by Marvin Folkertsma
Nancy Pelosi’s ascension to the speakership in 2006 launched exuberant encomiums to the democratic process, inspiring her further to shout to her vote-challenged opponents in a tone somewhere between a chortle and a boast, “We won the election!” The Democrats’ victory was sufficient to inflict ObamaCare on the nation as well as to impose tighter controls over American financial life, but ran out of steam when it came to a few other progressive pet projects, such as cap-and-trade and card check.
No matter: the Environmental Protection Agency is picking up where Congress faltered in regulating carbon output, and the National Labor Relations Board is doing its best to relegate American free enterprise to that utopian level of economic stagnation and misery known as pre-Thatcherite Britain. In the meantime, now-Minority Leader Pelosi is lamenting about how elections really shouldn’t matter as much as they do.
The question is what sense one is supposed to make of all this. The most facile conclusion is to accuse the minority leader of hypocrisy, as though the engine of Washington politics were propelled by an alternate political fuel while Mrs. Pelosi committed a minor heresy. So she loved elections when they brought Democrats to power but had a change of heart when the Republicans won the House of Representatives in 2010 — so what? The truth is likely more complicated than that, insofar as her earlier enthusiasm was not really based on a genuine commitment to democratic processes anyway, that is, with the understanding that elections conferred legitimacy and therefore priorities of the new Republican majority should be respected as an expression of popular will. Rather, elections that put Democrats in charge bestowed power, not legitimacy, and when that power was compromised as it was in 2010, then alternate means of attaining political goals must be pursued, mostly through executive branch decisions from politically unaccountable agencies, commissions, and boards, such as the EPA and NLRB.
Call this progressive neo-Leninism, in that the political left naturally uses victories at the polls when they temporarily grant political ascendancy and disparages electoral results when they do not. Progressivism, Marxism, and Leninism developed during a period when political legitimacy was associated with possession of superior knowledge claimed by experts, that is, by a hard core of professional political leaders along with their hirelings and sympathizers. Leninism further stressed the importance of maintaining ideological purity and the political dominance of party elites. Nothing else mattered, not elections, constitutions, public opinion, political criticism, and bargaining. In short, nothing we normally associate with democratic processes so often accorded little more than lip service by contemporary progressive neo-Leninists.
Thus, during the healthcare debate, then-Speaker Pelosi urged fellow Democrats to sacrifice their careers for the greater good of voting for a measure considered indispensable to the broader range of party goals. Which of course is exactly what happened. In April 2011, the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) released its report on the 2010 Congressional Voting Record in which it stated that “most of the high-ADA-scoring Democrats (the most enthusiastic backers of a progressive activist agenda) were reelected, whereas low-ADA-scoring ‘moderates’ were not.” Losing your job by voting for an unpopular measure and returning to your district may not be equivalent to a sentence to the Soviet gulag (though for some it might), but surely must grate on the minds of those “moderates” called to sacrifice their careers while privileged party leaders from gerrymandered districts, who never risked anything at all, remain to fight another day.
An additional result from the ADA report casts an edifying light on the progressive view of an equivalent to Leninist counterrevolutionaries, “those radical right-wing Republicans” who evidently stay awake nights scheming to subvert social justice and destroy American lives. The ADA naturally excoriates Republicans’ supposed turn to the “hard right,” but an analysis of the organization’s own data reveals a different picture. The ADA scores all members of Congress, 100 being a perfect liberal score and zero being perfectly awful.
The April report reveals that House Republicans have bounced around the 20 percent level since 1947, with an average of the last two Congresses in the mid-teens and not that far from the norm. By contrast, House Democrats showed greater variation around an ADA score of sixty until 1980, after which it soared to the mid-eighties, a difference of around 25 points from the previous pattern. In short, the Republicans have not changed that much from the time the buck stopped at Harry Truman’s desk, while Democrats have taken a sharp turn to the left, all the time berating their opponents as radicals and extremists. Go figure.
But none of this matters for progressive neo-Leninists, as their diatribes are not based on empirical results any more than their operational code is based on respecting constitutional norms. Indeed, the corps of ADA “heroes” in Congress is purer now than it ever has been, and they are biding their time until the next election cycle brings more “moderates” to sacrifice on altar of progressive neo-Leninism, until finally elections, as conveyers of legitimacy, power, and popular will, matter not at all.
HT: American Thinker