Singing the Bite Me Song

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April 10, 2005

If the filibuster goes, will it be death of the Roman Republic?

I was just watching the exchange on CBS's "Face the Nation" this morning. Bob Scheiffer usually tells it straight and I look forward to his wry sensibility every Sunday, but it seems today he was downplaying the seriousness of what seems to be happening in the Senate by casting it strictly as a political issue instead of looking at it through the lens of history.

I believe the historical ramifications are exactly what the Republicans have in mind, and they are just using politics of the day to push it through, to change the tradition of the Senate to act as a check and balance on other branches of government just as the founders intended, and to protect minority positions in a way the House of Representatives never would be able to.

In short, I don't believe the GOP would be threatening this kind of "scorched earth" tactic, the "nuclear" option, if they had any DOUBT that the Republican Party WILL NOT EVER be out of power again in the U.S. If the party in power ever changes hands again, the GOP would have deliberately screwed themselves royally.

Do they know something we don't? Is the fix in?

I know people who truly believe there will never be another free election in the U.S. (presuming that the last election was actually "free").

What boggles the mind is that they would fundamentally restructure the government FOR TEN JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS. 10. Out of several hundred approved. Is there any kind of proportionality to these actions?

That is what tells me this has NOTHING to do with those nominees. They are merely an excuse to heap power on an unchecked executive branch.

And there is an important historical correlary that we all should have in the forefront of our minds before the political considerations: look at what happened with the Senate in Roman Republic when the head of state was given unchecked power. The Roman Republic became the Roman Empire, and for those who don't get this part, THAT WAS NOT A GOOD THING.

There were people at that time willing to fight and die to keep Rome a republic, it was that important. Where are those people now?

For the many times President Bush utters the words "freedom" and "democracy" in his talking points speeches that never say anything, he has done more to undermine any idea of "democracy" and "freedom" than any other president in the history of the United States.

Hell, even ABC's "This Week" is taking on checks and balances today as well, and Stephanopoulis has been practicing his GOP goosestepping these days or his general smarminess makes it look that way sometimes. The Republicans are taking on the overthrow of BOTH the legislative and judicial branches, to hand unchecked power directly to the executive branch, something that hasn't been done in the history of overwrought legislative wrangling in the U.S.

I think this is a mad power grab, pure and simple. This is the moment of the shift from republic to empire.

Yes, I know the U.S is technically already an empire, as was Rome even when it was a republic.

The difference was apparent to anyone who lived in that time. Look at the difference between the writings of Cicero and Quintillian. Cicero was a great speaker and leader because Rome did have an actual tradition of speaking and writing having an influence on policy. Quintillian was a great teacher, but the subject he taught, rhetoric, to argue persuasively and have an influence, was toothless by then. Words and ideas had no power in Rome by Quintillian's day because the Empire and the Caesars were by then unchecked by anything resembling democracy.

And there's no Brutus in sight. The fact that I even bring that subject up probably puts me on some kind of a "watch list."

Would you believe I was actually afraid to write that sentence, and I erased it several times?

That is the most revealing thing about the status of dissent in this Roman Empire. I'm forcing myself to leave that sentence in, a factual reference to Roman history, in spite of my active fear.

The truth is, no matter how hard I try to be bold, I have begun to fear my own attachment to freedom of speech, to the Bill of Rights in the constitution. I'm afraid these days of even speaking out. Wow. I NEVER thought I'd see the day where would say that and mean it. Will my very thoughts and my inability to "govern" my speech based on those thoughts be my downfall? Will they be yours?


April 10, 2005 at 11:16 AM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, News to Note, Politics, Privacy & Free Speech, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song, Writing | Permalink


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Great commentary. The thing on the Roman Empire is simply wonderful. I've sent letters to my senators about this but as they are both Republicans I have no doubt my sentiments were ignored. I never dreamed I would see the loss of the Republic in my lifetime, now I dream of the day when it returns. I share your fears of a watch list. I suspect all of us in the media do, and are probably already on it.

Posted by: Anita | Apr 17, 2005 5:19:13 PM

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