An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Democratic Power

Let’s call a spade at least a garden shovel by agreeing that the words Democrat and Republican often mean less than they ought. As noted in this space previously, parties are intended to give voters a shorthand so that they can easily understand what candidates stand for. In an increasingly complex policy environment, few voters pay enough attention to make informed judgements and, while one may find the idea of voting a straight party line with little thought to be a bit troubling to notions of real democracy, it is better than withdrawing from the process or completely uninformed voting. Of course, in all too many areas of our great nation, one or the other party dominates, making voters much less free to decide who will lead or represent them.

In large parts of Maryland the Democratic Party is overwhelmingly dominant, and holds a significant edge in the state as a whole. While this is not necessarily a problem and one is even tempted to point out the many advantages wrought by progressive leadership, it does make a bit of a farce out of most general elections. Rational politicians or would-be politicians in Maryland who are anything but the most conservative, or truly Green, are thus encouraged to become Democrats. One can hardly blame those of moderate temperament and values who could be anything from New Democrats to Rockefeller Republicans, to find a way to be Democrats.

The long and short of this is that I read that Senate President Mike Miller wants to cement his control of the Senate by making it easier to stop filibusters. Now personally, I’m not thrilled with Governor Ehrlich and I welcome steps which clip his wings, but Miller is hardly a Democrat’s Democrat. One of the balancing acts the founders of the nation tried out, to some success one cannot help but note, was to create a republic that is both responsive to the wishes of the citizenry while protecting us from the tyranny of the majority. Without overstating the case, I ask whether we should alter the balance between those competing goals for short term political gain? And, do we really want Mike Miller to have more power even if it helps to weaken Ehrlich?