The Democratic Party and the Process Dodge
A common theme in the string of Democratic Party failures over the last years is what I call "Blaming The Process". Or at least that is the narrative Democratic Party officials use when justifying themselves to the activist base. Something outside of their control, something about the legal, political or media process is actually responsible for the outcomes.
The failure to block the Roberts and Alito nominations, the failure to do anything concrete to end the occupation of Iraq, and now the imminent approval of warrantless domestic surveillance, are somehow not the responsibility of the Democratic elected officials.
The fault is to be found in things like the intricate details of the Filibuster and the Nuclear Option, the military budgeting process, the process whereby the media will utterly destroy any politician they deem to be "soft on terror".
However much Democratic politicians express their heartfelt desire to do the things their activist base and now the majority of Americans want them to do, the desired outcomes fail to materialize.
In light of this, is it wrong to wonder whether blaming the process is just an excuse and that the politicians are not being entirely honest in their stated intentions?
I know it's not polite to question people's motivations. But I think it's only natural to question a person when what they do does not match what they say. Over and over again.
As workers in the "highly efficient" corporate economy, we citizens are judged based on results, not on the persuasiveness of our excuses. Well, maybe with an exception for CEO's...
The Republican Party's approach to The Process
Paul O'Neill, Bush Jr's first Secretary of the Treasury, was horrified by what he discovered was the Bushies' utter contempt for process:
[O'Neill] is upset at the regular violations he sees against his notion of "sound" government. There is, he concludes, "a pattern: either no process, or a truncated one, where efforts to collect evidence and construct smart policy are, with little warning, co-opted by the White House political team, or the Vice President, or whoever got to the President and said something, true or not."
As a good technocrat O'Neill believed in process: assemble the experts, follow procedures, learn from best practices, make decisions based on the best data, gather a consensus.. all in order to get the best results.
This reflects a similar devotion to process by Liberal technocrats. Ideally, for them, the process itself will determine the best outcomes. Insistence on preconcieved notions of what the outcome should be will only ruin the outcome.
But for Republicans and the Bushies in particular, achieving their desired outcomes is all that matters. Fuck the process. The process is there to be manipulated, exploited, modified... whatever it takes to get the final result at the other end.
The Bushies have demonstrated this almost on a daily basis. They have successfully manipulated: the intelligence gathering process, the process whereby the media is supposed to inform the public, the election process, the legal process, the budget process, the very laws of the Constitution.
On pretty much every policy issue, the Bushies have gotten what they wanted. They have delivered for their base, for their donors and for their core constituents. And they never let the process stand in their way.
The past seven years are proof that the technocratic reliance on the process alone to determine the best outcomes does not work. This is because with things like running the US Government, the stakes are so high that there will always be groups of people who have no respect for the process and will do whatever it takes to bend it to their purposes.
The Democratic Party's approach to The Process
It's so frustrating to see some Democrats not even take a stand on what their values are and what, exactly, they want for the country.
Is this because of a deeply felt technocratic belief in process ("I'm for whatever a select panel of experts and stakeholders determines!") or is it really an excuse to escape accountability by avoiding setting any concrete goals (no goals, no failure!)?
It's also frustrating to watch activists and bloggers follow all the intricate details of the process like kittens chasing a ball of string (the Scooter Libby Trial, anyone?). As if the process fucking mattered with the Bushies still on the playing field and the Dems sitting the game out.
There has to be a way to govern with purpose, to achieve policy outcomes that benefit all citizens and to be able to do it without lying, cheating and breaking the law. Otherwise our system of government is pretty much done for.