(Cross-posted from the Action NC blog)
To those following both the ongoing negotiations of the Congressional “Supercommittee” in Washington and the incredibly protracted session of the NC General Assembly, there is one tie that binds: secrecy.
No one, outside of the select few in power, have any idea what the heck is going on.
For example, the deficit reduction negations that have apparently been progressing for months in order to trim our national debt by over a trillion dollars haven’t been generating much press. Unless you’ve been looking really hard, you probably haven’t seen or heard much about their progress (or lack thereof) because all of negotiations have been done behind closed doors. This weekend, Congressional leaders met with members of the deadlocked committee in order to facilitate an ending, but guess how they did it? Behind closed doors.
Closer to home, there are even more questions to answer about the newest session of the General Assembly, who are back in town today for the third time since May. We have no idea what matters they are planning on addressing, no idea how long they are expecting to stay in session, and no idea when they will be convening again. Add to this some shenanigans about House Select Committees apparently forming out of thin air on some rather peculiar subjects, and there are some real concerns about what the NCGA is up to now.
Is this the way democracy is supposed to function?
There are plenty of opposing viewpoints on whether work done behind closed doors is helpful, given the current political polarization, or hurtful, since it further distances an already distant electorate. The Supercommittee was specifically constructed to operate behind the scenes with the thought that it would give political cover to lawmakers to make the tough decisions that may anger their bases. So far, we have yet to see any results that come close to proving that theory, but we have seen public interest wane significantly since there is no debate to follow.
At the General Assembly, we have seen constant obfuscation on issue after issue, with only the smallest effort paid to informing the public, or allowing them to comment, on the many controversial issues taken up by lawmakers this term. Despite assurances that this session would be “transparent,” we have seen nothing but the opposite.
We all understand that democracy is a messy process, and that sometimes the mess needs to get worse before the cleaning can begin. All I am suggesting is that if we really want to understand the mess of our political system and the life-altering decisions that it makes, the disinfectant we choose should be closer to sunlight than to darkness.