More of a Mistake Is No Way to Fix a Mistake
My suggested title is above, but the editor went in a different direction. He also insisted on adding "Vice President Dick Cheney" in case you were wondering which Vice President I was discussing.
If you want to read the rest of the Shadegg "Dear Colleague" letter, it's available here.
PEOPLE RULE IN DEMOCRACY, THERE -- OR HERE
East Valley Tribune, Feb. 18, 2007
Not even Republicans wanted to defend the Bush administration last week. As U.S. Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., wrote to his GOP colleagues, "If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose."
Nice. Even defenders of the war don’t want to defend the war. Republicans refused to defend the President’s escalation, except to repeat the lie that nobody else has another plan. There are plenty of alternative plans -- but they require admitting that Bush and Congress were mistaken to invade Iraq as we did, so Republicans don’t like those plans.
Instead, Republicans argued about the war on a most abstract level. Like the baby boomer he is, Shadegg insisted that Iraq is part of a struggle against "the global threat of the radical Islamist movement" -- a threat far greater than any our nation has faced in the past. We boomers are so incredibly unique, of course we face a historically unprecedented threat.
I agree that last week’s debate was fundamental, but in a different way. Now, the argument is about democracy. Not about bringing democracy to Iraq, which even war supporters don’t mention anymore, but about our democracy.
TOO DANGEROUS FOR DEMOCRACY?
Consistent with the boomer view that our problems are so much more important than our parents’, much of the GOP apparently believes that the world is too dangerous for democracy. That we can’t trust the American people to do the right thing, that debate and dissent are too dangerous. That the judgment of the American people in last year’s elections, and the judgment of their elected representatives in this month’s debate, are luxuries that we no longer can afford. That Americans just aren’t warlike enough. That "terrorism" has made democracy outmoded.
I disagree, vehemently. I recall what it’s like trying to convince Americans of something that they know isn’t true. To paraphrase Lincoln, in the short term, you can fool many people for a long time, but eventually, facts will overcome spin and cooked-to-order "intelligence."
If you believe in democracy, then you must yield to the voters’ judgment. You can try to change that judgment through debate and advocacy, but eventually, you must trust that people know what is best. Last November, the political marketplace spoke -- and it recognized what so-called experts just can’t seem to admit, that more of a mistake is no way to fix a mistake.
The administration, like a failing company’s management, is trying to argue that people are undervaluing their assets and emotionally overreacting to bad news. But the voters have made their judgment, and a democratic government must respect it -- even when a minority passionately believes that the people are wrong.
RULE BY THE EXPERTS
We have little choice but to trust the American people to get it right in the long run. If you insist that the government disregard the people’s judgment, then you don’t believe in democracy. You prefer a different form of government, where a group of experts, or even one man -- we’ll leave it to historians to determine whether that was Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney -- decides.
Sometimes it hurts, and many times I voted differently, but eventually a democratic government must submit to the voters’ will.
The voters concluded that we cannot transform Iraq by military force into something that it’s not -- and that we need to allow the people of Iraq to determine their future, just as we would insist that the Iraqi people have no right to tell Americans how we govern ourselves.
If the administration and the Republicans could persuade the American people to give this failed policy one, two, three, or countless more "last chances," then we should respect that decision.
But the hot air has finally leaked out of this balloon. The people, and their elected representatives, have spoken. Democracy requires that their government listen and act accordingly. That’s what a representative democracy, the republican (small r) form of government, means. And whatever happens in Iraq, it shouldn’t end democracy here.