Saturday, October 20, 2018

What Are Democratic Norms?

Two writers, from two sides of the political divide, make the case for democratic norms. You know all about democratic norms, but perhaps not well enough. By now you probably think that they involve presidential decorum... which they do... but you might not understand, in the political hue and cry, that there is much more to them than the president's observance of decorum.

Holman Jenkins suggests in the Wall Street Journal that today’s Democratic Party has not exactly upheld democratic norms:

Democracy is a system for curbing their quest for power. Of the two candidates in 2016, which was the protégée of the president in office? Which was backed by longstanding and highly organized support networks? Mr. Trump is accused of violating norms, but which party concocted evidence that its opponent was a Russian agent? Which now questions the legitimacy of basic institutions like the Electoral College and the Supreme Court? Which encourages the mobbing of partisan opponents in restaurants?

Mark Penn worked for Bill Clinton during the impeachment drama. He has become one of the most sane voices from the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, people like Penn have been drowned out by the radical fringe left.

Writing in The Hill, Penn opens by explaining that the most important democratic norm is accepting election defeat graciously. Thus, today’s Democratic Party, led Hillary Clinton, who morphed from enabler-in-chief to sore-loser-in-chief, reminds us with her presence and her appalling public statements, that it has not accepted the results of the 2016 election. Note that Penn entitled his article: “No, Civility Isn’t Optional” in a pointed rebuke to the dowager duchess of Chappaqua:

It is precisely the orderly transfer of power from the losers to the winners that has separated us from the pack. We have, unfortunately, over the last two years turned our democracy into a “Saturday Night Live” parody of itself. And the cause was not Donald Trump’s election but the failure to digest that election and move on. This error is now being repeated in the aftermath of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, with new threats of impeachments and investigations.

The recent turn to the criminalization of politics and the politicization of all of our institutions has degraded our democracy and, in the long run, only benefits those who want to get rid of democratic institutions altogether. Those in the Kremlin and the politburo of China’s state party are laughing at us. Why would anyone want such a system, they ask?

The point is well taken. As Alan Dershowitz has also been arguing at length, it is bad for democracy if we criminalize political differences. Moreover, if we expect the world to adopt democratic government and democratic norms, we ought to show the world that they work, and that they produce a harmonious transfer of power:

Today’s winners become tomorrow’s losers and the public swings not based on feverish moments but over long periods of time toward freedom and justice for all. It’s what makes this a great country. This may be a time of greater conservatism on the court but, most assuredly, over time the pendulum will swing again — or Congress will be pressed to actually solve problems rather than allowing them to be decided by the courts.

Penn continues:

The idea that if you lose an election, you should delegitimize the winner, is dangerous business that, once put in motion, can swing out of control. Similarly, if you lose a Supreme Court nomination fight, impugning the court as a whole is no less dangerous.

Democracy, Penn suggests, is about taking turns. It’s about recognizing that if you fail to accept the legitimacy of an institution today, you will see it attacked tomorrow, when you are in charge:

But our democracy must be the envy of the world, not a laughing stock. We must believe in its outcomes and use the mighty means we are given to influence the future outcomes — great ideas, powerful speeches, ads, social media, and even negative ads.

Yet, if the losers believe they can ignore the guardrails that keep us free, they are wrong. If they do not see supporting the system and waiting for their turn at victory as being their civic duty, then our leaders no longer deserve to lead.


sestamibi said...

Always remember the two cardinal principles of leftwing politics:

1) Nothing is ever decided until it is decided in our favor.

2) Once it is decided in our favor, an issue can never be raised again. Time to move on.

Sam L. said...

There are democratic norms, and there are Democrat norms, and "never the twain shall meet". sestamibi knows what he's saying. Ares may disagree.

Ares Olympus said...

I'll agree with Penn about gracious defeat, and perhaps most of all because I don't know what's right, and I expect many things are wrong that I personally don't want to try, so I'm very happy if someone else wants to run a bad idea into the ground just to prove my intuition.

And I suppose its also because I'm vindictive against laziness and apathy, and so I'm somewhat happy when people who don't vote don't get what they want. I saw this map recently, showing "nobody" would have won 445 electoral votes in 2016 by state plurality. Of course that majority is effectively voting for the winner, so perhaps we should count all of them for Trump, and that's make him happy.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Here’s why we’re in trouble:

The United States of America is NOT a democracy.

The United States of America is a constitutionally-limited federal republic. Words mean things!

Most of the people who believe in “democracy” couldn’t win an election. In its place, they’d call themselves a democratic republic like the Soviets did and Norks still do.

Most people don’t know what a republic is. Look it up.

Federalism is decentralized power — by design.

Most Lefties hate the Constitution.

Now, all these things are RIGHT and FAIR and JUST so long as Lefties control the levers of power at each level.

That’s the problem. They don’t. And that’s why they’re pist.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC, it certainly would have been instructive to see what would have happened if Trump had won the popular vote while losing the electoral college, but we have some hints when early returns in 2012 had Romney up in votes.
* We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided! 11:29 PM - Nov 6, 2012
* The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy. 11:45 PM - Nov 6, 2012

The more accurate reality is we're all hypocrites when we use motivated reasoning to decide what is RIGHT and FAIR and JUST.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares, as usual, you have no idea what you’re talking about. You missed my point entirely.

And, to your point, if Trump had won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College and suggested a march on Washington, few (if any) people would’ve shown up. Conservatives believe in rules. The rules are clear.

The Electoral College is a disaster for democracy. But we’re not a democracy.

You think Trump voters are a troglodyte monolith, a mob like your Antifa brethren.


Always remember: the alternative was Hillary Clinton. The ultimate self-dealing, self-serving hypocrite of them all. Always remember that.

Leo G said...

The genius of Trump is always a cold slap on the face. The foreshadowing he did during the debate, suggesting he would have to think about accepting the results, is pure psychic ability.

It is almost as if he knew he would win and shewhomustneverbenamed, would never accept her defeat.


Ares Olympus said...

IAC, I appreciate you teaching me what resentment does to people on all sides. I'm happy for you that you now have what you want, and the GOP will most likely keep the Senate, and following Obama's path of 2 years of Senate/House majority, and 2 more years of a Senate majority they can try to reduce the newly exploding deficits by cutting entitlements to the undeserving. With sufficient minority voter suppression, Trump can win an absolute majority in 2020, anything is possible as we try to Keep America Great (KAG). I'm skeptical, but I'm happy to find the world is sufficiently antifragile that leadership really doesn't matter. I always wondered how it would all go down, and at least now we can see lies, self-deception, and arrogance are all that is needed, and God volunteered Trump to be the fall guy. Who am I to complain?