Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Proud Democrat Joins "No Labels"

I supported Bill Bloomfield not just because he was not Waxman, although in many ways that was reason enough. Bloomfield's support for Prop 32, for electoral reform, for refusing any campaign donations, all resonated with me. One of his ideas that was dead on arrival for me, though, was his co-founded interest group: "No Labels".

"No Labels" as a concept and a movement is essentially flawed. According to the "No Labels" convocation, because our politicians are so resolutely locked into not getting anything done, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's pledge to make President Obama a "one-term" President, they are not ever going to get anything done. One caucus has signed pledges refusing to raise taxes. The opposing caucus refuses to touch entitlements. So begins the gridlock.

I propose that if Congress gets busy ending the spending spree and cutting the tax rates and the size of the federal government, all of us would be better off, even the environmental lobbies, who can get more respect from their state legislatures than the federal government, in my view.

"No Labels" claims that the pary structure is forcing members of Congress not to work together at all, and thus a third party alternative must emerge, one which is committed to getting Congress back to work, refusing to take sides and thus get every side to advance. The very moniker invites mockery, as "No Labels" is in itself a label. This frustrated sent-up reminds me of the rock band "The Lone Rangers" -- none of whom were alone. An organization or an interest group which invites questions and concerns from the first mention of its name should incite further introspection among its members.

"No Labels" wants to end "the gridlock". Like many limited government types, I love gridlock. Congress not even showing up much of the time might be better, but when the legislators get together and do nothing, our pocket books and our livelihood remain safe. The movement also claims that procedural reforms must be enacted. The gridlock in this country has nothing to do with the political process, with the Constitution of the United States. The problem lies with the people themselves, in that individual voters and constituencies are voicing their opinions and casting their votes, which in turn generates the gridlock.

This is not due to some failing in the voting public, but in the inherent tensions of representative democracy. In one sense, we send our representatives to govern us; in another sense, we send them to Congress to do what we want them to. A true statesman will make choices that will sometimes inevitably offend the sense and sensibility of his constituents. For this reason, the Framers authorized the legislatures, not the citizens themselves, to elect the Senators; the Electoral College selected the President, not the popular vote. Popular sentiment finds its voice in the House of Representatives, and only there.

Another concern with "No Labels" falls on this issue of representation. The organization claims "People First" as its motto. The exact meaning and purpose of this pledge invites more scrutiny instead of certainty. The Constitution was enacted in order to form a "more perfect union", not please the interests of the "people". "Establishing justice", tranquility, the blessings of liberty, often entails constraining the power of all interests, the special and the general, the elite and the popular. Besides, our leaders take an oath to defend the Constitution, not to represent the "people." Too many of our youth, and a growing number of the current electorate, are not receiving from our politicians or our educational institutions the proper role of government: to protect our rights. Governments are instituted to protect our rights, not provide for our material wants. "People first" makes as much sense as "No Labels" functions as a label, except while the first phrase is too vague, the second is just plain contradictory.

After heavy campaigning and threats from voters and the press, Henry Waxman found that he had to reach out of his old politicking shell. He joined "No Labels", yet in another show of inconsistency, he went all over the district claiming to be a proud Democrat". How does the Congressman reconcile his new membership with his long-standing boast throughout the campaign? 38 years of marching in line with his party, which should be commend on strict standards of loyalty, does not translate too well into a new term with gridlock at an all time high. The level of compromise needed to get anything done -- including the menacing “fiscal cliff” -- remains unprecedented for old and new entering Congress.

Henry Waxman, the "proud Democrat" enters Congress with a commitment to serve the people. Did he do that for the past thirty-eight years? Ask the veterans still waiting for adequate housing. Ask the postal workers and residents in Venice and Santa Monica who fear that they will have no neighborly facility to drop their mail. Ask the residents of West LA, who are still waiting for a better route to the sea besides the seventeen mile bump-and-grind of Wilshire Blvd.

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