Citizens must revive the democratic process

The date is rapidly approaching when the Iraq spending bill finally makes it to President Bush’s veto stamp.

The Democrats, proposing a definite withdrawal date from Iraq, are making a loud statement: No war without a timetable.

The bill, as I’m sure you’re all familiar, requires that the president set a definite timetable for when the troops will leave Iraq. In exchange, the troops will receive the additional funding the president requires.

Bush has repeatedly for the past few weeks threatened to veto the bill. However, Democrats seem to have no intentions of making the legislation more flexible. Ironically (though tactfully), the Republicans are siding with the Democrats to allow the bill to pass swiftly through Congress.

Of course, the end of the line for this bill is an inevitable veto. President Bush has accused the left of stalling; congress has accused Bush of abusing power; the voters just want out.

What started as a presidency of unchecked power has since evolved into a war between two branches of government, each flexing its political muscle.

On the one hand lies the Republican executive branch, war-torn and committed. On the other hand lies the newly elected Democratic Congress, fresh and upset.

On either side of this partisan debate, players are engaging in a large-scale game of cat and mouse. Using all the tricks of the trade, the war between the branches has become quite a spectacle.

Tactics include: strategic voting, signing statements, insinuating unpatriotic behavior and altogether wanton disregard for the voters.

But this is hardly new. Anytime the House and the presidency are held by opposing parties, the partisan feuding is at its most vicious.

In times like this, it seems like the voice of the people is often lost; politicians become so worried about the other side that their constituents are forgotten.

How, then, are politicians making decisions? If they’re ignoring the public, just whom are they paying attention to?

Several things, really. What must be considered when making policy or any sort of legislation is far more diverse than most people realize. What factors are most important? How about public opinion? Foreign opinion? Lobbyists? Partisan opinion? Morals? The church? Scientists?

Such is the nature of the game. Politics is no longer a place for ideals and moral leverage, but a realm for scratching backs and selling favors. Political campaigns have become immense centers for calculations, risk assessment and poll watching.

For instance, should a politician be for or against late-term abortions? Well, how many votes will he or she lose? What is the party stance? What do the lobbyists say?

The end effect is that the voice of the voter no longer carries much influence at all. Democracy, rule by the people, has withered into something closer to rule by the institution.

Sure, the people still elect politicians to office, but their subsequent decisions are made by considering much more than “Will I get votes?”

There is an entire unseen world of influence to be considered before every political stance. Voting is but one dimension of a multi-variable political equation.

The fate of democracy, however, may not be sealed. The people can still have their voices heard amongst the clamor of interest groups.

For instance, the people of Massachusetts have just recently introduced legislation for their legislative bodies to vote on. How? Petitions. Though I disagree with their marriage amendment idea, I applaud their use of democratic tools.

What do you do when the politicians are not listening to you? What can we do to make our voices heard?

Remember the basics! Protests, petitions, writing letters and collecting signatures are all forms of influencing your congressperson. The creation of laws is in your hands as well, as Massachusetts has clearly demonstrated.

Also, as a last resort, the threat of recall elections is looming to any politician!

I urge you, then, if you don’t agree with government/party/representative’s choices, make a change! Remember the tools you have at your disposal; democracy has not forgotten you.

Though it may seem that the system doesn’t listen, perhaps it is just that we are not speaking loud enough.

Send comments to Chad Puterbaugh at [email protected]