“To my Republican friends: take back your party. So that it doesn’t matter so much who wins the election, because we have shared values about the education of our children, the growth of our economy, how we defend our country, our security and civil liberties, how we respect our seniors. Because there are so many things at risk right now – perhaps in another question I’ll go into them, if you want. But the fact is that elections shouldn’t matter as much as they do. … But when it comes to a place where there doesn’t seem to be shared values then that can be problematic for the country, as I think you can see right now.” (“Nancy Pelosi: ‘Elections Shouldn’t Matter as Much as they Do’”)
On first reading the headline for the blog piece featuring these words, one is tempted to take umbrage at the seemingly anti-democratic import of this notorious Democrat’s words. After all, isn’t it the whole point of elections to offer people a choice that matters, so that they can determine the direction to be taken by their community, their state, their nation? If you listen to the words in context, however, Pelosi’s point is at once more thoughtful and more ominous than it first appears to be.
In her comment, Pelosi says that she thinks Obama is right for the country. Of course, she speaks in the overall context of election results that repudiated the Obama faction and removed her from the position of speaker when the Democrats lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But she was also speaking in the wake of a bipartisan budget deal that both Obama and the GOP speaker of the House deceptively describe as “an agreement on the largest annual spending cut in our history.” The deal came despite opposition from GOP representatives who reject the relatively insignificant spending cuts it contains. They see the deal as a betrayal of the rhetoric of fiscal responsibility the GOP used in the 2010 elections to win support from voters concerned about runaway U.S. government spending and indebtedness.
The vocal presence in the GOP’s ranks of so many of these recalcitrant opponents of the bipartisan budget charade is what Pelosi really laments. The true facts about the budget deal tend to prove that both the GOP’s leaders and the Democrats are, de facto, committed to a common agenda that involves continual increases in debt and spending. Pelosi sees resistance to this agenda as a breakdown of shared values. Yet among the GOP’s budget-deal mavericks are many newcomers, members of the class of 2010 whose victories gave the GOP a controlling majority in the House. Their presence points to the presence in the electorate of a large number of Americans who repudiate the two-party leadership’s bipartisan debt/spending frenzy.
Apparently the shared values Pelosi speaks of are not shared by these voters. In her criticism of the electoral process, she is openly declaring that there is something wrong with an electoral process that actually offers such voters the opportunity to elect representatives who will stand firm in their opposition to the bipartisan agenda of the elites in both wings of the sham two-party system. She is publicly admonishing Republican leaders for their failure to assure that the candidates they offered to the voters can be relied on to remain with the boundaries of the elite consensus once they are elected.
I have written a series of articles about the so-called two-party system. Some people may see Pelosi’s lament as “sour grapes” and a shocking repudiation of “democracy.” But to those who take the time to dissect the so-called two-party system, as I do in those articles, Pelosi’s words are an accurate reflection of its real structure and functionality. It exists to create an appearance of choice that lends legitimacy to laws, policies and actions that reflect the shared ethos of the elite faction. That elite faction no longer bears allegiance to the democratic, constitutional republic established by America’s founders. They no longer subscribe to the tenets of God-given equality in natural rights the Founders held to be the basis for structuring, constraining and regulating a legitimate government in its use of just powers derived from the consent of the governed. They no longer believe that the informed, authentic consent of the governed is the essential basis for legitimate government power. The sham appearance of consent suffices.
It is ominous that in her remarks at Tufts Pelosi is willing so publicly to speak in a way that reflects this elite abandonment of the American creed. Her boldness suggests that we have arrived at a time of reckoning, when at least some elements of the elite faction are poised to dispense with the mask of representative government the two-party sham provides. This readiness was in fact already clear in the dictatorial maneuvers Pelosi and the Democrats used to ram legislation through the House during her tenure as speaker. But it is also suggested by the pathetically smug, self-congratulatory eagerness with which her GOP successor revels in results that highlight the hollowness of the GOP’s campaign rhetoric. Whatever Pelosi fears, results so far suggest that she already has her wish. Elections don’t matter much.
It would be wrong, however, to conclude that this is just because of John Boehner’s particular failures and weaknesses. What good will it do to replace leaders such as John Boehner if their successors remain firmly in the grip of a party system intended to impose its government-addicted vision of politics on everyone who participates in it? America needs new leadership, yes. But what it needs even more is voters educated and vigilant enough to insist that such leaders implement the vision of responsible, constitutional, truly representative self-government that prevailed among the nation’s founders. This demands more than hollow rhetoric. It requires a proven understanding of the principles that define republican self-government, and a proven determination to act on those principles in every area of legislation and policy. Who offers that understanding? In whom is that determination to be found?