Tag Archives: democracy

Clumsiness in full view

Winston Churchill’s opinion of democracy is playing out in full view of the world at this moment.

The great British statesman said — and I will paraphrase it broadly — that “democracy is the worst form of government except all others that have been tried”

So we are now watching members of our Congress haggle, quarrel, cajole each other over how to avoid a debt-default crisis while at the same time haggling over how to improve our nation’s infrastructure.

My trick knee is telling me that somehow, some way and in some fashion the Democrats who run Congress are going to find their way out of the thicket. They have a key ally in the White House: President Joseph R. Biden, who spent 36 years as a senator. The president knows how to legislate.

Congressional Republicans, of course, are sitting on the sidelines. They aren’t part of this haggling, which is boiling down to a dispute between Democratic liberals and moderates.

It’s messy. It’s cumbersome. It’s the kind of governance that the 20th century’s greatest statesman — Winston Churchill — said would occur.

Excuse the cliche, but this really is a great country.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

‘Assault on democracy’ explained

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A critic of this blog wants to know how Texas’s efforts to restrict voting is an “assault on democracy,” as President Biden has described it.

I’ll take the bait and offer what I believe is an explanation for all to read.

It’s an assault because our form of representative democracy — as I have understood it — intends to make voting easier for all Americans. Thus, states and local governments have enacted early-voting laws; they have given citizens a chance to cast ballots in a variety of ways; they have sought to extend early-voting days and hours to enable citizens to have their voices heard.

Texas Republicans along with their GOP colleagues in several other states have determined that such voting initiatives also lead to corruption of the voting process. They have concocted the Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election about “rampant vote fraud” where it did not exist and have projected it onto efforts to restrict access to those who wish to vote. The Texas GOP legislative caucus also wants to give judges more power to overturn election results.

One of the tragic consequences of this effort is that the GOP is  targeting minority voters who — get a load of this — tend to vote Democratic. Shocking, yes? Rather than seeking to compete head to head with Democrats over their ideas and policies, Republicans instead are seeking to restrict access to all eligible U.S. citizens.

Where I come from, I consider all of that taken together to be an assault on democracy. The Texas Democratic legislative caucus has stalled the GOP assault — if only temporarily. The Legislature likely will  reconvene soon in special session to figure out a new strategy to continue its attack on our democratic process. I hope Democrats hold firm.

This brief response likely won’t persuade my blog critic friend of anything. I just felt the need to clear the air.

These wounds won’t heal quickly

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s start with the obvious.

The wounds on our nation inflicted by the rioters who stormed the Capitol Building this week won’t heal any time soon. They will fester at least for as long as the nation remains transfixed on the doings of the man who instigated the riot: Donald John Trump.

I want the wounds to heal a soon as possible. However, I believe we need to remain vigilant and alert to what brought the havoc to the doorstep of our democracy.

Donald Trump will be gone from the White House in 11 days. The House of Representatives appears set to impeach for a second time early next week. The Senate isn’t likely to convene a trial in time to decide whether to convict him. Still, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be in office on Jan. 20 and they can get right to work dealing with the issues that matter the most.

Like, oh, that pandemic.

Trump wants to remain a political factor. My strong hope is that if the House impeaches him and the Senate convenes a trial after he leaves office that senators can muster up some sort of nerve and approve a provision that bans Trump from seeking public office ever again. He has proved demonstrably that he is unfit for public office. I want the Senate to codify that unfitness with an outright ban.

None of that will silence the mobsters who stormed into the Capitol Building. They could surface again. Indeed, there appear to be threats that Trumpsters could demonstrate on the day that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take office. Our fondest hope should be that the D.C. police force is better prepared to respond to violence if it presents itself a second time.

Even as we allow time to lapse from the events of this past Wednesday we should be as alert to the rumblings from within our nation as we have continued to be to those we hear from terrorists abroad.

The rioters who stormed into the seat of our representative democracy are domestic terrorists who inflicted grievous damage on our system of government.

