Democrats & Liberals Archives

Partisan or Practical?

In the criticism of the more intense scrutiny of the Democrat members of the 9/11, a drumbeat has developed: The investigational committee was being made political.

But how can any investigation have teeth, if it fears to wade into the way an administration approached the issues of Homeland Security? It’s a subject that is guaranteed to make political waves, and guaranteed to be problematic for a campaign like Bush’s, where any demonstrated negligence or incompetence about terrorism will add to his political liabilities. Just so, it is subject that Bush will resist revelations about, and some might not be too motivated to explore.

That is not to say that Republican members aren't being honest inquirers, but rather to say that there might be tough questions that their beliefs might not encourage them to ask, questions of a practical, policy oriented nature. It is this kind of political bias that not only is necessary for the commission in question, but which lies at the very core of our democracy, and our republic's success.

Every non-democratic government suffers for the same reasons: that a government that holds power arbitrarily can enact policy arbitrarily as well, even when large numbers of people know the policy to be corrupt or ill-advised, even when the majority of the people are harmed by it.

America both preserves and employs that diversity in principle, using the spectre of the loss of political power to, at the very least, compel justification, if not review, of the policies at hand. Additionally, the negative feedback from the grassroots can literally function as negative feedback on policies going out of control. In nature, negative feedback systems react to excess by releasing chemicals and impulses that act to dampen excesses. Insulin is released to dampen blood sugar levels when they get too high, for example. Many such body systems work in this way, allowing the body to maintain a state called homeostasis, the balance with which we survive.

Democracy produces its own kind of homeostasis, ensuring that unchecked excesses are met with resistance. Republicans can cite Clinton or LBJ, Democrats can cite Reagan, Nixon, or Dubya. It also works for a mindset that makes negotiation and compromise habits rather than exceptions of behavior.

Partisan bickering is not what we need in the 9/11 case. That said, a certain measure of partisan motivation, most especially in opposition to the sitting president, may be just the force needed to shatter the illusions on both sides, to reveal both aggravating and mitigating concerns about the Bush and Clinton administration's individual responsibility for the failures leading to 9/11. I say, let the results be the emergent result of the full and spirited debate and inquiry of a quality investigation, rather than the muted consequence of a desire not to offend or trouble those in power.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at April 8, 2004 8:02 PM