Process Is Liberty

The current endless blather of Obama and his henchmen in the Democratic Party can be summed up thus: Massive health care "reform," as constructed by Democrat leaders, must pass, no matter how the processes of government must be contorted. The media pets of the left echo this message. Despite the overwhelmingly popular opposition to health care as proposed by Obama, presumably neutral carriers of internet news like Yahoo do not even show photos of the vast opposition to health care -- only its minority advocates.

Americans have become calloused to that perversion of republican democracy which comes in the form of political payola to blocks of voters in return for their reflexive support. This is bad for good governance, but it is not a terminal illness. The concept of the general welfare -- helping all Americans through commonly used programs like highways and harbors -- has been redefined to mean its opposite, the welfare of defined groups. As malodorous as the Cornhusker Kickback and the Second Louisiana Purchase may be, this sort massive graft does not murder liberty. 

What we see today is worse, more sinister, and more lethal than mere bribes of voters. Process -- adherence to the fundamental rules of representative democracy -- is liberty, and liberty is the only real good democracy offers. If liberty does not matter, then any autocrat or any oligarchs can claim to rule better than the voters. This is what the left is more or less saying now. Jacob Weisman writes, "Down with the people." Joe Klein suggests that the people are "[t]oo dumb to thrive." Kurt Andersen asks, "Is Democracy Killing Democracy?" 

We should not be free because we do not know what is best for us.

But fidelity to liberty, the process in which government limits itself, cannot permit the transient majority to do whatever it thinks best.  The majority can act only if it follows faithfully the established and traditional rules of governance. That usually means not implementing all of its objectives. The means, not the end, is the very heart of liberty. If the minority has no rights, then all of us cease to be free.

The Constitution itself is built to prevent the majority of today from doing whatever it wants. The Senate is staggered into three classes so that one election can elect only one-third of the Senate. Amending the Constitution is intended to be very hard and to require an overwhelming consensus of the elected representatives of the people at the federal and also at the state level. The Constitution requires each House of Congress to pass legislation.   

The first ten amendments to the Constitution, the "Bill of Rights," is a list of things which a majority in control of the federal government cannot do. It is also a reassertion that the states have rights which the federal government cannot violate. Although the Senate filibuster is not in the Constitution, it is a long-ago agreed check of a robust minority against a simple majority. Mr. Smith went to Washington, in Capra's famous celebration of America, to fight with the filibuster the corruption of the federal government. 

What the Democrats are doing, quite simply, is destroying the constitutional and traditional process of making laws because they think that (1) they know more than the rest of us and (2) health care is too urgent not to enact the way that they want right now.  

Does the Constitution allow the federal government to take over our health? The Supreme Court once said that each person has a "penumbra" right to privacy which kept government from outlawing abortion. How does controlling this part of health care differ from other forms of health care? Does the Tenth Amendment, reserving to the states rights not explicitly given to the federal government, mean anything? Apparently it does not. Does the filibuster still allow a significant minority in the Senate to stop legislation it thinks bad? Not under the ruse of reconciliation. Do House members even have to vote on legislation? The Speaker suggests that the leadership can simply "deem" a bill passed.

This is contrary to our process of government. Most Americans agreed that civil rights legislation for black Americans was a moral imperative in the 1960s. When it passed the Senate, the filibuster was overcome through the traditional cloture vote -- 82% of Republicans and 66% of Democrats voted for cloture. At that point in history, cloture required a 2/3 majority, not the smaller 3/5 majority required today. The hurdle was higher, but it was not impossible. The will of the overwhelming majority, not the simple majority, prevailed.  

What Democrats are creating is a government in which the historic rules governing how laws are made is permanently changed. The rights of the minority -- or, at least, the minority as of the last election -- are crushed. The abrogation of power to the federal government is complete.

I wonder if Democrats have considered just how grim and dangerous this course of action will be. In the past, elections have always been sporting affairs: Both sides understood that the loss of majority status still left the minority with substantial rights. Now, that principle seems torn to shreds. Whoever has a majority does not preside, but rather rules. We have had liberty precisely because the rights of the minority have, so far, been considered sacrosanct. 

Honorable process is the heart of liberty. The destruction of established and recognized process will inevitably be the destruction of liberty -- not just for Republicans, but for everyone. 

Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie and The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.
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