Representiative Democracy or Rule Of The Elite?
On paper, we are a Constitutional Republic, meaning we elect representatives to represent our interests in Congress. So in theory and reality these representatives work for us, since they can’t get into office unless we hire them via the vote. We elect them, we direct them, and if and when we become displeased with their performance or they’re not representing our best interests, we give them the opportunity to find new employment.
That’s how most of us understand it is supposed to work. One of the first indicators it isn’t working exactly that way right now is the attitude of Democratic lawmakers toward their constituents at townhalls who have, obviously, been a bit confrontational.
Instead of trying to figure out what is causing the obvious frustration, Democrats have further stoked it by calling their constituents names and characterizing them as a ‘mob’ or ‘political terrorists’ or ‘un-American’ for opposing what they’re legislatively pushing. Then after insulting the constituency the irony-impaired Democrats have the audacity to lecture them on “rudeness” and “incivility”. Apparently using the term “brownshirts” to describe voters in your district is neither “rude” or “uncivil”.
Certainly all of those are indicators of something that constituents have been unhappy with for quite some time (and that is why I continue to say that this isn’t just about health care). The theory seems to not represent what is actually happening.
But it’s hard to point at one thing and say, “this isn’t representative democracy, it has become the rule of the elite.”
Thankfully there’s always someone who hasn’t figured out that we have both video cameras and digital recorders and will, in an unguarded moment when he or she thinks they’re among friends, say what they really believe without spin.
Meet Democratic New York Representative Eric Massa, who, while reveling in the cocoon of the Netroots Nation over the weekend (instead of holding a townhall meeting in his usually Republican district) provided a glimpse of why the Democrats sound like they do:
MASSA: I’m not going to vote for 3200 as it’s currently written. Step one, I will vote for a single payer option or a bill that does have a medicare coupled public option, which we don’t have right now. If my town hall meetings turn into the same media frenzies and ridiculousness, because every time that happens we lose, We lose another three million people in America. They see that happening and negate us.
PARTICIPANT: It changes America.
MASSA: Every time that occurs. So what happens in my town hall meetings frankly is important, because I am in one of the most right wing Republican districts in the country, and I’m not asking you guys to go back to wherever and send people to me. This is a generic statement of what can I do? Well that’s one thing we can do.
PARTICIPANT: So if we got your meetings to sixty forty, you’d vote…and there was single payer in a bill you would vote for it?
MASSA: Oh absolutely I would vote for single payer.
PARTICIPANT: If there was sixty forty sentiment in the room?
MASSA: Listen, I tell every audience I’m in favor of single payer.
PARTICIPANT: If there was eighty twenty in the room?
MASSA: If there was a single payer bill?
PARTICIPANT: And there was a single payer….
MASSA: I will vote for the single payer bill.
PARTICIPANT: Even if it meant you were being voted out of office?
MASSA: I will vote adamantly against the interests of my district if I actually think what I am doing is going to be helpful.
(inaudible participants’ comments regarding the “interests” of the district statement from Mr. Massa)
Massa: I will vote against their opinion if I actually believe it will help them.
Folks it doesn’t get any clearer than that. Mr. Massa isn’t there to “represent” anyone. He’s made it clear that his agenda and his party’s agenda take precedence over anything his constituency wants. If they agree with him fine. But if they don’t, he obviously doesn’t care one whit. His mind is made up, he’s not going to hold any townhalls and his constituency can go pound sand, because Mr. Massa has already decided what is best for them.
They should just sit down and shut up and let their betters decide what’s good for them.
As you might imagine, and as demonstrated at the various townhalls you’ve seen (and which Mr. Massa refuses to hold), that isn’t sitting well with many Americans. 2010 may indeed provide an opportunity for Americans to let quite a number of lawmakers with Mr. Massa’s attitude seek new employment.
Correction: It has been brought to my attention that Rep. Massa has held townhall meetings and plans to hold more.