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Hello Silence My Old Friend

Much criticism has been levied against the Obama administration based upon his grand claim that his is the most transparent government in history. I would argue that he has. The opacity exists within the framework of government and the entangling bureaucracy but the purpose of his administration and the trajectory we are currently set upon is plain and clear as day. There is nothing more transparent than a naked grab for power. The rapid and complete accumulation of power by the executive completed by any means possible regardless of sense or history is the readily apparent goal. The secondary purpose is to protect at all costs the purveyor and director of this dramatic change.

 

It was easy to see from the outset that any disagreement or diversion from the master plan was to be treated with a “We won” mentality, and it was. Even now, when the President’s own party was unwilling to pass Cap and Trade with its overwhelming majorities in his first term he is utilizing executive authority to do so anyway. Look at the keystone in his legislative agenda. Republicans were outside of the negotiations, their amendments were summarily ignored, their input was discarded, and their votes were completely absent. Now, instead of recognizing that some of those amendments were sensible or that compromise on a society-shaping piece of legislation might have been a positive thing, the Republicans are being blamed for the disastrous roll out of a bill they had no part of crafting and did not vote for. So important is the desire for protection from public scrutiny that decency, reality, and respect are sacrificed to meet it. A similar campaign of diversion and steadfast refusal to admit error is embedded into the Benghazi attacks, the scandal surrounding Fast and Furious, the step-up of drone attacks with the inclusion of American citizens and the seemingly unlimited scope of the NSA activities.

 

Through the lens of government power, the ability to divert public attention is paramount. The seminal story of oppressive government force is Orwell’s 1984. In the book the government was even able to switch enemies in the midst of a war with the public being none the wiser, made even more incredulous due to the fact that the public were all working members of the ruling Party. Any evidence to the contrary was blamed upon spies and subverts and was immediately burned. It was solidified with the phrase, repeated unquestioningly by all. “We were always at war with Eurasia”. All of the previous scandals follow the same disturbing pattern. First it is dismissed as a trifle, then it is contained within a faraway localized bureaucracy, then there is a person targeted as the culprit and the scandal begins to grow. As it builds momentum and pierces the hull of the White House there is stonewalling and ultimately obstruction. All of this has been accomplished and has allowed this administration to skate through several scandals without providing answers or finding truth. The second aspect to unchecked power in government is the silence of the opposition. This has been accomplished in the past week with the removal of the filibuster for judicial nominees and the majority rule change for the Senate.

 

This unprecedented move against history by the Senate should be viewed as part of an unrelenting pattern of consolidation of executive power. The filibuster in the Senate was unique in Congress specifically because that body was designed to be a more deliberative one than the hundreds of clamoring voices of the House. The mutual respect and camaraderie more congenial to the Senate has been evaporated in this strong-armed tactic used to shut down debate and silence opposition. Once again democratic principle is sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. This move is critically important to the functions of our government for two very distinct reasons. Firstly, now any rule of the Senate can change with a simple majority vote. This effectively erases the minority rights that had been enjoyed for the past two hundred years of Senate history. It can now operate as a strictly majority rule body without input or debate. It has already been noted that the Advise and Consent function of the Senate has now been stripped to merely consent; thus removing a considerable amount of its own authority. Secondly, this places the Executive branch in an incredible position of authority over the other two branches. The Senate is now, simply, a rubber stamp for the Executive’s will over the judiciary. Gone is the Advise power of the Senate and the Courts may be filled at whim by any President with even a 50/50 split in the Senate. The ideological make up of the Courts has been, is and always will be a point of great tension between the parties, but the voice of the American people has been removed to a degree with this last move to allow little to no debate over the qualifications and ideological background of nominees to those estimable positions. The authority of the executive is greatly increased by this last move and the door is opened to shut out further debate as Senators are asking for the removal of the filibuster even for legislative votes.

 

But politics is a constant chain of action and reaction. There is an opportunity to right the ship. 2014 is an election year where Republicans have, yet another, opportunity to reclaim the Senate. If they do, they face a choice. Will they restore the rights of the minority and allow voices of opposition to be heard, or will they likewise succumb to petty political point scoring? Idealism regularly conflicts with reality, none more so than the decision to reinstate the filibuster. The Republicans have the opportunity to stand yet again for an ideal. To reach beyond the small-minded political debates of our time to fight for those universal causes that have defined us as a nation throughout our short but storied history. People always wonder what it takes to make a great leader. Surely part of it is luck, because greatness can always be viewed against the backdrop of dramatic times. But the best of those, the most revered of those have risen up against the times to meet a demand. To fight for something more than what was in front of them. George Washington did not just fight the Redcoats, he created a nation. Abraham Lincoln did not just restore the Union, he freed a people. Ronald Reagan did not just stand up to the Evil Empire with words, but shined the light of liberty behind the impenetrable Iron Curtain. Our greatness too can be found in rising above the political clatter of the here and now to step firmly in those footsteps of those that came before us. Securing the rights so many fought for and so many have cherished. Or we could capitulate. We could cave in to the angry rising tide of frustrated call of political wailers. We could strike out in bloody revenge and turn our enemies tactics against them with fervent and perverse pleasure. But the situation will remain the same, the executive will have unchecked power over the legislative branch and immense influence upon the judiciary. The rules of the Senate will fluidly change to suit the passing desires of the majority and the silence of the minority will deafen the cries of the unrepresented. What is the worst that could happen? We were always at war with Eastasia…

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