This Sunday, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria weighed in on the government shutdown, saying, “It is the defining moment of a democracy when an outgoing leader celebrates the election of a new one from the opposing party.”
He goes on to illustrate this by pointing to George H.W. Bush welcoming Bill Clinton, Carter and Reagan, and Nixon conceding the election to JFK, saying, “Across the world, this is the acid test of a genuine democracy.”
He then explains that the underlying and most important principle of democracy is that the process is more important than the outcome. This means we must accept the results whether we like them or not. Many people were unhappy with the election of Ronald Reagan and that of George W. Bush, yet the nation as a whole and the opposition party accepted it.
This is not the case with Barack Obama. The TEApublicans have made it clear that they are never going to accept him as the legitimate President of the United States. They have also made it clear that they will not accept any of his policies or achievements.
Zakaria went on to say that the debate is not trivial and that it is not about Obamacare, it is about the difference between the right way and the wrong way to do things in a democracy. There is a right way to repeal a law that one does not like and shutting down the government and threatening to default on obligations is wrong. As Zakaira puts it, “That is not democracy, that is extortion.”
He continues saying that he would be glad to see the President compromise on taxes, spending and even Obamacare, but he “cannot compromise on the principle that the rules of democracy must be respected whatever the outcome.”
He says that if the Democrats tried similar tactics to repeal the Bush tax cuts or to defund the Iraq War, he would have expected Bush to stand strong against them and refuse to compromise just as Obama has stood against the current TEApublican tantrum.
As he notes, our power and influence in the world is predicated largely on the strength of our democracy and when our politicians “play fast and loose with the rules, doing whatever it takes” to achieve their goals, we lose credibility in the world at large.
We cannot lecture the rest of the world on the virtues of democracy when we ourselves do not respect the rules which make it work.
You can watch his comments below, courtesy of CNN: