I am a student of history. One of the things that surprises me about history is the degree to which human beings seem to have an affinity to being ruled by tyrants. It seems such a strong compulsion that our political leaders are afraid to take any type of stand against the Bush Administration and its defense of the instruments of tyranny.
Today, in the House of Representatives, a motion to impeach Vice President Cheney appeared on the floor of the house. The democrats attempted to rally support to defeat it. The Republicans, it seems, saw a political opportunity here. They wanted a floor debate. They wanted the public to see the Democrats standing up against tyranny. The reason . . . because they knew that the public would condemn the Democrats and favor the Republicans – favor the supporters of tyranny over those who oppose it. The Democrats were able to save themselves only by mustering enough votes to send the resolution to committee – but just barely.
I believe in trusting to experts to know what is going on. The Democratic and Republican parties both know, through careful research, that the American people prefer tyranny over liberty. We are a diverse population. There is certainly a minority who thinks that liberty is the preferred state. However, elections are won by majorities (or at least the majority of those who vote), so this group is effectively impotent – particularly while they remain passive and silent in the face of the friends of tyranny.
The Republicans and Democrats know that the American people prefer tyranny over liberty because they have no doubt asked their pollsters what would happen if we were to have this debate. Those pollsters contact their 1500 households, wrote up their reports, and probably delivered a nice, sharp presentation that said in no uncertain terms, “Defending liberty in America is political suicide. If you want to keep your position in government, you will defend tyranny over liberty.”
Not that this will be unwelcome news to many of them. The Republicans like the idea of defending tyranny because this is the status quo of this administration. They got elected with a plan to defend tyranny, and they are not likely to surrender now when they have had such amazing success. It would be like a football team, ahead by 40 points at the 2-minute warning, suddenly forfeiting and giving the game to the other team.
The Democrats, of course, strongly suspect that they will have a Democratic president and a Democratic congress next year – unless they do something stupid. Opposition to tyranny can generally be trusted more to those who are at risk of being the victims of arbitrary power, not those who have the ability to wield it. I have no doubt that there are more than a few Democrats thinking, “My, what we could do with an unchecked Democratic president, free of the restraints of checks and balances, in our hands.”
Is there anybody who thinks that they will be inclined to defend civil rights? Remember, the Republican Party was the party of fiscal responsibility, until they got their hands on the checkbook. They were the party of maximum individual freedom and responsibility and “the government is best that governs least.” However, that did not get in the way of electing these advocates of tyranny, and standing as steadfast defenders of the elements of tyranny that their leaders fought so hard to make a part of the American form of government.
No, I have little hope that the Democrats plan to use their unchecked power to establish civil rights, restore the rule of law, and agree peacefully to give up power and hand it back to the people.
As a matter of fact, the most surprising quality that George Washington had was his ability to perform this virtually unheard of task of giving power to the people, when he could have taken the power himself. Given the apparent fondness for tyrants, Washington could have probably declared himself emperor of a new American empire, annulling the Articles of Confederation, and establishing a new monarchy with him as the leader. Since he had no children of his own, he might have adopted the old Roman practice of adopting a successor, making Alexander Hamilton his adopted son and second American emperor.
However, George Washingtons are a very rare breed. To expect that people of this quality make up the majority of the Democratic Party – the same party that finds no value in standing up to the Republican efforts to establish the instruments of tyranny – is insanely naïve.
The Senate, under Democratic control, is hours away of giving a formal vote of approval to torture, rendition, warrantless wiretaps, signing statements, and the other instruments of tyranny that the Bush Administration have fought to establish, when they vote to approve Mukasey to the post of attorney general. During the confirmation hearings, Mukasey refused to state any opposition to these practices. A vote for Mukasey as attorney general will give this position added legitimacy, making it that much tougher for our children to undo the damage that we have done and restore liberty and a system of checks and balances (if they should ever decide that it is worthwhile to do so).
Part of the reason the Democrats give for this is because the Attorney General’s office will be filled with recess appointments until the Senate gives its confirmation to the President’s nominee. However, the very fact that these decisions are being made by Bush lackeys who lack Senate confirmation is enough to deny legitimacy to any efforts they make on behalf of shredding the Constitution. After Mukasey is confirmed, any shredding of the Constitution will wear a formal congressional seal of approval. To a future Stalin or Hitler, this distinction will make a great deal of difference.
It took ancient Rome less than one generation to go from a nation that condemned tyranny to one that embraced it. Brutus and his friends thought that the Roman people would embrace the Senate and cheer anybody who defended it against a tyrant. Their greatest surprise was in learning that humans prefer tyrants. When the time came to take sides, they sided against the Senate and in favor of autocratic rule. It seems that humans have not changed much in 20 years.
Is this claim about ‘friends of tyranny’ out of line? Is it, perhaps, hyperbole? An unchecked executive with the power to command that private citizens be pulled off the street and held without charges or without trial on the mere suspicion on the part of the President that they are a threat to national security, where absolutely nothing stands in the way of an executive to interpret ‘national security’ to mean ‘anything that is a threat to my reign as dictator’. This is the form of government that this administration has spent seven years defending. This is the form of government that the Republicans are trying to manipulate the Democrats into opposing because it would publicly humiliate the Democrats to do so.