The evolving, and nuanced, definition of Representative Republic

A December 14, 2013 column by Juliet Eilperin, for the Washington Post, suggests that the Obama administration:

Systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety, and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials.”

Members of the administration state that any such delays were purely coincidental, but, Eilperin writes:

Seven current and former administration officials told The Washington Post that the motives behind many of the delays were clearly political, as Obama’s top aides focused on avoiding controversy before his reelection.”

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

There will surely be those in the “everybody does it” crowd that will state that every election commission, for every presidential candidate, will be transparent about their plusses, and attempt to conceal their minuses, but to that point, Eilperin writes: “The number and scope of delays under Obama went well beyond those of his predecessors.”

Those findings,” Eilperin writes, “are bolstered by a new report from the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), an independent agency that advises the federal government on regulatory issues. The report is based on anonymous interviews with more than a dozen senior agency officials who worked with the Office of information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which oversees the implementation of federal rules.

Administration officials then further the claims that the delays were purely coincidental saying that implementing rules and regulations take time, and that their “approach to regulatory review is consistent with long-standing precedent across previous administrations and fully adheres” to federal rules.

But Ronald White, who directs regulatory policy at the advocacy group Center for Effective Government, said:

The overt manipulation of the regulatory review process by a small White House office” raises questions about how the government writes regulations. He said the amount of time it took the White House to review proposed rules was “particularly egregious over the past two years.”

Eilperin’s article goes on to quote former Bush officials as saying that previous administrations have exerted oversight on rules and regulations being submitted, but that they were “not as extensive as the Obama administration’s approach.”

As we entered the run-up to the election, the word went out the White House was not anxious to review new rules,” a former Obama official said.

Several significant EPA proposals, including a regulation to reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline, and rules on coal ash disposal, water pollution rules for streams and wetlands, air emissions from industrial boilers and cement kilns, and carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants were all delayed until after the election.

As for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Eilperin writes:

“Several key regulations did not come out until after the 2012 election.  Including The Treasury Department holding back a proposal while finalizing all the other tax-credit rules on May 23, 2012. Treasury officials later told those working on the regulation that it could not be published before the election, according to a government official familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of its sensitive nature. The department made the rule on Feb. 1.”  Eilperin also writes that some clarifications of the Act, and its costs, were left murky in the run up to the election.{1}  

Is America a true democracy?  It is not.  It is a Representative Republic.  While the Representative Republic form of government is a Democratic form of government, it is not what political scientists would call a true democracy.  If America were a more of a true democracy, Americans would have more of a direct role in the decisions legislators make on the bills before them.  As it stands, Americans can provide some pressure on a legislator through phone calls to their office, polling, and through involvement in groups, such as political action committees.  Some have suggested that most of these actions are powerful measures that ordinary citizens can use to influence the way our representatives vote, others suggest that these actions probably don’t have as much influence as most have been led to believe… especially in a non-election year.  If the latter is true, or becoming increasingly true, the only power an American citizen has, occurs when they decide which candidate for a representative office best represents their views in an election.

The basis of a Representative Republic is dependent on the honesty of the election candidates presenting us with their views, or the media uncovering a truth about those views, regardless what that candidate allows its potential voters to hear, read or see.  Or, if either of those two fail to provide a true representation of the candidate’s views, the representative form of government requires an informed public to make informed decisions on the difference between that which they see, read, or hear, and that which they believe to be a true representation of the candidate’s views based on past performance.  In the case of the presidential election in 2012, as Juliet Eilperin reports, it appears as though candidate Barack Obama was not as thoroughly transparent about the agenda of his second term as he, and the media, led us to believe he was.

“Everybody does it,” say the cynical.  This particular piece is not an attempt to refute that notion, but to ask the question how far are we willing to allow this to go, before we finally put out a substantial, and meaningful call for more transparency from various oversight committees, and watchdog groups, and our media?

Most people “go cynical” in an attempt to appear more intelligent, to let those around them think that they know a truth, or the reality, of a matter, but in doing so are they incidentally allowing it to continue as an accepted practice, until it reaches a point where it may prove fundamentally damaging to the process?

If we continue to elect representatives based upon what they allow us to see, read, and hear, and the media does little to investigate beyond that level, what’s to stop the next “media-approved” candidate from going even further in concealing their views?  If most of the agenda of Obama’s second term was successfully concealed, how much of the agenda can be said to represent those views that voted for Obama?  Put another way, will a future politician progress beyond this unprecedented motion–that the cynical suggest was already in motion–until it is enacted upon by a greater force?  The people are the greater force, in this spin on Isaac Newton’s law of inertia, and they are currently allowing it, because they’ve resigned themselves to the cynical idea that “they all do it”, which in turn allows their representative candidates to continue to do it, and to presumably expound upon it, until we reach a point where some may start to consider it an error to say we are a true Representative Republic.



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