Friday, November 03, 2006

The Lessons to Be Learned

The election of 2006 is upon us on Tuesday next. The lines have been drawn (literally) in the sand. People are fraught and anxious, tempers are often frayed. It looks good for the Democrats and I so want them to win great victories. How did our country get to be in such a state?

Bob Woodward has called his latest book about the Bush presidency, State of Denial. It could also be said of the American people that we have lived in a State of Complacency -- politically, that is. Life has been good for us; I grew up believing that I lived in the greatest country in the world, with a government that was based on principles that were the envy of the world. As our country has grown and prospered, can it also be said that we have grown with it? Has our prosperity, our richness made us a better people? Or have we failed to live up to the promise of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution and have we become mere flag wavers instead?

Living in England has taught be to appreciate many of the strengths and weaknesses of our political system. Republicans and Democrats in equal measure could learn a thing or two about the English tradition of the Loyal Opposition. The job of the Loyal Opposition is every bit as important as that of the Government because the Government must answer to it law by law and minister by minister and they must do this in a confrontational, yet polite way that allows each side a hearing. This Loyal Opposition is called the Shadow Government. Each Government minister has a Shadow Minister he must answer to. E.G. the Minister for Education must face the Shadow Minister for Education. And even though the Government of the day almost always wins the eventual vote, there must still be a debate and the 'powers that be' have to stand before their peers and defend their policies.

Our Congress has never really operated in this way. After all the President's cabinet is not made up of elected officials, so if the Department of Defense wants to do one thing or another there is no one with the specific role to question him or her. However, until a few long years ago, we still managed political debate on the issues, there seemed to be an underlying respect for 'the other side' of the floor. Now instead of political debate within the halls of Congress there is political debate of the manipulated sound bite.

Finally, after years of giving up the fight in seemingly hopeless districts and States, the Democrats have a leader in Howard Dean who has figured out what most of us have known all along, that we have a valid message that is worth hearing and that many people have always believed. The Democrats leadership betrayed us, they were the disloyal opposition. They deserted us when and where we were defeated. They took us out of the debate. They left our country without its conscience.

But we picked ourselves up when we were called and we musn't allow ourselves to be left out again. Our country needs our voices whether or not we win the House or the Senate or both. We must stand up and be the loyal opposition and we will be heard, whether it be in caucuses in Iowa, or town or city halls, whether in cafes or on street corners or city parks, state assemblies or the Congress itself, we will be heard. Whether in red states or blue, we will be waving the Constitution and the Bill of Rights everywhere, every day and we will be heard.

God bless America and lead us down the path of righteousness and justice for all -- for the sake of people everywhere.

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