The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “congress”

Sequestration, Punditry and the Formation of our Public Judgment

In broad daylight we see this. In broadcasted radio, we hear a serious situation described in terms that completely distort the nature of what is happening. And this is so common that we don’t have the ability to stop it. God has not yet seen fit for our groanings to be heard as anything other than the claims of Chicken Little. “Chicken Little” starts with a “C.” So does “Cassandra.” So does “Cliff.”

We are currently in talks to avoid government shutdown. More fiscal cliff negotiations. Topping the bill this week is a new musical called, “Sequestration,” coming to theaters on Broadway, Pennsylvania Avenue, and only later to Main Street, they say. But it is quite a show. And broad is the way that leads to destruction. That’s what they’re going to be selling you all week. Destruction is coming if the conservatives get their way. The conservatives are going to lead us into the pit with those scruples! They bicker, they whine, and they won’t compromise! The president will call on us to get something done. Experts will say that Boehner’s minions are obstructionists. 435 players are all sequined up for the big curtain call.

But, please, don’t be dazzled. They are selling lies. You are going to hear over and over this week that congress is “dysfunctional.” And we may even hear the blame spread around – that both parties are guilty of “brinkmanship.” They will try to show you that conservatism is nice, but holding too strongly to anything is petty in a time like this.

You can’t miss any of this if you are listening. Two lies that they want you to believe:

1) The chief good for congress is getting something done.
2) Republicans are conservatives.

Before I explain, let me fast forward to the truths which replace these lies:

1) The chief good for congress is to restrain extraconstitutional spending, now and in the future as a standard and a controlling policy.
2) Constitutionalists are conservatives. Fiscally self-controlled people are conservatives. Republicans are by and large neo-conservatives, which means “fakers.”

The goal of radio time this week is to set the public of the US up with ways of expressing what we’re feeling, as it happens. They would like us to think they are grief counselors after a mass, public tragedy, helping us find words for all the chaos. But really, they are more like the mysterious men taking Mary Mormon’s camera and re-educating her on the spot about how many shots she heard. But we’re so used to that now. We’re ready to give up our knowledge and let it be replaced with publicly approved emotional language we can repeat around the water cooler. While all of this sounds sinister, what is happening consistently is definition of terms and the building of a framework that will allow us to interpret the sequester events in ways favorable to the administration.

Morning news and commentary on NPR gives a healthy dose of this reeducation every time we come to it. If you turn on NPR, as I do every morning, your brain is going to pass through a police checkpoint, directing your mental travel. Monday I was right: I expected what I heard – I didn’t even have to listen to know what I would hear on the Diane Rehm show. So when I listened I was just timing it. And this is what I hear in the punditry of each iteration of this cliffhanger:

“Dysfunction,” “brinkmanship,” “bickering,” “lack of compromise,” “obstructionism.”

And I want to get across here that our annoyance ought to be directed in two places.

Democrats ramrodd spending past the constitutional limits, again and again. But they are just maintaining the status quo. Republicans, on the other hand, are pretending to care, while they say no up to the edge, and then change their mind at the last minute. They (the RINO’s in charge) only do this because somebody back home actually is a conservative. But in the end, they take off the mask (it’s suffocating under there), and move to hold the door open for the democrats. It’s like they like being doormats. Maybe their high calling in life is to vote against their conscience.

There are a few conservatives in congress, but not enough to overwhelm the face of the republican party.

If we divide the groups out by what they say, democrats would be on one side and the Republicans (including the conservatives) would be on the other. But if we divide them out by what they do, then Republicans and Democrats would be on one side, and a handful of libertarian-minded Constitution-lovers would be all by their lonesome in the empty other wing.

So it’s time to deconstruct a weak metanarrative here. Congress wants us to believe they are the source of power, source of goods, source of life in America. The halls of congress are a giant hamster wheel that feeds the power plants juice, if they run fast enough. That is, if they pass enough legislation. They actually talk like the passing of bills creates stuff. Like “getting legislation accomplished” lights up our living room on stormy nights, and keeps our hospitals from needing generators. What will happen, they tell us, if they stop the legislation wheel from spinning, is that America will grind to a halt. Financially, socially, militarily…we can’t live without Almighty Congress, maker of all things, judge of all men.

