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We're pointing a gun at our democracy

By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
updated 2:01 PM EDT, Sat May 18, 2013
Former acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, right, and Treasury's J. Russell George testify before a House committee Friday.
Former acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, right, and Treasury's J. Russell George testify before a House committee Friday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Donna Brazile: Knee-jerk partisanship is worse than ever in politics and public discourse
  • Brazile: Democracy endangered without civil discussion among people who disagree
  • IRS and Justice Department "scandals" have become lynch parties, she says
  • Brazile: Both parties and the public must stay focused on facts, causes and solutions

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- Our democracy is endangered. Not by the Russians, North Korea, the Iran regime, or even terrorists. To quote Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Inside the beltway, the fingers point and the media tuts and struts in glee, and we, the American public, respond by becoming more rigid and divided ourselves. No more "truth springing from argument amongst friends," as David Hume said. A recent nonpartisan Pew Research Poll finds our knee-jerk partisanship has increased dramatically.

This road we're on will lead us step-by-step to an extreme: either an autocratic government that functions, or a dysfunctional anarchy. The petty squabbles, bilge in the name of party or principle, will dissolve our self-government.

Abraham Lincoln felt no foreign power could ever defeat the United States. He said, "From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never...No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide."

We're pointing a pistol at our heads. A government of, by, and for the people requires that people talk to people, that we can agree to disagree but do so in civility. If we let the politicians and those who report dictate our discourse, then our course will be dictated.

Why am I alarmed? Because two "scandals" -- the IRS tax-exempt inquiries and the Department of Justice's tapping of reporters' phones -- have become lynch parties. And the congressional investigation of Benghazi may become a scandal in itself.

The IRS scandal has sparked bipartisan outrage that should require a bipartisan solution. The director who oversaw this was a Bush appointee who was confirmed by a Democratic Congress. Even Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says he doubts very much that Obama was involved

We, the people, need to stay focused on facts, causes and solutions. Let's begin with the findings of the Treasury's inspector general who uncovered it: That it was bureaucratic mismanagement, but that there was no evidence of any political motivation or influence from outside the IRS.

Lawmakers grill ousted IRS boss
Holder: Most serious leaks I've ever seen
Abrams: That's not America at its best

And that, according to acting Commissioner Steven Miller, who just resigned, the problem started because the Supreme Court's Citizens' United decision created a surge of requests by political groups for tax-exempt status.

Democrats and Republicans agree there's a problem. Maybe they should focus on solutions.

Let's demand an end to partisan sideshows or media witch hunts: It turns out that the leaked White House Benghazi e-mails which allegedly show a coverup of a terrorist attack were themselves altered. Those e-mails are, in a word, bogus

Next up on the playbill: The Department of Justice secretly obtained dozens of reporters' phone records because of a serious security leak. The double contradictory shell game we're supposed to believe: Obama is not in charge and he has his finger in every pot.

This bamboozling of the American people obscures the main point: How do we safeguard American lives and respect our freedoms at the same time? Maybe working together -- Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals -- the Media Shield Law, a solution to the problem, can be passed.

Both the Democrats and Republicans have run roughshod over our separation of powers. Both parties have misused and abused their constitutional powers. Democrats blocked, again and again, President Bush's nominees for federal judges. Today, Republicans aren't just blocking Obama's judicial nominees, they're blocking the Senate from considering laws and blocking Cabinet appointees necessary for the federal government to run.

Why should we allow any political party or personality to render our government unable to govern?

On 9/11 terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and tried to attack the U.S. Capitol building in order to destroy our institutions, our economic strength, our military and our democratic Congress where "the people rule."

But in our partisan self-righteousness, we're destroying our foundations of government more effectively than al Qaeda ever could. Whether it's the media or the politicians, the churning of partisan passion into anger, indeed hate, has an ulterior purpose: If Obama's administration is constantly engaged in fighting for its existence, the governing comes to a halt, and his agenda will go nowhere.

Aiming for that and little if nothing else weakens and harms our democratic institutions, both Congress and the presidency. Remember, Obama was elected by a bigger margin than George W. Bush. He deserves to have his appointees, and he deserves to have votes on the issues, to have the government function, and to fight for the policies on which he was elected. By allowing problems to become scandals and scandals to become demagoguery, we're shooting ourselves in the foot.

If it keeps up, we will all be complicit in weakening our democracy.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

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The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

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