equal representation is a fatal flaw. Until that changes and until the role of money in politics changes, you're going to get poor public policy outcomes. 

As per James Fishkin, he is a professor of Communications at Stanford and someone with whom I am well acquainted. I've heard him speak a number of times and I've read his work. He's one of the foremost advocates of deliberative polling which is a subset of the Deliberative Democracy movement which judging by the tenor of your post you've never heard of. It's not exactly a new movement. John Rawls now deceased and Jürgen Habermas still alive have long written on the subject. Amy Guttman, formerly at Princeton and now the President of the University of Pennsylvania, has written extensively on deliberative democracy. In fact, she and Dennis Thompson, a political scientist at Harvard, have a new book on Deliberative Democracy out just last month. Their 2004 book Why Deliberative Democracy? is highly recommended for anyone interested in political theory. 

More importantly to your diatribe towards Klein, deliberative polling, Fishkin's speciality, has been used to derive public policy the world over with great success. In the United States, the Utah 2050 project used it to develop a long-term land use and transportation infrastructure policy. County and city governments in Texas and Vermont have used deliberative polling to help set energy policy. Denmark used deliberative polling in its decision to adopt the euro. And Australia used deliberative polling to formulate policy on aboriginal issues and as well over the constitutional debate over whether to remain a monarchy or become a republic.  

I'm not sure how the above leads to a comment like this:

"This fantasy experiment of Joe Klein’s is straight out of some sterile utopian future where sex is banned."

Clearly, you don't know what you are talking about. Klein is talking about local governance participating in determining budgetary priorities. Nor is Thomas Friedman advocating for Chinese-style authoritarianism, he's simply pointing out the obvious - the Chinese are getting things done and we're hindered by our political process. He wants to fix our broken government, not replace with it a Politburo. Senator Bennet of Colorado has said pretty much the same thing when he complained about the arcane rules that govern the Senate.

But to trash Klein's kleroterion reference without doing the necessary background research is just poor scholarship. You might look into a subject before you dismiss it out of hand. 

And does a "symbiosis of ganja and righteous indignation" imply that you were stoned when you read/wrote this? if so, I think that's highly unprofessional. The readership deserves better than drug-fuelled rants. You should know that members of Congress still read MyDD on occasion. In the two years, I've been associated with MyDD, I have never seen a front-pager use profane language like you did in a previous post. It's uncalled for and it reflects poorly on MyDD.

You write well stylistically speaking but your posts are more off-the-cuff rants than anything else. While you add to the growing encyclopedia of Obama Deranged Syndrome, I can't say I've learned anything reading your rants. 

But what do I know I'm an over-educated elitist. 

by Charles Lemos 2010-09-03 12:19PM | 5 recs
RE: Once again

I tried replying to this, but it got pused into a separate thread (see below)

by Ravi Verma 2010-09-03 12:31PM | 0 recs
RE: Once again

I am noticing something very strange here, a continuous talk of a primary challenger to a sitting President. Fine by me, because that's what's democracy is all about. However, who will be the challenger? Who has a high enough profile to challenge a sitting president? But I agree with you, much of this diary is a free-form rant without saying anything specific.

by tarheel74 2010-09-03 01:09PM | 0 recs
RE: Once again

As was Joe Klein's snarky tweaking of the Catfood Commission and his subsequently silly suggestion that deliberative polling could be instrumental in tackling something as massive as our historic deficit.

Oh, right, I forgot. You agree with (or at least sympathetic to) him and that makes all the difference in the world, right? Dismount that high horse. You look ridiculous.  

by Jack Landsman 2010-09-03 01:40PM | 0 recs
RE: Once again

You might look into a topic before you write on it.

"A signature beauty of the American system is that we have wonderfully smart mechanisms that allow for the change that is often necessary."