So when Neo-cons, who are temporarily playing the part of a principled conservative, obstruct passage of money-bills, they are shutting down the future. They are killing even the present. But this is just a show. In the end, after the neos have conned their constituents one more time about their credentials, they will quietly shake hands and hold the coats of the dems so the liberals can stone us while the neo-cons look on in approval.

Some people, conservatives who have not bowed the knee to Baal, will obstruct. Saying, “congress is not God,” and “congress does not supply all our needs.” But to no avail.

Maybe it’s because we have gotten so used to borrowing from China. Maybe we are taking a page out of the Three-Self Patriotic movement. Religion doesn’t come from God, it comes from the government. Financial prosperity doesn’t come from God, it comes from the government.

Well…since we believe that without the ever-giving hand of congress, we would have nothing, then any attempt to slow down the train, is “obstruction” done with “bickering.” But obstruction is good. It is the job of any God-fearing congressman to obstruct when the law is broken, and to obstruct when grubby hands are grasping and grabbing.

Imagine five bullies are confronted at the doorway of the classroom by two children with strong consciences. From a distance the teacher remarks the seven children in the room and says, “Look at those kids holding things up in the doorway. They are such obstructionists; why are they always bickering with all the other kids? Those few kids are holding up the majority of the people in the room!”

Is the main goal of the classroom to let the bullies out on to the playground? Is th main goal of congress to make up rules about our neighbors’ stuff? Is it to get more value out of the public pocket, and into the money pit of this wretched house we’re constructing? Is that progress? Is that good? Can you hear me? Is passing legislation the definition of good? Not often.

No, we are actually glad there are a few principled children in the class. But what is actually about to happen at the end of this week is that most of the way through recess, the supposedly principled children are actually going to shake hands with the bullies walk to the playground and beat up the younger kids with them, telling the younger kids who are being beat up, “I tried to stop them, but I realized the only think I was accomplishing was restraining those bullies. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything measurable… Hey, shut up Loser! You’re just a little kid. You want to fit in, don’t you?”

And if the Republicans DO allow the sequester, it is just a one-off show. They have already cried wolf too many time to be heard as truly standing up for what is right.

But true Conservatives still stand up to bullies. Republicans make a show and then back down. Democrats are still bullies. Republicans are just accomplices.

And Conservatives are still defined by conservatism and not by punditry on morning talk shows.

The American Presidents BEFORE George Washington

Presidents Before The Constitution

The American Revolution was a counter-revolution against the encroachment of the British Parliament. The independence movement released the thirteen colonies from foreign control. It is important to remember the American Revolution was a battle between Britain and the thirteen individually sovereign states, each with their own state governments. During the War, the state legislatures granted enumerated portions of their own limited sovereignty to an entity called the Continental Congress.

A congressman was elected by the other delegates to serve as this body’s President-his role was largely as an impartial moderator. Later in the war, the States transferred more responsibilities to the central government in the Articles of Confederation (1781). This stood as the nation’s first established constitution until the Constitutional Convention ratified the current U.S. Constitution in 1788.

Fourteen Presidents Before George Washington

George Washington was the first President to be elected under the 1788 Constitution Model. While many know of George Washington, the Presidents under the Continental Congress are largely unknown to modern Americans. They were men of great moral vigor, who stood strong for liberty, and held at the center of their ambition the glory of God.

Below is a list of the pre-constitution Presidents, along with inspiring quotes from these men who did not shy away from leadership when times were trying.

First Continental Congress

Peyton Randolph, Virginia (Sept 1774 – Oct 1774)

Often called the “father of our country,” the courageous Peyton Randolph led the charge against the Stamp Act as one of the most revolutionary Patriots. He also intitated the practice of prayer before conducting of government business.