Donald Trump’s exit from the political stage cannot occur quickly enough. He’ll be gone, but the damage he and his followers have done will take time to heal.

Democracy can withstand this GOP assault

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am going to stand strong and foursquare in representative democracy’s corner as our system of government faces down this frontal assault by the Republican Party.

Donald Trump has lost a presidential election. He continues to challenge the free and fair results. He is losing court battle after court battle. Judges are scorning his legal team’s so-called logic. Yet he persists.

I submit that representative democracy is suffering some serious collateral damage in this political fire fight. The good news, though, is that I also believe our system of government will survive.

President-elect Joe Biden will take office in about six weeks. Donald Trump will be gone from the center of the U.S. political universe. President Biden will commence the task of “restoring our national soul.”

He will have to apply proverbial bandages to representative democracy as well. Donald Trump’s assault on our system of government is putting it to an unprecedented test. I remain faithful to the notion that our system that has been tried over many years by other virulent forces will be strong enough to withstand the damage that Donald Trump is inflicting on it.

The legendary journalist Carl Bernstein calls Trump’s refusal to accept Biden’s victory as more dangerous than President Nixon’s attempt to cover up the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. Bernstein calls Trump the most “subversive” individual ever elected to the presidency. He seeks to subvert our democratic principles to his ego, to his quest for authoritarian power and for his relentless challenge to the integrity of our voting system, which is the bedrock of our government.

No man, though, is capable of bringing down out representative democracy. It will survive this assault. Indeed, it could emerge even stronger than ever.

My eternal optimism will not allow me to consign our system to the scrap heap because a demented politician seeks to destroy it.

Democracy: big winner of 2020 election

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s set aside — if we can — the idiotic challenges that Donald Trump continues to mount against our electoral system.

I want to declare that the big winner of the 2020 election was none other than democracy itself. I continue to watch the straggler votes being counted and am utterly amazed at the huge numbers being rung up by the vote counters.

Nationally, more than 157 million ballots were cast. President-elect Joe Biden captured 51.2 percent of them; Donald Trump collected 46.9 percent. Biden’s vote total is nearly 81 million ballots; Trump has collected more than 74 million. Trump can claim some sort of “moral” victory (although “moral” is a word I usually do not associate with Trump) in knowing he has the second-greatest vote total in U.S. history.

Why are these numbers so staggering? Because they came while the nation is suffering through a massive pandemic that has killed more than 270,000 Americans.

Politicians urged us to vote. The call came mostly from Democrats who wanted to ensure that Americans used their constitutional right. They encouraged us to vote early if possible. My wife and I voted on the first day of early voting in Texas. We were glad to do so.

Democracy came out the big winner. Our democratic process has survived. I am confident it will survive this farcical attempt by Trump to overturn the clear and decisive result that we all delivered on Election Day. It might take some time for democracy to recover from the wounds that Trump has inflicted by sowing all this doubt into the integrity of our democratic system … but it will. Of that I am supremely confident.

President Ford told us on the day he took office that “our Constitution works.” It has shown us yet again — in the midst of a deadly pandemic — that it remains resilient, sturdy and strong.

More, not fewer, voters make democracy work

One of the obligatory editorials I would write back when I was a working stiff involved seeking to get voters to get off their duffs and do their duty as citizens of this great country.

Their duty involved voting. One of the arguments I sought to make at three newspapers where I wrote these opinion pieces was a straightforward one: More voters, not fewer of them, create a stronger democratic system.

Thus, when I hear arguments from mostly Republican officials who want to suppress voter participation, why, it just infuriates me to no end.

GOP officials in Texas and elsewhere are flinging the red herring about “rampant voter fraud” by opposing mail-in voting. What they really intend to do is to prevent voters from casting ballots particularly in this frightening moment … with the world reeling from the global coronavirus pandemic.

