Sunday, April 17, 2011

On The Value of Rowdy Democracy (Update 1)

Tea Party Rally in Madison, April 15th, 2011

In a recent exchange on Twitter, I was asked to comment on the fact that at the recent rally in Madison where Tea Party and Union forces faced off, there was a lot of shouting, yelling, cowbell and whistles from the Union side while the Tea Party speakers were attempting to present.  Andrew Breitbart was heard to yell "Go to Hell!" to the rowdy Union forces several times during his speech.  Was this, I was asked, acceptable?  My response was a swift and unequivocal YES.  But not for the reasons you might think.

I'm a leftist, a liberal, a progressive, a socialist.  I support my "team" in every possible way. I march, I tweet, I blog. But the reasons I support the Union strategy of a "shout down" against the Tea Party speakers has nothing to do with that (except for a little Schadenfreude, perhaps, or, as my lovely wife would say, "You plant corn, you get corn").  Instead, my appreciation for this strategy stems from my fear of a day when such strategies will be prohibited.  That position, the prohibition of opposition, is the refuge of the tyrant.  And I believe in democracy in all her messy, unpleasant glory.

Democracy is an ugly business. It's messy and laden with a long history of agitation and even violence.  But the alternative?  A society where such expressions (short of violence) are absent?  Is that really what we, as a society want? Was there ever a time where unopposed political speech was a good thing? In each and every case when that happens, tyranny emerges.  Not the faux tyranny of the Tea Party and their cries of "socialism" and "New World Order," but actual tyranny in the form of a government that brooks no opposition.  Think Chile in 1973, Germany in 1937, the USSR, North Korea, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba, Zimbabwe, South Africa and countless others throughout history.

The long history of democratic ideas, not just in America, but dating back to Greece is filled with such rowdy examples.  Socrates himself was eventually put to death for his agitation among the young men of Athens (including his favorite student, Plato).   Ask yourself, when Caesar outmaneuvered and silenced his opponents (sometimes by killing them), was that a good thing? When Woodrow Wilson enacted sedition laws that silenced radicals, was that a good thing? When the House Un-American Activities Committee  stifled dissent, was that a good thing?

In each case, whenever citizens were prevented from screaming "YOU ARE WRONG!" at the top of their lungs, tyranny emerged. So give me a band of rowdy hippies shouting down the contrived political speech of our so-called political elites any day and twice on Saturday.  Give me the filthy embrace of democracy and I will snuggle in her soiled affections.  The alternative is unthinkable.

Someone posted a link to this in Twitter, this guy is awesome!


  1. Thanks! It's been burbling below the surface for some time, I thought it was high time it came out.