Libya, Democracy and Civility

Something tells me that events in Libya are not going to end well. Gadhafi said Tuesday he will continue fighting until “he dies a martyr.” That doesn’t sound like he is preparing to go gently into the good night, joining Mubarak at the retirement villa for deposed dictators and  playing shuffleboard to while away the long afternoons before happy hour.

And to put matters into perspective in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East — Egypt included — here’s a NYT article, “When Armies Decide“:

There comes a moment in the life of almost every repressive regime when leaders — and the military forces that have long kept them in power — must make a choice from which there is usually no turning back: Change or start shooting.

Egypt’s military, calculating that it was no longer worth defending an 82-year-old, out-of-touch pharaoh with no palatable successor and no convincing plan for Egypt’s future, ultimately sided with the protesters on the street, at least for Act 1.

In so doing, they ignored the advice of the Saudis, who, in calls to Washington, said that President Hosni Mubarak should open fire if that’s what it took, and that Americans should just stop talking about “universal rights” and back him.

As the contagion of democracy protests spread in the Arab world last week, Bahrain’s far less disciplined forces decided, in effect, that the Saudis, who are their next-door neighbors, were right. They drew two lessons from Egypt: If President Obama calls, hang up. And open fire early.

Gulp.

OK, the situation — revolution? — in Libya is serious to say the least, with plenty of lives already lost — I heard an estimate on TV this morning of 1,000 or more  — and many others certain to be on the line as this thing plays out.

And that’s why it is a major league stretch — for me at least — when pundits and members of the chattering class equate what is going on in Libya, Egypt and so on with the protests in Wisconsin and Ohio over the pension and benefits of public employees, collective bargaining and unions.

Folks, we already live in a representative democracy, and the last time I checked, we go to the polls at certain prescribed intervals and elect our government officials. And if things don’t work out to the satisfaction of voters, then we toss via the ballot box the miscreants out of office and they pack the good china and leave by the front door.

That’s why I have a tough time swallowing Paul Krugman’s suggestion in the NYT that the situation in Wisconsin — and now elsewhere — is somehow making America less of a functioning democracy and leading the USA down the road to becoming a third-world-style oligarchy.

Saying that, I don’t believe that what is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana now should be a complete surprise. Hey, as someone opined, elections have consequences — and as best I can tell the governors and legislators in all the states involved were elected to serve. So it strains my sense of civility when we start calling elected officials a Hitler, a Mubarak, a Gadhafi and so on.

Full disclosure: I voted for John Kasich in Ohio, mostly because it appeared to me that Ted Strickland sat for four years with two thumbs solidly up his ass while the state of Ohio shed jobs and industries. So at this point I’m willing to give Kasich the benefit of the doubt. I got what I asked for –a fiscal conservative who appears willing to make some tough choices that are clearly needed in the Buckeye State.

But I don’t see how drawing a line in the sand on collective bargaining rights for public unions contributes to job growth in Ohio at all. I suppose I’m missing the big picture here

But in any event, couldn’t we tone the demonstrations down a notch? There has to be a more reasoned approach to legislation and policy making than one group shouting “kill the bill” followed by a chorus of “pass the bill.” Wonder if they do the wave? Oops. I digress.

And by the way, four years from now if things don’t improve here in Ohio, I’ll vote to replace John Kasich. And if enough others agree that he hasn’t earned the job, then he’ll pack the china and exit. And voters will have arranged an orderly transfer of power in one of the most serene settings anywhere: in the voting booth. And that’s a long way right now from the streets in the Middle East.

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2 responses to “Libya, Democracy and Civility

  1. For a Nobel Prize winner, Krugman is an idiot (they give those things out like candy, don’t they-see Gore, A. and Obama, B.) but i think he’s actually right. We do become less of a democracy when one side decides it dosn’t want to play and takes it’s toys and hides upstairs under the bed..in the case of Wisconsin they are hiding under a bed in Illinois.
    I don’t look at this as busting a Union…I look at it as an honest attempt at budget reform. When public service unions demand collective bargaining, who are they bargaining against? Not some evil corporation but against their neighbors who are paying their wages and unfunded and unaffordable benefits.
    What has to be broken is the cycle of politicians, both D and R, laundering money thru unions in return for lock step campaign contributions.
    As someone said last week, you better take 3/4 of a loaf before the bakery closes.
    I have to go. I’m trying to get Dr. Phil to write me a fradulent sick note so I can get out of work on friday.
    (Hope your feeling better…J.J.’s worried about you)

    • Well, on this issue at least, I think Dr. K has been spending a little too much time inside the Ivy Tower. And I’m doing fine. Docs have no clue what caused the vertigo episodes.

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