This bit of idiocy even came from the nation’s No. 1 Republican, Donald “Imbecile in Chief” Trump, who said mail-in voting — in addition to promoting voter fraud — would doom Republicans from getting elected. Keep that in mind. I’ll get back to that.

A federal judge recently ruled that Texans who fear coming down with the COVID-19 virus by voting in person on Election Day are free to cast their ballots by mail; the U.S. Fifth Circuit of Appeals, though, put the brakes on the judge’s ruling. So we’re now back to Square One.

Republicans in Texans, led by Attorney General Ken Paxton, appear more frightened at the prospect of more voters taking part in an all-mail election. Paxton hides behind the bogus notion of “widespread voter fraud.” The five states that conduct their elections by mail-in voting report no evidence of rampant fraudulent voting. Is there some voter fraud? Sure. There also is fraudulent voting when citizens cast their ballots on Election Day — in polling booths.

Back to my fundamental point. My argument about more voters making for a stronger democratic system than fewer of them holds up now as it has all along.

Paltry voter turnouts undeniably hand more power to fewer people. They deny consensus decisions. They result in voters ceding the power granted to them in the U.S. Constitution to someone who might feel differently about issues and candidates.

Thus, if we are facing an ongoing global pandemic, I want there to be a mail-in option to ensure greater voter turnout. I want a stronger, not a weaker, democratic system.

We desperately need to shore up faith in our electoral system

I make this statement with considerable pain in my heart.

Our nation’s electoral system is in potentially dire peril. The Russians sought to sow seeds of mistrust when they interfered in — or attacked, if you prefer that verb — our electoral process in the 2016 presidential campaign.

They have succeeded. Maybe beyond their expectations.

They hacked into Hillary Clinton’s campaign system, apparently heeding the request of Clinton’s Republican opponent, Donald Trump. The mistrust began, seemingly at that moment.

It’s gotten worse.

The Iowa caucus just this past week and the “app” glitch that fouled up the vote-counting and the delegate-apportioning process has made it all the more troublesome.

As Ross Ramsey writes in the Texas Tribune, when you trifle with our electoral process, you are messing with democracy itself. Read Ramsey’s analysis here.

One gets the sense that everyone is going to suspect hanky-panky at damn near every electoral level. Legislative races? Statewide contests? Presidential primary contest? How about the 2020 presidential election itself this coming November?

If the Russians sought to spark discontent among Americans, they can declare victory. They were able to do so during the 2016 election.

The Russians aren’t the only villains. American politicians are looking for ways to suppress voter turnout. They scheme and conspire to make voting among minority Americans more difficult. Their aim is to elect non-minority candidates to public office, thus depriving minority Americans a voice in the halls of power among those who look like the voters they represent.

Yes, democracy is under attack. As we move more deeply into this election year, I believe we need to more vigilant against enemies — foreign and, yes, domestic — who seek to undermine all Americans’ right to vote their conscience.

The Electoral College is worth keeping

I traveled to Greece in November 2000, at a time when the U.S. presidential election was still being deliberated.

Al Gore won more votes than George W. Bush. That recount of ballots in Florida hung up the final decision. Then came the Supreme Court ruling to stop the recount. Bush won the state’s electoral votes and was elected president.

The Greeks I met on that trip were baffled. How can someone get more votes than the other person and still lose an election? they wondered. Greeks are sophisticated folks. Their forebears gave birth to democratic government nearly 3,000 years ago. They understand politics and government.

I tried my best to explain the Electoral College to them. I sought to interpret what our nation’s founders had in mind when they created the system.

Here we are nearly two decades later. Another president was elected with fewer votes than his opponent. Now we hear from Democratic candidates for president who want to abolish the Electoral College.

Sigh.

I do not favor that electoral overhaul.

Here is what the Electoral College means

Am I happy with the way the most recent election turned out? Of course not! That’s not my point. Nor should it be the point of those who want to throw out the system that has worked quite well during the existence of our republic.

Eliminating the Electoral College would surrender smaller states’ power to the vast urban centers. The founders intended to spread the power among all the states.