Very much a debatable topic. Numerous writers - George Packer, Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, Eric Alterman, Ezra Klein, Gail Collins among journalists; Mike Lux, Chris Bowers, and myself among bloggers; Norman Ornstein, Mickey Edwards, Matthew Mayer and Barbara Sinclair among academics (to name just a few) have written on the limitations of our Constitutional system and its increasing inability to produce meaningful legislation quickly or transparently. It is not just that our politics have become poisonous which is a separate matter but that there are good reasons to believe that the American political system is showing its age and has design flaws. But I guess in your view we are all just over-educated elitist establishmentarians apparently beleaguered to boot.

It’s very much debatable?—well thanks for that bit of enlightenment. I hadn’t realized that before. I’m going to be perfectly honest with you to begin here. You could have saved this voluminous, pointless mental-masturbation with a simple “You’re not my favorite guy.” What exactly is your aim here? From this I’ve gathered that there numerous smart individuals who disagree with me, and agree with you, that there are structural flaws in the American system.

The notion that we must rush to throw off the yoke of American-style democracy (or kvetch about process) is simply laughable. Remember: The Constitution—and even the arcane and frustrating procedures of the United States Senate—are constantly changing! How many amendments to the Constitution are there? How many radical departures from the Founders’ clear intent and interpretation have been codified and woven into the American system? How many transformative pieces of legislation have been duly passed and signed by the president in only the last forty years? The problem isn’t process; it’s political. It’s a question of sound policy. To the extent there are too many conservative Democrats from rural regions resistant to big progressive change or too many nihilistic Republicans, once more, those are political considerations that have everything to do with the specific kind of representatives we send to Washington.   

More importantly to your diatribe towards Klein, deliberative polling, Fishkin's speciality, has been used to derive public policy the world over with great success. In the United States, the Utah 2050 project used it to develop a long-term land use and transportation infrastructure policy. County and city governments in Texas and Vermont have used deliberative polling to help set energy policy. Denmark used deliberative polling in its decision to adopt the euro. And Australia used deliberative polling to formulate policy on aboriginal issues and as well over the constitutional debate over whether to remain a monarchy or become a republic.  

Clearly, you don't know what you are talking about. Klein is talking about local governance participating in determining budgetary priorities. Nor is Thomas Friedman advocating for Chinese-style authoritarianism, he's simply pointing out the obvious - the Chinese are getting things done and we're hindered by our political process. He wants to fix our broken government, not replace with it a Politburo. Senator Bennet of Colorado has said pretty much the same thing when he complained about the arcane rules that govern the Senate.

You might want to follow your advice about ignorant bloviating. Klein began his defense of deliberative polling blasting the absurdity of the president’s blue-ribbon commission tasked with solving the deficit. He concluded with a quip that implies deliberative polling is a solution with possible national applications. (You’re beginning to annoy me—go back and actually read Joe Klein’s piece, dude. I did. Several times.) Citing cases of successful deliberative polling on a city and county level (or nations much smaller than the United States such as Denmark) isn’t nearly as compelling a case for using deliberative polling to solve Social Security’s insolvency as Klein thinks. His confidence is utterly baseless and requires a massive leap of faith in logic and common sense.  

But to trash Klein's kleroterion reference without doing the necessary background research is just poor scholarship. You might look into a subject before you dismiss it out of hand. 

And does a "symbiosis of ganja and righteous indignation" imply that you were stoned when you read/wrote this? if so, I think that's highly unprofessional. The readership deserves better than drug-fuelled rants. You should know that members of Congress still read MyDD on occasion. In the two years, I've been associated with MyDD, I have never seen a front-pager use profane language like you did in a previous post. It's uncalled for and it reflects poorly on MyDD.

You write well stylistically speaking but your posts are more off-the-cuff rants than anything else. While you add to the growing encyclopedia of Obama Deranged Syndrome, I can't say I've learned anything reading your rants. 

But what do I know I'm an over-educated elitist. 

