As the United States struggles to solve a myriad of entrenched systemic problems—the list, according to NYT columnist David Brooks: “the lack of consumer demand, the credit crunch, the continuing slide in housing prices, the freeze in business investment, the still hefty consumer debt levels and the skills mismatch,not to mention regulatory burdens, the business class’s utter lack of confidence in the White House, the looming explosion of entitlement costs, the public’s lack of confidence in institutions across the board”…he may have missed one or two—it is alarming how many prominent individuals have announced their readiness to abandon representative democracy or part of it. Even the President himself has wistfully said that he wishes he could bypass Congress. His former budget director, Peter Orszag, has an essay in the current New Republic is which he calls for “less democracy.” Hollywood liberals have been quick to follow this theme; Woody Allen told an overseas journalist that the United States would be better off if Obama could be a benevolent dictator.
I think this is playing with fire and irresponsible in the extreme, particularly given the last item in Brooks’s list. This position is especially irresponsible when it comes from elected officials in high offices, and thus it isn’t surprising that when Nouth Carolina’s Democratic governor, Beverly Perdue, told a rotary club event in Cary, N.C. …
“I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that”
…commentators in the media expressed alarm. Her PR team’s official response? Perdue spokesman Chris Mackey wrote that she was only joshing: “Come on … Gov. Perdue was obviously using hyperbole to highlight what we can all agree is a serious problem: Washington politicians who focus on their own election instead of what’s best for the people they serve.”
Really? Then she really has to work on her delivery. Listen to this recording. Is there the slightest hint or inflection in it that the Governor wasn’t being completely literal and serious? (True–we can’t tell if she was wearing Groucho glasses and had a fake arrow through her head.) The excuse is a lie, and Gov. Perdue was serious….which means she is irresponsible and untrustworthy, not to mention Constitutionally illiterate, an probably as dumb as a doorstop. I don’t want people in elected positions of leadership advocating the suspension of elections. I’m funny that way.
“It was just a joke” is a tried-and true dodge that has been around forever; I wrote about it here. (Aside: For some reason, this post has been latched onto by spammers, and I get 20-50 spam comments on it every day. It’s nice to be able to reference it legitimately.) As I wrote over a year ago, it is an especially bad excuse when the supposed joker is a politician, and the context can be checked. When Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley’s embarrassing identification of Yankee-killing Red Sox pitching hero Curt Schilling as “a Yankee fan,” her gaffe (I think it lost her the election to Scott Brown as much as anything else) was explained by her spokesman as “a very dry joke.” What that pathetic excuse told everyone was not that Coakley was a secret Red Sox fan and in the possession of the dryest sense of humor since Calvin Coolidge, but that she would lie to get herself out of a gaffe, and that she thought the voters were idiots.
The same conclusion applies to Perdue…that, and the fact that she thinks suspending democratic elections is a good idea, just like her apparent role models, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Idi Amin.
Clarence Darrow said that “In order to have enough freedom, its is necessary that we have too much.” As usual, I’m with Darrow. And I’m not joking.
9 thoughts on “Incompetent Elected Official of the Month: North Carolina Governor Beverly Purdue”
She’s the governor of North Carolina. Do you want get lynched by a bunch of angry South Carolinians for even daring to have confused the two?
I didn’t want to spoil my perfect record of making that particular mistake every year, at least once, on this blog.
That mistake is almost as inexcusable as saying Curt Schilling is a Yankee fan. But couldn’t you tell I was only joking?
People, even powerful people, often desire less democracy when democracy doesn’t seem to be working. It is a testament to the strength of democracy in the United States (and many other democracies) that people do not act on these desires.
“People, even powerful people, often desire less democracy…”
No, I’m pretty sure they just desire more power. Less democracy is a necessary, but regrettable consequence.
The two aims are not mutually exclusive. Less power for the people means more power for “the elite”, defined in all of its myriad ways.
Note that some people want less democracy not necessarily because they would gain more power but because they believe it would allow the state (or businesses, or whoever) to get more done. Witness, for example, the frequent comparisons between Western democracies and China. China is admired because it is able to get things done quickly thanks to the lack of democratic debate.
Of course they are not mutually exclusive: they are the two sides of the same coin. My disagreement with people who think along these lines has to do with the definition of “democracy doesn’t seem to be working.”
Preventing the wrong thing(s) from getting done is democracy working at its best. All too often, things that are done “for my own good” aren’t good for me at all. (e.g. I would gladly give up every penny paid into, and all future benefits owed to me by Social Security if I had the option to OPT OUT now. S.S. may be great for a lot of people–maybe even a majority–but it’s demonstrably bad for ME.)
The real stupidity of the Governor’s comment is that we already do have exactly what she’s asking for, and for exactly the reasons she is asking for it: it’s called the United States Senate. Instead of two-year terms, Senators have six-year terms precisely so that they can focus more on serving their country and their constituents without having to keep perpetually campaigning.
So according to Gov. Perdue, the Senate should be an absolute model of both ethics and effectiveness. How’s that working out for you, Governor?
…which brings us around to the very reason why democracy is so awesome. No one person, or even small group of people, can ever be smarter and more benevolent than EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE COUNTRY. Inevitably, a decision will be made or a policy put into place that has unintended consequences that the leader(s) did not consider, but that could have been prevented because SOMEONE out there would have thought of it.
Opposing bad policies is just as important as enacting good ones.
Doing nothing is always better than getting a lot of bad things done.
Prediction: When the Senate is controlled by Republicans (particularly if it’s a 60+ majority), Governor Perdue will get around to making a statement about how Senators should only serve two-year terms because it takes so long for the American people to effect a change in the makeup of the Senate.
I agree with you about preventing the wrong thing from being done. I think democratic debate is a good thing and that rushing into new projects can be foolish (witness the problem the Chinese have had with high speed rail).
And to the fact that the majority of their exports are produced by what Americans would term “slave labor.” What morons “admire” China, except insofar as America is stupid enough to be so far in debt to them that fear drives a necessary but phony respect?
I nominate Judge Les Meade of Tippecanoe County Indiana. Google him to read about all of his (supposed) exploits. hen read this: