A Few Words in Appreciation of that Messy Sausage Factory Called Republican Democracy

Yesterday afternoon a number of us from First Unitarian joined with others to witness the historic moment at the State House, where after some two and a half hours the House voted to approve marriage equality in Rhode Island.

A long time coming.

And, of course, an uphill battle even yet to get through the senate, where the senate president has long opposed marriage equality. Still, the governor has stated he will sign the bill should it reach his desk, and the senate president has stated she will allow the bill to go to the judiciary committee, a critical step.

Nonetheless hope bubbles, as we are the last of New England’s states to allow marriage equality, and the writing is on the wall. It is coming…

I found it interesting watching the tip of the legislative iceberg. The deeper stuff has been going on for years and that I can save comment for later. What I found particularly interesting in this moment at the House where the legislators had their final opportunity for comment ahead of the vote, was what and how they spoke.

With a couple of exceptions, most notably one of the bitter opponents of marriage equality, the speakers were near uniformly bad speakers. They hummed. They endlessly interjected idiosyncratic noises, okay, uh, that sort of thing. They spoke in fragments of sentences, often to no apparent point. Actually, if one of the more eloquent speakers was someone in opposition, the one who spoke at some length with no obvious point was also in that camp. Although he got one good laugh from the assembled referring to himself and the speaker as a couple of old guys – when the speaker is probably forty years his junior.

It made me wonder what the debates leading to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence must have actually been like.

This democracy business is messy, and the people who do it may include some of the best and brightest among us, but clearly not all, possibly, probably, most are not shining intellects who bring deep and reflective deliberation to their political positions.

Kind of scary.

And, kind of wonderful.

Somehow, so far, in this grand experiment of democracy, flawed, so deeply flawed as it is (Frankly, I consider America an Oligarchic Republic, for the most part, with splashes of populism, sometimes left, more often right. Again, for that, some other time…) still, considering the alternatives up to the advent of republicanism in the Enlightenment, people have been mostly at the mercy of tyrants, and I think this messy business is much better.

Throw in a constitution that protects minorities from the tyrannies of majorities, and, you know, could be worse. And for most of history, has been…


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