Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘United States Senate

The Virtue of Dissent

with 69 comments

Folks, there’s been a lot in the news lately about dissent, and about how it’s supposedly unpatriotic to disagree.

I beg to differ.

We need dissent. Or we can’t function as a democracy.

See, when people feel stifled from talking about anything, whether it’s something that is frustrating, unpleasant, difficult, annoying, or any other of a dozen other things that are incredibly hard to discuss, that causes a lot of trouble.

When you feel stifled, when you feel your voice isn’t being heard, that builds resentment. And at best, when you feel that much resentment, you aren’t likely to be looking for any sort of compromise; you’ve already been told compromise is not possible because your point of view is not important.

And yet, in a democracy, every voice is important. And we all get a say.

Being able to discuss problems in a rational manner without yelling at the top of your lungs or telling the other person (or party) that they’re a bunch of blithering idiots is mandatory. But right now, we don’t seem to have too many in the Congress who are willing to be adults and do the people’s work — i.e., compromise for the common good — because they are either blinded by the power or they are daunted by the responsibility.

Whenever we have one party solely in charge of the government — whether it was the Democrats from 2008-2010, or the Republicans from 2016-2018 — that makes it harder for dissenting voices to be heard. And when they aren’t heard, those voices usually become movements. And those movements become akin to steamrollers…witness what happened with the Tea Party in 2010, for example.

That’s what is supposed to happen in a democracy. Those who feel ignored have a right to talk, to assemble, to figure out what they’re going to do, and then they have a right to make their case to the public.

It is a virtue.

That we can see dissent as a virtue was, at one point, uniquely American.

But now, we have a man as President with authoritarian impulses (or at least a great deal of bloviating and authoritarian speech), and he definitely does not seem to think that dissent is valuable, or a virtue, or needed in a democracy.

He wants instead for everyone to follow him. Because he says so.

To my mind, that is not good enough. We have to have reasons for what we do. Logical reasons. And we have to have some basis and forethought and planning behind these logical reasons.

When government officials pop off and do things on the spur of the moment, we get bad law, bad policy, and a whole host of unintended consequences. That, in general, is why you want to have responsible public officials who are willing to call people — regardless of party or power or prestige — on the carpet when they do something that is harmful.

That’s why we need dissent.

We have had one-party rule with vigorous dissent in the past, looking back to WW II, for example. Harry S Truman, then a Senator, held hearings about war profiteering. Most of those he called before him were Democrats, but that didn’t stop him; right was right, and he did the right thing.

That is what brought him to FDR’s attention, and it’s why Truman became FDR’s Vice President in 1944. Without Truman dissenting vigorously, Truman never would’ve become VP, and thus never would’ve ascended to the Presidency after FDR’s passing.

Unfortunately, the Republicans in charge of the House and Senate have not dissented very much. Not with the travel ban. Not with the tariffs. Not with the immigration situation, whether it’s families being split up at the border, DACA, or anything else.

Nope. Instead, they’ve blindly — as a body — done the President’s work, which is not what the Constitution wanted. (We have separation of powers for a reason.)

Yes, individual Republicans, such as Bob Corker or John McCain or a few retiring House Reps, have stepped up and said they believe that the President needs to be checked now and again. That no one should have that much power. And that there’s a reason we have a deliberative body like the Congress…and that they should do their jobs, and uphold their Constitutional responsibilities.

I believe in the power of dissent. I believe it is constructive to dissent, to allow dissent, to understand dissent, and to appreciate dissent. I also believe that if we start to think that dissenting is “unpatriotic” or “anti-American,” we are ceding our rights of dissent and getting nothing back.

I am concerned that we have so many politicians that are (in George Will’s words as heard on MSNBC months ago), “supine” or “craven.” They do not express dissent because of these two horrible characteristics, and thus do not do the people’s business thereby.

My hope is that more people will understand that dissent is healthy, necessary, and essential.

But my fear is that too many people won’t realize what’s at stake, or what could be at stake if the current crop of supine and craven Republicans in the House and Senate continue to refuse to be a check on this President. And that we’ll go further down the garden path of authoritarianism, and lose our abilities to dissent freely and fairly.

What you need to do, if you live in the U.S., is this: Think hard about what you want out of your representatives and Senators. Do you want them to blindly trust anyone without doing their due diligence? Or do you want them to be like Harry Truman, and stand up for what’s right, whether it’s against their own party or not?

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Post-Turkey Day Thoughts

with 2 comments

Folks, I know I haven’t blogged in a bit. Due to Thanksgiving, and the family festivities (or at least attempted festivities — more on that in a bit), and also due to me dealing with some sort of respiratory issue, I just haven’t had the wherewithal to blog.

