Monday, November 19, 2007

Demopublicans: a definition and a lack of distinction

If you've been reading along, you have probably noted that this is a somewhat different political blog. I'm not an insider, I don't hear all the good rumors, and I frankly am not interested in hosting a lot of witty (and/or scatological) exchanges about whose 4 year-old can lick who, or the personal attributes of various DE politicians.

You see, to me, and to a lot of other Libertarians, they're all just Demopublicans.

Nearly thirty years ago, when I first started teaching American history, I gave a really crappy assignment, because I didn't really know what I was doing. The university regs said that all general education courses had to assign a 3-5 page paper, so I did. It was one of those really mundane (or inane) assignments to "compare and contrast three leading Federalist and Anti-Federalist arguments about the ratification of the Constitution."

Since I had not taught the Federalists very well--let alone the Anti-Federalists--what I got was predictable: ream after ream of regurgitation.

Except for this one paper. One student simply ignored the assignment and taught me a lesson in thinking outside the box. He said, in essence, that my instructions were BS, and that what we had here was not a serious political debate over principle, but an in-group squabble between two factions of white elites over how to share their power. He pointed out that the Anti-Federalists knew they weren't going to hell if they lost, only that their field of action (and profit) would fall into the States, while the Federalists intended to use the new national government for the same purpose.

What really impressed me was that I hadn't taught that. It was the first time, but not the last, that I have run across a student who is smarter than I am.

The longer I watch Democrats and Republicans fight it out on the state and national levels, the less impressed I am with their protestations of difference. Both sides want big government: they just have slightly different agendas regarding what to do with all that tax and spending power. Both sides want government to engage in social engineering: they just disagree over the objectives.

They even seem to be at their worst when they are playing the bipartisan game: educators in this state (and elsewhere) are fond of damning "No Child Left Behind" as another monument to George W. Bush's idiocy, while conveniently forgetting that Ted Kennedy wrote most of the bill and proudly took dual credit with the President for passing it.

There is two-party competition in Delaware only to the extent that it serves to maintain the dual power-sharing structure for the two political machines to the exclusion of everyone else. Much ado has been made about "fusion," which is the reddest of herrings. Fusion tickets traditionally benefit the major party and not the minor party. If either the Republicans or the Democrats had any serious intention of allowing honest rein to third parties, they would join and lower the ballot access numbers for major party status to the 5,000 registered voter threshold.

No, I see bipartisanship in Delaware as producing such losers as the "Internet Pharmacy" bill, or that societally beneficial attempt by Senators Still and Venables to write an amendment into the DE Constitution that would not only outlaw gay marriages, but forbid civil unions and apparently nullify the "full faith and credit" section of the US Constitution.

They're Demopublicans. For the most part the next election cycle appears more important than the public interest, and the public interest is defined entirely in big government terms.

Somebody, anybody, show me a dime's worth of principled difference between them on the State level....

Failing that, I think it's time for people to think about getting the state government out of their wallets and out of their lives.

That doesn't mean, from Libertarian perspective, that government has no role in society. There are large societal problems within this state that have to be dealt with: education, transportation, the environment. And our elected officials are not dealing with those issues--they're dealing with each other. My own institution brags openly that it will get a better shot at more state funding now that we have several state legislators on our payroll (how much DSU pays Cathcart and Wagner the university refuses to say). Many school districts have the same type of "pets," and UD has a political network that cannot be beat.

Maybe it's because DE is such a small state that everybody knows everybody else and politics is necessarily incestuous.

Or maybe it's because the whole Demopublican system has ceased to function in the public interest and needs serious modification.

If I wrote a voter guide for Delawareans (and next year I might), here's the first round of questions I would ask each candidate from a major party:

Do you support a constitutional amendment adding referendum and recall?

Do you support reducing major party ballot access requirements to 5,000 registered voters?

Do you support legislation severely limiting eminent domain seizures within this state?

Do you support legislation ending discrimination based on sexual orientation within this state?

Do you support strengthening the state's Freedom of Information Act with regard to all recipients of state funds and the actions of the General Assembly itself?

If either alternate revenue sources could be located, or the state budget successfully trimmed, would you support legislation abolishing the state income tax?

Do you support holding the General Assembly responsible for not dipping into the Transportation Trust Fund and for generating a plan to return monies already removed?

This is just a start. I'd like to elect Libertarian candidates to public office in Delaware, but I'll admit that's going to take awhile. So my interim objective is to support--without reference to which branch of the Demopublican political machine they belong--the existing candidates who seem more likely to advocate for individual rights and limited, transparent government.

This may not give me a lot from which to choose--at least right now.

But if we keep working at it?


Anonymous said...

Another good post. The Demoblicans will often say that constituent service, and looking out for their own special interests IS DEMOCRACY.

But when the welfare of the special interests becomes more important than the general welfare we all suffer by definition.

There are two very popular aspects of the libertarian message. The first is the push for good and open government and the second is LESS government. I think the libertarian must demonstrate skills at the first before they can work successfully on the second. Luckily, you can work on the first WITH the entrenched interests. The second will require an opposition to the entrenched interests.

Dave Burris is generally considered one of the good guys regarding open government. I will be interested to read his comments on this post.

a most peculiar nature said...

"And our elected officials are not dealing with those issues--they're dealing with each other."

Touche on that point, Steve.

"Dave Burris is generally considered one of the good guys regarding open government. I will be interested to read his comments on this post."

I have been alternately impressed and appalled by Dave Burris. I am still not quite sure what to make of him. I guess time will tell (in actions, not blogposts).

Anonymous said...

I kept reading this as Dumbopublicans by golly!

Great post Steve. You are definately a welcome member of the Delaware 'Blogger Mafia'.

More posts like these are virtual weapons come election season.

Anonymous said...

Shirley is often appalled with my online aggression, I suppose. Having been one of the writers of an occasional "licking" comment of one kind or another. But I don't hold grudges and after I fight I hold out a hand to the guy on the ground, rubbing his virtual jaw.

(kidding here! there is no real victor/loser with online fights)

I always find it imperative to squelch falsehood when I read it.

Anonymous said...

It is really a shame that Dave did not take the bait. I guess he does not pay attention to the libertarian side of things.

Steven H. Newton said...

Give it time, Alan--I don't think either Dave or Donviti (to cite the different ends of the spectrum) have yet caught on to the fact that Delaware Libertarian is out here.

Anonymous said...

You are right. I just dropped him a line. A thing I should have done as soon as I made the first comment.