In a letter to British General Thomas Cage, Randolph protests his occupation of Boston,

“Your Excellency cannot be a stranger to the sentiments of America with respect to the Acts of Parliament, under the execution of which those unhappy people are oppressed, the approbation universally expressed of their conduct, and the determined resolution of the Colonies, for the preservation of their common rights to unite in their opposition to those Acts. In consequence of these sentiments, they have appointed us the guardians of their rights and liberties…” [1]

Henry Middleton, South Carolina (October 1774)

Only serving four days, Middleton resigned in opposition to independence to Great Britian. He was succeeded in Congress by his son, Arthur Middleton (1742–1787), who was more radical than his father and became a signer of the Declaration of Independence.[2] Middleton’s first official act, was to execute a letter as President supporting the efforts of oppressed colonists. In the letter Middleton wrote,

“So rapidly violent and unjust has been the late conduct of the British Administration against the colonies, that either a base and slavish submission, under the loss of their ancient, just, and constitutional liberty, must quickly take place, or an adequate opposition be formed.” [3]

Second Continental Congress

John Hancock, Massachusetts (May 1775 – October 1777)

Hancock was President of the Congress when the Declaration of Independence was prepared. He was the first to sign what most men understood to be a note of their own death. The Declaration was received as treasonous by the British, making the signers traitors to the crown.

“In circumstances dark as these, it becomes us, as Men and Christians, to reflect that, whilst every prudent Measure should be taken to ward off the impending Judgements….All confidence must be withheld from the Means we use; and reposed only on that GOD who rules in the Armies of Heaven, and without whose Blessing the best human Counsels are but Foolishness–and all created Power Vanity…” [4]

Henry Laurens, South Carolina (November  1777 – December 1778) Read more…

Failed Filibuster Reforms

mrsmithgoestowash

Even while they mesmerized and romanticized me as a boy I knew in my heart of hearts that Frank Capra movies never quite approximated real life. Thanks to that healthy cynicism I was not deeply shaken by the recent hubbub over filibuster reforms, but it doesn’t bode well for the state of the union.

Discussion of the proposed reforms has been somewhat overshadowed by more visible issues (i.e. guns, etc.), but forecasts better than most the difficulties facing the American democratic process in the coming years.

In a surprising show of opposition to members of his own caucus, Harry Reid blocked the efforts of several freshman Democrat senators to reform the filibuster by rendering it impossible to initiate or, at the least, returning in practice to the “talking filibuster” of the last century. As it now stands, minority Republicans can force a 60-vote threshold on nearly any business that comes to the floor and, because the threat of a filibuster has come to carry the force of a filibuster, this can often be done by a single senator without his even needing to be present on the floor. No Mr. Smith reading the Constitution, no Bernie Sanders giving a marathon speech; just a stern phone call.

Debate on the issue has revealed that some on the left (at least implicitly) understand “democracy” to mean the licensing of a majority to railroad the political minority, and we obviously find ourselves at odds with such a notion. But neither should we be quick to look past the conduct of the Republican minority—effectively requiring a super-majority for all senate business. On the question of congressional super-majorities Alexander Hamilton had the following to say:

“its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government and to substitute the pleasure, caprice or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent or corrupt junta, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.” (Fed. 22)

James Madison likewise wrote that

“In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority.” (Fed. 58)

The recent talks represented an opportunity to moderate between the two extremes. But reform didn’t come.

The likeliest motivation behind Reid’s decision to block most of the reforms is the consideration that his own party may soon lose their majority in the Senate. Rather than attempt to check a dangerous trend in congressional procedure, veteran Democratic senators want to hedge their bets, reserving their right to substitute their pleasure and caprice for “regular deliberations and decisions” and “embarrass a [Republican] administration” that will no doubt be looking to do some railroading of its own. Ostensibly the discussion of filibuster reforms ended in a compromise between Reid and the Senate minority leader, but the outcome presages only further breakdown of democracy.

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