Victor Davis Hanson: Democracy’s New Discontents






Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.

Once upon a time, loud dissent, filibustering in the Senate, and gridlock in the House were as democratic as apple pie.

A Senator Obama once defended his attempts to block confirmation votes on judicial appointments by alleging, “The Founding Fathers established the filibuster as a means of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority.”

In 2005, progressives were relieved that a Democratic minority had just gridlocked Congress — ending recently reelected president George W. Bush’s plan to reform Social Security. Gridlock, in other words, was a helpful constitutional tool when a minority party wanted to block a president’s legislative initiatives. A then-cool Senator Obama suggested Bush and his congressional supporters “back off” and “let go of their egos.”

How about loud opposition to a sitting president? Well, in 2003, Sen. Hillary Clinton unloaded on those she claimed had called for less dissent: “I am sick and tired of people who call you unpatriotic if you debate this administration’s policies.”

These examples could be multiplied. But they are enough to offer contrast with a suddenly much different attitude toward what was only recently seen as the wonderful complexity of American democracy....

Is this sudden liberal discontent with “messy” democracy just typical American politics evident in both parties — the “out” minority party praising obstructionism only to blast it when it becomes the “in” governing party?

Of course....



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