John McGowan, pinch-hitting for Michael Berube, posted an important diary today on Berube’s blog.  He’s talking about democracy, and that it can never be real with one-party rule:

The basic idea is simple: it’s not a democracy unless the “outs” have a reasonable hope of someday becoming the “ins.” Another way to put the same idea: it’s not a democracy (in Iraq or anyplace else) unless you have had at least two peaceful transitions in which an incumbent party loses an election and hands over power to a rival party.

Ghana, which had a peaceful transition recently, is well on its way to democracy, then.  Iraq, which has no “opposition” within the system (just a strange ruling coalition), is not.

Here, we are moving away from democracy (defined this way): just look at the House of Representatives today.  James Sensenbrenner:

chairman of the panel, abruptly gaveled the meeting to an end and walked out, followed by other Republicans. Sensenbrenner declared that much of the testimony, which veered into debate over the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, was irrelevant.

When one party can make such a claim, no matter the topic, and bring discussion to a close, the government is losing sight of the possibility (it used to be the fact) of transition, that the other side will eventually be in power again.

That may be, in fact, the whole point: the Republicans are banking on the idea that there never will be a transition of power between parties again in the United States.  So they no longer are interested in the rights of the minority.  So Sensenbrenner can turn of the microphones of those whose points he doesn’t feel are important.

So Sensenbrenner can ignore the concepts of debate and free speech that once were the basis of our country’s political discourse and stability.

No longer is it one party that is on the outs.  Today, democracy itself, I’m afraid, is on the outs.

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