The temptation to dictatorship


"Love is patient." We know the truth of this when examining ourselves personally. But does it apply to politics? We see how it does when prominent public figures go beyond expressing impatience with the democratic process to openly advocating the suspension of the Constitution so that President Obama can really get down to the business of hope and change unencumbered by the rule of law.

Woody Allen was recently quoted as saying, "It would be good . . . if he could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly." Granted, we're accustomed to Hollywood personalities making bizarre political statements, and so we don't take them as speaking for the political left in general.

But when three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says the same thing, and when NBC's David Gregory and veteran journalist Andrea Mitchell agree with him, as they did recently on Meet the Press, it is time to oil up the Second Amendment to make sure it's in good working condition. Only Paul Gigot interjects to point out that what everyone at the table is blithely considering is insane.

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GREGORY: I want to follow up on one point, though, Tom Friedman, which is when you have such activism on the left and the right, what does that do to the political center and how do you govern in that respect? . . .

FRIEDMAN: Well, David, it's been decimated. It's been decimated by everything from the gerrymandering of political districts to cable television to an internet where I can create a digital lynch mob against you from the left or right if I don't like where you're going, to the fact that money and politics is so out of control---really our Congress is a forum for legalized bribery. You know, that's really what, what it's come down to. So I don't---I, I---I'm worried about this, it's why I have fantasized---don't get me wrong---but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment. I don't want to be China for a second, OK; I want my democracy to work with the same authority, focus, and stick-to-itiveness. But right now we have a system that can only produce suboptimal solutions.

MITCHELL: And, in fact, Tom, you're absolutely right. One case in point, the financial regulation bill, which we can get to . . .

GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MITCHELL: . . . but Chris Dodd realized that Bob Bennett, with whom he wanted to work, the ranking member on the Banking Committee, was so swept away by his fight back home in Utah that he could not work across party lines, and that there is so much punishment for anyone who works across party lines to try to come up the best solutions so they end up with things that are not optimal.

GIGOT: We'd all be in jail if we were China for a second.

FRIEDMAN: No, I---it's---I understand. I don't want to be China. I want our system to work, though.

The spirit of political equality, of democratic mutual respect, entails patience with one another and with the process we have all agreed to share. Recognizing love as the crowning virtue and thus as the fulfillment of divine righteousness and human calling points us politically toward a republic of laws and toward respect for due process of law when political passion moves us to impatience with what we judge to be our less clear-sighted neighbors. The patience of love bears with fellow citizens through the costly burden of debate and moral influence with a view to persuading them to the position we are sure is correct. The process is often slow and incomplete, and must end in compromise of some sort. For this reason, love---which for a Christian and for a Christian society is at the heart of democratic self-government---"is not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.


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