“Over-educated elitist” is certainly one take, isn’t it? Because I value your time as much as my own—you’re my buddy!—you really should table your pompous editorial critiques in order save them for someone who cares. Not necessarily someone who concurs—but at least someone who cares, Chuck.

by Jack Landsman 2010-09-03 01:20PM | 0 recs
RE: Once again

Ha!

Sad, but the only people who care about these people say are all gathering about in little clatches (ever-diminishing clatches!) on the fringes of the blogsphere.  They're all in shock that their echo-chamber of mutual approval is falling apart along with everything else this mistake has wrought.

by 2010-09-03 02:50PM | 0 recs
RE: Once again

I only had to read your first line to see that you're the one who is uninformed.  


Of the (too-few!!) diaries I've read by Jack, it's clear that he is not only very well informed on all the issues, but also able to able to view the situation with a clarity and integrity that we haven't seen much in these parts - except for when Jerome has time to grace us all, of course.  

 

Please feel free to challenge Jack on merits, but avoid the snide sniping at someone who clearly puts in a great deal of thought and effort in the thankless task of righting this sinking ship!

by 2010-09-03 02:46PM | 0 recs
RE: Once again

Thanks a million, dude. I can't even begin to tell you how perplexed I am at the meta-criticisms these people are quick to throw around. Who—besides my "over-educated" comrade Chuck, I suppose—in the blogosphere or even in the mainstream press is safe from the impossible standards set by these folk? As I said once before, I'm a polemicist. My writing style doesn't conform to the proper standards of the New York Times. My snark, infrequent swearing, and allusion to recreational drug use are so common to the blogosphere (in its entirety—not only the progressive end of the spectrum) that it makes me wonder if these folk aren't just feigning outrage. No one's that obtuse.

Consider my perspective in this particular FP entry: A passionate attempt to defend American-style democracy from cynical establishmentarians that are bitter about the obvious failure of their policies and disdainful of the process as a result. The fault is never with them: It’s the filibuster, or the Electoral College, or the professional left, etc. These arguments are as short-sighted (Democrats aren’t going to always control the Senate—praise imaginary Jesus for the filibuster!) as they are lame and ineffective. Voters don’t want to hear about process for crying out loud.

by Jack Landsman 2010-09-03 03:25PM | 0 recs
You should edit these comments

and turn it into a diary.

 

One thing you did not mention is that the US constitution is designed to prevent action.  The gridlock is by design...and I suppose the rationale is that a government that cannot do anything is less likely to do some harm.  That is an understandable rationale, given the immediate history preceding the framing.  The framers, much like generals, tend to fight the last war.

by Ravi Verma 2010-09-03 12:29PM | 0 recs
RE: You should edit these comments

I don't think so. The Constitution provides for checks and balances, but the super-majority requirements are not found therin. Once a suitably high majority (68% +) is found on any legislation it moves pretty fast.

by vecky 2010-09-03 03:09PM | 0 recs
Welcome Back Jack!

Probably just a plain "welcome", but you make it feel like an old friend has returned to MyDD!  This used to be the most honest and uncomprosing blog in the real progressive 'sphere, but those with open minds were driven away.  Thank you for returning this to place for HONEST and THOUGHTFUL discourse instead of inane following in the footsteps of a mistake.  

 

I drifted away from MyDD for too long, with more excellent, thoughful, and uncompromising front-page diaries like this I can assure you that a whole lot of us will be back writing, commenting and contributing!

 

by 2010-09-03 02:37PM | 0 recs
I know Obama's supporters are really upset he wants to gut social security...

but The Pact is an ubsubstantiated load of crap.  Please stop. 

Further, normally blue ribbon commissions are used by politicians when they want to take talking points away from their opponents to say, here, I'm dealing with this, when they don't intend to do anything at all, which would be the right response to the fake ss crisis.  Obviously, this isn't what Obama's doing for the reasons you cite.  For the record, Clinton's commssion ended up dead locked because it WAS NOT stacked with those who wanted to cut SS, as Obama's plainly is.

by bookgrl 2010-09-03 11:26PM | 0 recs

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