Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What Democracy Looks Like

In the dramatic Wisconsin recall elections tonight, both sides may try to claim victory. Democrats won because they gained two seats in the State Senate, but Republicans also won because the Democrats appear to have fallen one seat short of obtaining a majority.

I'll try not to sound too much like some of those annoying soccer parents who tell their kids that it doesn't really matter who wins, and that everyone should be rewarded just for participating. Of course it matters who wins. But in this case, there might be some other things just as important as figuring out who wins. What might be more important in Wisconsin this year was the huge outburst of political participation by all kinds of people: the activists who flooded the capital and gathered signatures; the unions who mobilized to fight challenges to their ability to organize; and the business interests who supported the new governor. What a wake-up call for a lot of people who learned that elections have consequences. What an experience for so many people who worked hard to make these recall elections happen. I saw some of the veterans of the Madison sit-ins at the Netroots conference earlier this year, and what they seemed to have in common was a new-found energy, enthusiasm, and sense of purpose. 

Since this blog is more about process than policy, I'm less focused on the outcome than on how we get there.  So my suggestion would be that instead of arguing about which side won, we just celebrate the trials and triumphs of democracy. Unless people want somebody else to make decisions for them, they must commit to a never-ending struggle, and they must continue to participate. Or at least, vote! This is what democracy looked like today in Wisconsin:


  1. << Unless people want somebody else to make decisions for them, they must commit to a never-ending struggle, and they must continue to participate. Or at least, vote! >>

    That is a beautiful sentiment, Joe!

    ROCK ON!

  2. Big Union wasted $30 million on that! Great return on their "investment."

  3. Maybe the only consolation for them is that Big Business spent just as much or more!

    Nobody ever said democracy was the most efficient form of government.

  4. The amount of money spent is an affront to our political system. As I have said for years, the money spent (in this case 30-40 million spent by both sides) is the root of many of our problems as politicians are bought and sold. It's no longer a left or right issue. It is the destruction of democracy and over shadows what is good about your original post. Ratigan has it right:


  5. The money needed for political campaigns is almost all going to television stations and television networks to buy advertising time. Of course the tv stations love that, but I agree that for everyone else it is a problem.

    How do you solve it? You could try to shorten campaigns, but even if you do that people could still spend money during the pre-campaign period. You could try to restrict what can be spent. But the Supreme Court lately has been taking a pretty strong First Amendment position that says that you can't do that. You could require the tv stations to give away air time for free. But of course they wouldn't be too crazy about that solution. Or you could allocate more money to public financing of campaigns, so that politicians would not have to corrupt themselves so much by needing to raise so much money. But people don't seem to support public financing of campaigns very strongly.

    So right now it is pretty difficult to see a solution to this problem.

    What Ratigan is ranting about I'm not sure, but I think it is a different issue than the amount of money that is being spent on political campaigns.

  6. Ratigan’s message is pointed at professional politicians and ideologues. His bickering panel of progressives and conservatives were essentially told they were full of BS.

    The far left and far right are so certain they are correct they have appear to have stopped listening to one another. They are too busy thinking of a response and how to maintain or gain power.

    From my point of view it is like listening to a man and woman who are in the middle of a bitter divorce and custody battle. Both may have legit complaints. An impartial mediator can see that. But the two in the bitter dispute refuse to acknoledge it. They are both correct on some issues and both dead wrong on others and may even go so far as to lie about one another.

    That leaves the rest of the family left sucking a lumpy one. The majority of America sees that we are in crisis. Political ideologues look destructive to our nation’s welfare; just as a couple in a nasty prolonged divorce can be destructive to their families.

    Most Americans understand that our politicians know full well that we have huge structural issues that must be dealt with to save this country, but moving ahead on those issues would make re-election difficult. The necessary changes go against big money interest and that makes job security tenous at best. The word is out. Both sides have failed us.

    Obama ran himself as a leader. It’s time to step up. As for the rest of us, it’s time to demand more from our politicians no matter what their party affiliation.

    I search high and low for a blog that that speaks to common sense answers. "Hope and Change" comes close at times; probably because the author is a mediator by trade. But if we want to make progress change has to be an intentional decision on a daily basis. We all have to be mediators for awhile.

    Feel free to maintain your ideology; we don’t lose our integrity as we seek resolution. Crap, moderates are not asking progressives and conservatives to pray together (although that may be a good idea) just work together! Hope is not enough. There has to be works.