Monday, November 06, 2006

Green Governor Ehrlich is Case Study in Democracy

Gov. Ehrlich announced today that 754 acres of land once slated for redevelopment will be purchased by the state for preservation purposes, the Dept. of Natural Resources reported in a press release. The land, near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, was at the heart of a contentious debate that pitted developers against environmentalists. With this deal, Ehrlich came down squarely on the side of environmentalists.

The League appluads the decision but questions its timing. Coming one day before a close election, was Ehrlich motivated more by politics than by saving critical land? WYPR's on-air report cited an administration official's explanation that the deal was announced when it was agreed to and the timing is merely coincidental. One hell of a coincidence.

Assuming the reasonable assumption, the incident serves as a case in point of the benefits of democracy. The principle: democracy forces officials to be responsive to the will of the public. It's fair to say that Ehrlich is not an environmentalist. He tried to sell 836 acres of protected land to a politically connected developer, introduced a Chespeake Bay Restoration program that provides incentives to sprawl and has won no endorsements from reputable environmental groups. But with his back against the wall in the upcoming election, Ehrlich decided to put the will of the people before the will of his cronies and saved a critical area of land.

But the incident also reveals a fundamental failure of the American brand of democracy. Namely, politicians are responsive only in the few months before they face reelection. As demonstrated above, Ehrlich has not aggressively protected the environment and the Chesapeake Bay to the extent Marylanders want. Yet he perceptively thinks that he can buy us off with a few acres of preservation announced a day before the election. And he's probably right. Americans have, time and again, demonstrated an utter lack of sophistication when it comes to voting. One needs only to look at the 2004 election to see an influential block of voters who cast their ballots on the imaginary threat of gay marriage when real threats to our security and civil liberties were coming from the White House. Sure, politicians may be responsive once in a term, but does the system truly compell them to represent and protect the views and needs of their constituents?

from The League: Reassembled


Blogger Stephanie Dray said...

The only consolation is that it was likely announced far too late to make a difference with the ignorant.

11/06/2006 11:24:00 PM  
Blogger Terry in Silver Spring said...

I'm glad he announced this purchase, but I will not forget that his administration wanted to sell off currently protected lands to his cronies. Bobby needs to be sent home to that street in Arbutus he keeps showing in the commercial.

11/07/2006 07:47:00 PM  

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