FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Politics Without Pretense

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

It was a particularly refreshing sight and, one can hope, may be treated as a didactic moment for the United States Congress.  If adopted many of the problems it faces would disappear and Congress could return to doing what it was elected to do.

Kiev in the Ukraine has not always set an example that the United States would want to follow. It was, until 1991, a part of the Soviet Union and during that time, there was little about how its legislature worked that caused anyone to think the United States Congress should follow in its footsteps.  That was then-this is now.  Following its separation from Russia there have been two occasions on which that country has given us an example our Congress should follow.   The first pertains to its conduct of elections.

On July 24, 2009, Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, amended the law on elections.  It shortened the time during which campaigning could take place from 150 days to 90 days.  If the 150 day rule obtained in the United States current campaigns would only have begun the end of May.  If the 90 day rule were in place, the campaigns would not begin until the end of July. That would be a welcome change to the United States system and is the first example set by Verkhovna Rada.  The second, and more compelling example that the U.S. Congress should adopt was offered on May 25, 2012.

May 25 was the day that the Verkhovna Rada was debating the highly charged issue over Ukraine’s official language policy.  The specific issue was whether the Russian language should have the formal status of a second language in approximately one-half of the regions in the Ukraine, including Kiev.  The east and south of the Ukraine are Russian-speaking and want closer ties to Moscow whereas the west is Ukrainian speaking and favors closer ties to the west. It is not surprising that the debate about this highly sensitive issue was emotional.  And because it was so emotional it is useful to compare how the Verkhovna Rada dealt with it and how the United States Congress would deal with it.

If a similar issue were presented in the United States, it would go before the Senate and those supporting it would make speeches expressing their great admiration for those opposing it and attributing to them nothing but the highest motives and would infuse their speeches with such high praise for their opponents as to leave no doubt that everyone in the U.S. Senate was everyone else in the Senate’s very very best friend. Those very very best friends would, of course, end up on opposite sides of the issue and unless 60 out of 100 very very best friends in the Senate were in favor of the legislation, it would go nowhere.   In the House of Representatives there are 435 representatives who are also very very best friends and speak glowingly of their colleagues even when those very very best friends are preventing their very very best friends from getting any legislation passed.  The result of the foregoing is that for the last 3-½ years, the United States Congress has spent almost all its productive time while on vacation because at least its members are having fun.  The Ukrainian parliament suggests a wonderful alternative to the sham politeness that infuses the United States Congress.

On May 25 its members could not agree on how to resolve their differences on adoption of Russian as a second language. The proponents and opponents of the legislation did not make lengthy speeches expressing their admiration and fondness for one another.  Instead, Vadim Kolesnichenko, the author of the legislation said opponents said to him  “You’re a corpse, you have two days left to live, we will crucify you on a birch tree.” Those less than compromising words were accompanied by fisticuffs in the hallowed halls of the legislative chamber, that sent at least one member of the parliament to the hospital. Another is seen being hoisted in the air and passed from hand to hand until finally deposited unceremoniously on the ground. (A BBC video of the event can be viewed online.)

The difference between what went on in Verkhovna Rada and what goes on in Congress is there is a total absence of pretense in the former. Elimination of pretense is not the only benefit that would accrue to the U.S. Congress were it to follow Verkhovna Rada’s example.

The possibility of brawling being used to resolve differences among legislators would eliminate from Congress members who treat their elections as entitlement to serve life terms.  If fisticuffs were the norm in resolving legislative standoffs, members in their 70s and 80s would conclude that legislative work was something more suited to the young.  Cspan viewership would increase dramatically attracting those who though not drawn to politics, would enjoy watching melees in the legislative chambers.  Some may think such conduct would demean the institution.  That assumes its reputation can sink to lower levels than it now enjoys.  It can’t.

Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

 

 

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
David Busch
Bernie’s Blinding Light
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Winslow Myers
Looking for America
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Tony Christini
Death by Taxes (A Satire of Trump and Clinton)
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
February 11, 2016
Bruce Lesnick
Flint: A Tale of Two Cities
Ajamu Baraka
Beyonce and the Politics of Cultural Dominance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail