The Critical Mass

When the people speak, and no one listens

This morning, I’m reading something very unusual to American ears. Scotland voted resoundingly on Thursday against becoming an independent nation, choosing to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Conceding defeat, separatist leader Alex Salmond said, “I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland.”

How odd. The loser accepted the verdict of the people.

We have a problem with that in the United States.

Barack Obama won two elections. Resoundingly so, considering he reversed eight years of a Republican presidency. The margins of his two victories over McCain and Romney were larger than Bush’s win over Kerry (And certainly larger than Bush’s electoral college victory over Gore; Gore won the popular vote). Yet conservatives have refused to acknowledge the verdict of the people. On the night that Barack and Michelle Obama were dancing at his inauguration, more than 15 conservative leaders met at a four-hour dinner to talk about what they could do about this turn of events. It wasn’t just a minor list of malcontents. It was major players like Republican representives Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.) And Republican senators Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.).  Newt Gingrich was also there, as well as Frank Luntz, the veteran Republican talking-points guru. Luntz was the guy who came up with the idea of calling healthcare reform a “government takeover,” which the fact-checking group Politifact called the 2010 “Lie of the Year.”

That night, this swell group came up with the strategy of using the House and Senate to obstruct every bill, campaign and law that Obama backed. Everything. Any plans to end their wars, any ideas to stimulate the economy, any attempt to insure uninsured Americans. Over the next four, and then eight years, Obama wouldn’t even be allowed to play a round of golf in peace.

Not simply oppose, but they would obstruct the elected American government. Treason, in any other country.

In school, you probably learned that the United States has a representative government. More Americans voted for Democratic candidates in the House and Senate. Yet the House is run by Republicans, and there are many predictions that the Republicans will gain control of the Senate in November’s mid-term elections. So no, what you learned in school is incorrect. We do not have a representative government.

The majority of Americans want gun control. They approve of how the Affordable Care Act is addressing the issue of the citizens of the richest country in the world not having access to health care. They favor allowing marriage equality, Planned Parenthood, a woman’s right to choose, teaching kids about evolution in schools, even the legalization of pot. They’re OK with higher taxes to pay for roads and schools. They agree we should regulate industry to protect the environment and our health. They know climate change is real. They think all nuclear weapons should be banned. They don’t like the harsh treatment of immigrants, and agree that discrimination against African-Americans remains a significant problem.

And on and on. Until it becomes clear, this is not the conservative country, or the “center-right” country that conservatives claim it is. It’s progressive, it thinks liberal. Throughout the last decade, and for much longer in some cases, conservatives have not accepted the verdict of the people.