I will concede that the past several election cycles have turned into fights for selected “battleground states'” electoral votes. Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Florida have gotten the bulk of candidates’ attention; occasionally, New Hampshire sneaks in among the bigger states.

In 2020, Texas might join the list of battleground states as well.

I just do not see the need to toss out the Electoral College system because someone was elected even though he piled up nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent, which is what happened when Donald Trump got elected in 2016 over Hillary Clinton.

The system isn’t perfect, but keep it anyway.

Here is what I wrote on the subject nearly five years ago:

https://highplainsblogger.com/2014/04/presidential-election-change-at-hand/

 

Democracy at its messiest best

The great British statesman Winston Churchill had it right when he described representative democracy as an inefficient, clumsy and messy form government, but better than any other form that had devised.

We’re witnessing it in its messiest form right now.

Congress and the president are locking horns over spending for a wall along our southern border. Donald Trump wants money to pay for the wall, although he initially promised he would make Mexico pay for it. That won’t happen.

Failure to pay for the wall would result in a partial shutdown of the government at midnight Friday. Merry Christmas, to thousands of federal employees who will not be paid for the time they are being forced to take away from work.

I am just one of those Americans who doesn’t quite understand why we reach this precipice every few months. Why in the world must we subject ourselves to this kind of melodrama? Why do Congress and the White House fail continually to provide long-term budgets that allow them to avoid this kind of brinksmanship?

The president has his constituency. Each member of Congress — 435 House members and 100 senators — answers to his or her own constituencies. They fight. They wrangle. They haggle. They argue. They threaten each other. They toss insults. And all the while the government that is supposed to serve all Americans is being kicked around like some kind of cow chip.

We don’t need to build a wall to secure our southern border. The president doesn’t seem to get that. He wants the wall because he made some idiotic campaign promise. Congressional Democrats want to secure the border through other means.

At last report, the White House indicates that Trump is backing away from the wall. The impasse remains.

Churchill was right about representative democracy. So help me, though, it doesn’t need to be this messy.

It's getting even messier on Capitol Hill

Winston Churchill had it exactly right when he sought to describe a democratic form of government.

He lamented its messiness and inefficiency when he said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

I wish he was here today to see what’s transpiring on Capitol Hill. Republicans are fighting among themselves in a TEA party vs. establishment conflict. Now the Democrats have begun cannibalizing each other in a progressive vs. centrist fight.

At the center of it all is a $1.1 trillion spending bill that extremists in either party don’t like, for differing reasons, obviously.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/elizabeth-warren-budget-cromnibus-2016-elections-113561.html?hp=t4_r

Just as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has become the face of the TEA party insurgency within the Republican Party, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has assumed the Democratic mantle of gadfly in chief.

They both have at least one thing in common. They’re freshmen legislators. Neither of them has much Capitol Hill seasoning under the belts. Cruz is more of a loudmouth. Warren doesn’t bellow her dislike of Democratic comprises, but she’s becoming a tiger in the Senate.

Warren has become the liberals’ latest best hope for a possible challenge to prohibitive Democratic presidential favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton. They see Warren as a spokeswoman for the common man and woman who distrusts the power brokers who are lining up behind Clinton’s still-unannounced presidential candidacy.

Cruz, meanwhile, has become the darling of the conservative movement within his own party. Will he challenge, say, Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination?

Let’s think about this for a moment: Cruz and Warren both catch fire enough to snatch their parties’ nomination from the favorites. Clinton lost in 2008 to a young senator with zero name ID nationally. Barack Obama went on to win the presidency in a near-landslide and then score a decisive re-election victory four years later. Will history repeat itself? I doubt it — for now.

As for Cruz, the GOP establishment will fight him tooth and nail if he keeps roiling the waters, demanding government shutdowns and insisting on outcomes that won’t occur.

Our form of representative democracy, Sir Winston, is about to get a whole lot messier.