Our lost checks and balances
By Bruce Walker
Democrats may well have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. If this happens, there will be no practical checks upon President Obama implementing his political agenda. Our governmental system was created to limit political power by creating checks and balances. Congress was intended to be able to check the president, the states were intended to be able to check the federal government, and the courts were intended to be an impartial referee, calling penalties when one part of the government or another exceeded its authority.
Today we have no checks and balances at all. What happened to government was the triumph of parties and "causes" over individual judgment. The Founding Fathers loathed political parties. The Constitution was constructed around the independent actions of individuals, not the concerted action of parties. Senators, not the Republican senatorial caucus or the Democrat senatorial caucus, were supposed to stop the president from making unwise appointments. Federal legislators, not partisan floor leaders and their lieutenants, were supposed to halt suspect legislation.
Parties move politicians toward unchecked government because members of political parties view themselves less like member of the Senate or members of the House (institutions that were intended to check the executive and judicial branches) than as Republicans or Democrats. Republicans who supported earmarks, followed Bush into a bad federal education policy and then into a new entitlement program have not been immune to this disease, but because Republicans are not a gaggle of special interests like Democrats, Republicans can claim the dubious title of "lesser evil."
What has happened to Democrats is truly scary. Rebuilt in the 1960s around the quasi-Marxist concept of looting productive society for the benefit of voting blocs, the Democrat Party has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Left. Once loyal Democrats like Joe Lieberman and Zell Miller would have been welcomed by fellow Democrats as popular politicians with excellent character who supported their party but sometimes disagreed with the general party position on a few issues.
The Democrat Party used to have internal checks and balances. One of these checks was personal character. Men like Mike Mansfield simply did not tolerate the cynical elevation of ends over means. Mansfield was wrong on almost every policy issue, but he was always right on matters of honor. Democrats today will do anything to win. The check of integrity within the Democrat Party of integrity has vanished.
The other check was philosophical. Governor Casey was a respectable pro-life Democrat. Scoop Jackson was an honored cold-warrior Democrat. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Ed Koch were liberal Democrats with plenty of feistiness. Eugene McCarthy was aloof, cool and serious. These strong willed and independent men, blessedly, disagreed as much as they agreed about policy.
But the Democrat Party has long been the party of the Left, and the Left simply does not view checks and balances of any sort as good. When the federal government could not act, it was not prudence but gridlock. When economies imperfectly maximize the general welfare, the Left sees imperfection itself as an abnormality in human life. Like Stalin in the old Soviet Union, Leftists have an almost insatiable lust to purge members of their party. This lust for conformity grows stronger as the Left comes to gaining hegemony within the Democrat Party.
The life of the hive repels most thinking people, but it is the normal mindset of Leftists. As a result, the American Party of the Left has walked, then trotted, then galloped toward truly totalitarian politics and government. The Constitution with its checks and balances was effectively undone with the rise of political parties. American politics, however, survived because political parties themselves were checks and balances.
The Left, from whom we get the term "party line," purged and punished and pandered until it gained all the levers of power and influence within the Democrat Party. The checks and balances of internal party differences are now gone. Eight years ago, Joe Lieberman was the vice presidential nominee of the Democrat Party and Zell Miller was campaigning hard to elect the Democrat ticket. Eight years seems like an eternity.
Can the republic survive? It is not an academic question anymore. American government was intended to provide many independent protections against an all powerful central government, but these nominal safeguards are as meaningless as the putative safeguard of the Soviet Constitution if a monolithic party really runs the state. Our rights depend upon how much the people want those rights and how much politicians respect traditions of ordered liberty. The vehicle for expressing these sentiments has long been the political party. When the bullies of the Left gained power in Nazi Germany or in Soviet Russia, it was always the party, not the state, which really mattered. Iron control of the party meant control of everything else.
American political parties have historically been raucous and open institutions, so that even when one political party ran America, no one could really run that majority party. The Democrat Party has steadily evolved into a political party which demands total obedience. This is something new and ugly in American politics. If the Democrat Party becomes truly totalitarian, then there is a real risk that America might follow.
Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.