In the February 16th, 2010 Wall Street Journal, Gerald F. Seib wrote an article called Senate Woes Flag Wider Disease . The premise of the article is that the center of the political continuum has been eroded and that the bridge historically connecting the left and the right is being dismantled. He goes on to indicate that the result is a Senate without an ability to accomplish anything. The Framers, along with many who have followed, have long-since understood the power of the majority in a democracy. Accordingly, they have inserted safeguards against the potential “tyranny of the majority” that are now coming into clear view. Mr. Seib also points to the rapidly expanding use, over the last twenty years, of filibusters and cloture votes used to end those filibusters. In the end, the article concludes, “The broader political system, more than the filibuster, is the problem.”
The notion of the “broader political system” is an interesting focal point for the current situation. And while I am not certain what Mr. Seib intended by his use of the words, I am certain that the problem we have is much greater than a purely political problem. To cast blame on the system is to address a second-order cause, as opposed to any level of fundamental or first-order cause. The issues we face today are simply a proxy for the broader existential and self-identification issues we face as a nation. We face an array of ontological problems that have been emerging over several decades, but are now, for the first time, exhibited for everyone to see. The fundamental issue we face today is one of determining whether we as a nation are going to be governed by the use of power, or whether we will continue to be governed via “authority.” The distinction is becoming essentially clearer with every passing day. And the distinction could not be more significant.
Our nation was built on the premise of governance by authority. The American Constitution was a radical condemnation of the power-based systems of governance that have plagued the history of the world. Authority is acquired as a direct result of agreement as to our shared values, and is willfully granted by those who are subservient. It is government by consent. As human beings, we earnestly seek the security of those who will lead by means of earned authority. A world without authority is a world of nihilistic chaos. The safe-harbors that are the domain of authority represent our only sense of true earthly freedom. Power, on the other hand, is the evil twin of authority. Power is the ruling philosophy of Machiavelli and Nietzsche which views control as a single dimensioned approach to governance which is to be seized, not earned. The descendents of these progenitors of modern power-based liberalism are represented exceptionally well by the current president and his entire administration. The majority leaders in the House and Senate are cut from the very same clothe. That type of power-based leadership represents the core of the current deeply felt disaffections, pushed to the point of demonstrated hatred, in our nation today.
While the current slate of political issues are being thrashed, dissected and “spun,” our collective visceral reaction is that of a nation forced to look squarely in the face of becoming the slaves of an all-encompassing power-based system of governmental control. We have not seen this in our lifetimes. It is becoming apparent that there are those in power in Washington who would feel they have both the right and the responsibility to control every facet of our lives and then mortgage our future just to make certain that our slave-status is made permanent. They see it as their actual duty to manage the lives and values of their subjects. And they are not interested in alternative notions of the good. This is pure power politics and it is repulsive to almost all of us. We are learning, as those before us, just how truly ugly power is.
“Didn’t the old system of distributed and agreed-upon and values-based authority work pretty well? How was it that we asked for this?” We did not seem to know what was on the political menu in the elections of 2008. We voted for change and we got the rule of the jungle. The political issues are now secondary. Impending slavery is primary. Let’s hope we have learned our lesson this next time around.