Sunday, November 09, 2008

What most becomes a democracy

In Senator Byrd's yielding the power of his role as head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in McCain's concession speech and in Al Gore deciding not to fight the questionable process by which he was done out of the presidency in 2000 there is a sweetly hopeful theme. While we do need regulation in finance and commerce to hold self serving in check and we need checks and balances in government to stave off the ego, the clique and the single interest cabals, those controls alone will not save us from ourselves. We also can be grateful for that quality of character that most becomes a member of a democracy: recognizing when his or her preferences have parted ways from what is best for the common good and letting that good prevail.

Over the years, I have pitched in small donations to help Byrd repel the vile political buffeting from Virginia's reactionaries and said an occasional good word here to point out the clear headed defense of our institutions that he had so often mounted. Though his fight is far from finished and his spirit is still in the fight, he knows when to quit.

By not just relinquishing but doing so with explicit consent, these people exemplify a value that wedge issue politics have bruised and obscured: these leaders are saying to us that they honor the process more than the person, the federation more than the faction. By this they cheer on and steady the toddling gait of our frailer-than-supposed constitutional democracy.

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