Democrats & Liberals Archives

Raise Your Hands If You Paid Attention in High School Civics

I have to make a confession. I am a registered Republican. I signed up to do my part in trying to help John McCain get a leg up over Bush in the 2000 primaries. As is obvious, McCain lost, and Bush was elected. Bush was elected not because he was a better candidate, was smarter, or was more honest. Bush was elected largely because he was much better funded, was much more media savvy, and had much of the Establishment backing his candidacy. I have little reason to think that the election in 2004 will be any different.

Now, let's consider a scenario -- none of the current Democratic candidates will stand a chance against Bush. As much as some Democrats (and some registered Republicans) detest this possibility, chances are that it's much more likely than anyone here wants to admit. None of the current Democratic candidates have done much to inspire the imagination of the electorate, save Dean. Dean's an interesting candidate, but unfortunately appears to be like the Chickenhawk in the old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons more often than not. And even if one of these candidates had the class, charisma, and ideas to make a plausible run against Bush (not to imply that Bush has any of the three), they still would lack the financial means and the backing of the Establishment -- media, business, and middle America.

So what are Democrats (and disgruntled Republicans) to do? If we go with the reasonable assumption that Bush will be president for four more years, how do we cut our losses and limit the damage?

The answer is simple and has been simple since the tenth grade -- checks and balances.

A quick refresher -- the executive branch checks the legislative branch with the veto, and it checks the judicial branch by appointing judges. The judicial branch checks both the executive and legislative branches by being the final arbiter of what is constitutional and what is not. The legislative branch checks the judicial branch by confirming judges, and (Pay attention!) it checks the executive branch by overriding presidential vetoes and controlling the funding of the government. Let me repeat that -- the legislative branch is empowered to override the president's veto and the House of Representatives is responsible for the federal purse.

In the case of a hostile president, there's little concerned citizens can do with respect to shoring up the judiciary, but they can create a legislature that effectively neutralizes the president. So, what could a strong opposition legislature have done with Bush's current term? Refuse to pass a large tax-cut. Tell the president that if he wants to go to war, he'll have to pay the troops with some other funds outside the federal budget because the House refused to fund such a war. Refuse to confirm the president's judges. And so forth.

So why are Democrats paying so much attention to a race they are most likely to lose? Would it not make sense to use this attention and other resources to shore up local legislative candidates? One interesting thing to come out of the 2000 election was the Nader traders. While vote trading from Massachusetts to Michigan is illegal, it is not illegal for comfortably Democratic areas to support candidates in areas that are up for grabs. The idea is the same. Don't send your check to Dean, Edwards, or Sharpton. Send it to your local congressional candidate or a distant one if yours is confident of winning. Everyone makes a lot of talk about how Howard Dean is using the Internet to create a coordinated grassroots organization. Why are we not seeing a coordinated grassroots campaign to elect friendly legislators?

I am a registered Republican (who wants rid of Bush). That apparently makes me cold, rational, and very conscious about how I spend my money and time. From this perspective, what makes more sense -- throwing my hard-earned dollars to a presidential candidate who may put on a good show, then lose badly? Or strategically spending my money and time on candidates who will oppose what I dislike about the likely future president? In the first case, I waste both my time and money and gain nothing. A terrible thing for a Republican to do. In the second case, I lose the same time and some money, but I'm more likely to help elect that sixty-seventh Senator who overrides the presidential veto or those extra few Congressmen who refuse to pass a budget that favors the president's legislative agenda.

For me the smarter choice is obvious.

Posted by cjkarr at August 6, 2003 7:39 PM