But I do now. (Barely.) So I figured I’d give you a few post-Thanksgiving (Turkey) Day thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. Following up with my previous blog, I remain disgusted with Roy Moore and firmly hope that the voters of Alabama will look into the (numerous) allegations against him. If they are true in any way (most particularly the ones regarding Moore’s trysts with women younger than eighteen when he was in his thirties, making him a possible pedophile), I hope he will not attain the United States Senate.
  2. It was good to see my brother and his insanely cute dog, Braunie. (One of these days, I need to take a picture of the two of them. They get along well and make me smile.)
  3. Note the difference between Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Roy Moore (the Republican Senatorial candidate) regarding various allegations of sexual misconduct. Franken may have placed his hand on a butt. He also put his hand close to a breast of a sleeping woman, LeeAnn Tweeden. (I can’t really tell if he put it on there or not, but either way, it wasn’t appropriate as she couldn’t consent, being asleep.) And he has apologized for these things, saying he has much making up to do and that he’s going to be more cognizant of his behavior moving forward. Yet Moore firmly denies every allegation, even when it’s been corroborated by mall security and a number of other disinterested parties that Moore, in his thirties, was apparently well-known for being a hound-dog when it came to young women and girls. Even though Moore has apparently said the first time he noticed his wife, she was in her late teens (under eighteen), too…
  4. So which is the problem child here, hm? The guy who says, “I did wrong but I will do better” with some relatively minor issues? (Not good, and it shouldn’t have happened, granted.) Or the guy who says, “I did nothing wrong, it’s a Democratic frame-job, and all these women who are coming out of the woodwork now don’t matter whatsoever,” and gets Evangelical Christians to pray for him, not the women allegedly hurt by him?
  5. Note that if anything remotely close to Moore’s alleged behavior comes out against Franken, I will call for Franken’s removal from the Senate immediately. (Does this even need to be said? I am against pedophilia, folks! How awful is it that in 2017, we have to actually state this?)

Anyway, I am happy that I was able to see some of my family. (I was too ill to see most, but I did see some and that’s good.) Though I couldn’t really celebrate, eating some good food (though I stuck to the softer stuff due to my sore throat) was warmly welcomed.

And aside from that, do consider reading some good stuff to distract yourself from the holiday bustle (which tends to make those of us who’ve lost loved ones feel more miserable at this time of year than any other, save for anniversaries of course). May I suggest authors Christopher Nuttall, Kayelle Allen, Zen DiPietro, Jason Cordova, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Rosemary Edghill, Patricia C. Wrede, and Lois McMaster Bujold? **Edited to add: How could I forget my friends Loren K. Jones and Christine Amsden? Read their stuff, too…and if I’ve forgotten anyone else, let me know. (Chris Smith, too. And if I keep going, I’ll never stop, so…)

(Or, if you are interested in my writing, please do take a look…you may find something you like there, too.)

Oh, and if you’re looking for an inspirational thoughts book to whet your interest, take a look at N.N. Light’s latest…it’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and I’m sure you’ll love it.

So, that’s it…my post-Thanksgiving Day thoughts. (Now, can I interest you in some leftover turkey? Cranberry sauce? Mashed potatoes? Pecan pie? Please?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 26, 2017 at 7:20 pm

U.S. Senate Filibusters Defense Sec. Nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel

with 3 comments

Folks, sometimes I truly do not understand Washington, DC, whatsoever.

Former Republican United States Senator Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska, who has been nominated by the Obama Administration to become the next Secretary of Defense, has been effectively filibustered by the U.S. Senate on a 58-40 vote in favor of Hagel — with one Senator, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), only being willing to vote “present.”

Sixty votes were needed in order to end this stalemate.  And the Senate could only muster 58.  (Plus Hatch’s “present” vote.)

My word.

Here’s the four Republicans who voted against the filibuster and for Senator Hagel: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Only four Senators voted for their former colleague, a well-respected, decorated military veteran.  And a member of their own political party.

(Plus Hatch, who voted present — thus proving he was unwilling to vote against Hagel even if by doing so he looked timid, at best.)

What is wrong with the Senate, if they can’t even vote to confirm a respectable, responsible guy like Senator Hagel?

Look.  I lived in Nebraska for several years.   I know Hagel to be a political conservative, but he is honest and principled and understands the military extremely well.  He has the courage of his convictions.

Hagel will make an admirable Secretary of Defense, as he would most likely be mighty unwilling to spend lives needlessly.  And having a former military veteran as the Defense Secretary has to help, doesn’t it?

Well, apparently not if you’re a Republican Senator.  Even when it comes to one of your own retired colleagues.

Now we get to wait ten days until another vote can be taken.

All I can say is, I remain unimpressed by what I’ve seen out of both houses of Congress this year.  And I echo what Harry Reid had to say as quoted by this article via the Huffington Post:

Reid decried the outcome immediately after the vote Thursday evening, emphasizing the need to relieve outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta of his obligations and confirm Hagel at a time when the country continues to face military challenges.

“There is nothing going to change in the next 10 days about the qualifications of Chuck Hagel,” Reid said.

“I’m going to go call Chuck Hagel when I finish here and say, I’m sorry — sorry this has happened. I’m sorry for the president, I’m sorry for the country, and I’m sorry for you, but we’re not going to give up on you,” he added.

One final thought: Hagel will be confirmed, and deserves to be confirmed.  So all of these machinations merely make most of the Republicans look foolish (save the four who voted against the filibuster, thus for Hagel).  And that doesn’t give me a whole lot of hope for our country whatsoever.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 14, 2013 at 6:36 pm