Tom Friedman of the New York Times, who never misses an opportunity to praise Chinese autocracy, has articulated a new argument that Democrats are using against the Republicans’ insistence on changes to Obamacare: “Our Democracy Is at Stake,” he warns, arguing that the partial government shutdown is the result of allowing a minority, i.e. the Tea Party, to exercise undue control in the American political system.
It is a charge that is laughable on its face, since unlike a Senate filibuster, in which a minority can block bills favored by the majority, the Republican stance on Obamacare is one that enjoys a governing majority in the House of Representatives–and the support of several Democrats besides. Furthermore, the majority of the American people oppose Obamacare, and until now Democrats have done nothing to amend or improve it.
In fact, though Friedman and his ilk would prefer to forget it, Obamacare was passed against the will of the majority of the American people and against the legislature’s established procedural rules. President Obama and the Democrats decided to ignore the stunning democratic results of the Massachusetts election, which robbed them of their supermajority in the Senate, and passed Obamacare through “reconciliation” instead.
Friedman is probably the worst possible person to argue for “democracy,” since he shows so little regard for it. In November 2008, he fantasized about the U.S. becoming “China for a day,” using dictatorial powers to impose environmental rules on a nation that would not otherwise accept them. He expressed that desire long before the Tea Party existed and, indeed, before President-elect Obama had even taken office.
There is another, deeper point here. The United States is not, in the strictest sense, a democracy. It is a republic. The Constitution was designed to constrain majority power and to prevent that power from being concentrated in any one branch of government, and even within the legislature itself. By asserting a false argument for “democracy,” Friedman is actually attacking the foundations of our constitutional order.
The real threat–both to our democracy and our republic–is the authoritarian posture of President Barack Obama, who refuses to negotiate with the opposition, or even acknowledge its legitimacy. Though we are told that Obamacare is the “law of the land,” Obama has altered that law–arbitrarily, and illegally–to suit his own needs. That is not democracy. It is tyranny. And democratic resistance to it is long overdue.