It’s Called Democracy

It’s Called Democracy August 24, 2022

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know that President Joe Biden has officially released his plan for student debt relief. It is not, in my opinion, an excellent plan. The ten to twenty thousand dollars is not going to even dent my student debt balance. It’s doing hardly anything for my debt from my failed attempt at graduate school, though the new rules about interest and what counts as “discretionary income” are encouraging. Deciding to study Catholic philosophy and Thomistic bioethics continues to be the most expensive choice I’ve ever made. Still, lots of people are going to get a sizeable amount of relief from this action. And most importantly,  Biden’s decision moves the Overton window toward future legislation that could provide much better relief to many more people depending on what happens in the Midterm elections and afterward. So it isn’t a bad thing.

I don’t find it strange that Republicans are responding to this small step by throwing tantrums and calling the move “socialism.” That’s what they do whenever the Democrats do anything.

What I do find strange, is all the people sputtering that Biden’s decision is part of some kind of evil conspiracy. They claim that he’s “buying midterm votes” and undermining our system by trying to get re-elected. As if this is unusual or wrong.

A politician doing things that are popular with voters so that the politician will be re-elected is not a conspiracy. The name of that practice is not “buying votes.” It’s called “democracy.” In a democracy, you vote for people and laws which do the things you would like them to do, and you refuse to vote for people and laws which do things you don’t like, and this is supposed to ensure that people who do popular things get elected and that popular laws get passed. That’s how the whole system is supposed to work.

For decades now, the right wing has banked on another strategy: they do things that are unpopular to the majority of voters, relying on gerrymandering to make sure they still get elected, and then act like they’re only being grown-ups and realists. That’s not democracy, that’s oligarchy, more or less. Joe Biden is trying something different. He is trying to do things that are popular. He’s not doing nearly enough of them and he’s not going fast enough for my tastes, which is part of why his approval rating is still low. And no, I haven’t forgotten that Biden’s previous actions are part of what got us into this mess.  but still, knocking ten thousand dollars off of peoples’ debt is popular. Hopefully he’ll knock off more next time. People generally like to get money or have their debts erased, just ask Brett Kavanaugh.

Saying that doing popular things is “buying votes” and a conspiracy is like saying restaurants are participating in a conspiracy when they serve tasty food instead of maggot-infested gruel. It’s like saying publishing companies are in a conspiracy when they publish books they think will entertain a wide audience instead of books of Catholic philosophy and Thomistic bioethics. It’s like saying it’s a conspiracy that 2025: The World Enslaved By A Virus got bad critical reviews and the Wesely Brothers probably won’t make another movie. Doing popular things are supposed to make you popular.

No, doing the popular thing doesn’t mean you’re doing the right thing. I do think debt forgiveness is the right thing, and it’s very funny to watch the same politicians who say that LGBTQ people should be persecuted because of the Pentateuch come out so strongly against debt forgiveness. But that’s a topic for another day. All I want to say today is that there’s no conspiracy here. It’s just democracy. I like to see democracy for a change. We get so little of it in America.

Now if only Biden keeps it up, I might be more hopeful for the future.


image via Pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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