Saturday, August 08, 2009

Mob Rule

DougJ snags this from Peggy Noonan:
We have entered uncharted territory in the fight over national health care. There’s a new tone in the debate, and it’s ugly. At the moment the Democrats are looking like something they haven’t looked like in years, and that is: desperate.

They must know at this point they should not have pushed a national health-care plan...

You know what would happen if he did this (nixed health care legislation)? His numbers would go up. Even Congress’s would. Because they’d look responsive, deliberative and even wise. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Absent that, and let’s assume that won’t happen, the health-care protesters have to make sure they don’t get too hot, or get out of hand. They haven’t so far, they’ve been burly and full of debate, with plenty of booing. This is democracy’s great barbaric yawp. But every day the meetings seem just a little angrier, and people who are afraid—who have been made afraid, and left to be afraid—can get swept up.

No, this is mob rule. To back off legislation because a small minority who haven't actually read and tried to understand the bills, incited by demagogic "news" sources and cynical and immoral Republican political leaders, have come to shout unthinking epithets at others trying to explain the bills would be to bow to mob rule. It would express a fundamental denial of trust in democracy, which is not a matter of who shouts the loudest no matter what people like Noonan say. Real discussion implies a willingness, however slim, to change your mind if another's view is stronger and more sensible than your own. This is the basis of public rationality, which is fundamental to the very nature of democracy, particularly our founding Jeffersonian version.

Mob rule is an ever-present threat to democracy, not democracy itself. In this case, it doesn't even amount to the most primitive version of democracy, basic numerical majority rule.


troutsky said...

My most fervent wish is that this health care "debate" lay to rest once and for all the notion that any sort of democracy , Jeffersonian, Rousseauian,any sort,actually exists in America. Perhaps this stark example of capitalist policy process will force all well meaning liberals to re-examine their faith that democracy and capitalism are somehow compatible.we will see.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Peggy Noonan has actually provided some good commentary for a while, but this article read like a peeved mommy taking her errant young'uns to task for hitting their younger sibs.

Poor baby! (sniffle, sniffle) Let me see the owie!

She's talking about those burly and full of debate folks there.

MT said...

But didn't Plato or somebody say "Democracy is messy"?