Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A Tea Party Shock to the System

A Tea Party Shock to the System; Stephen Carter; The Daily Beast

This is good article and worth reading completely, but I'll cut to the point that needs to be raised with your neighbors, co-workers, family, etc...

The Founders cherished the relative independence of the Senate as a crucial check on political passion. But the independence of all legislators, including the senators, has been hobbled by the way in which modern digital media allow those of strong ideological conviction to band together more easily and follow more precisely every utterance of every public opinion. This development is rightly celebrated and is strongly pro-democratic (small “d”), empowering those the establishment ignores. We should note, however, that it is also anti-republican (small “r”), costing us the services of the Burkean politician, the man or woman who believes that legislators owe us not a slavish serving of our smallest desire, but the constant exercise of their judgment, conscience, and prudence. In such an atmosphere, reasoned debate and thoughtful compromise become enormously difficult to achieve.

Thus the 17th Amendment, adopted in 1913 to provide for direct election of the Senate, may have been a mistake. Previously, senators had been appointed by state legislatures, a fact that insulated them from at least some of the reelection pressures experienced by members of the House. (One might object that many state legislatures, too, fall prey to the passions of the moment, but the legislatures suffer from an insufficiency of public attention: had the states retained the power to appoint senators, the citizenry would surely keep better track of legislative elections.)

How can all of this be fixed? We might usefully begin by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment and returning the selection of Senators to the state legislatures. But tinkering with the constitutional structure will not resolve the fundamental problem, which lies in our culture, and in ourselves. The nation’s attention span has grown so short that while we might seem, at first blush, obsessed with politics, we are really obsessed with political commentary, with following the latest and snarkiest slogan aimed at the side we happen to disagree with. We are less inclined than ever to give politicians the space to argue for their views at any length; we are not interested in being persuaded. What we care about is the bottom line—as long as the bottom line is no more than 140 characters. This tendency rewards, on both sides of the aisle, the politics of slogan and emotional appeal, cheerleading rather than governance. In such an atmosphere, it is all but impossible for government to be done seriously.

(Note: Bold font used by blogger.)

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