Influence comes in many forms. In a true democracy, persuasion is a crucial process by which people with different views work toward a resolution. Persuasion, after all, is not something done to people but rather done with people. At its best, persuasion is a transparent form of communication during which reasoned arguments, accompanied by a sense of conviction and passion, are presented for consideration by those holding opposing views.
How far the U.S. House of Representatives has strayed from this crucial aspect of governing "by the people, for the people"? Coercion and manipulation have become the preferred forms of influence from a powerful segment of the Republican Party.
At what point do we call this more than taking a stand? When do we say it is a take-over by one part of the Republican Party perpetrated upon the rest? And if they'll do that to their own people, we know what's next for anyone who gets in their way.
The word "coup" has several definitions. Among them is "the sudden appropriation of leadership or power." It is difficult to see how the forcing of a partial shutdown of the U.S. government by a minority group of Republican representatives, bullying the rest, paid directly or indirectly by extremely wealthy individuals and groups, falls anywhere near comfortably short of that.
Bullying within the Republican Party is an epidemic. When, as the New York Times reported, Senator Richard M. Burr, a North Carolina Republican, told a reporter that defunding Obamacare -- a law -- is "the dumbest idea I've ever heard," he paid big time. The Senate Conservatives Fund bought a radio ad to attack him. And he is only one among many threatened with expulsion if they do not toe the line.
What choice does the Democratic Party have when persuasion is made futile? Do they engage in counter coercion -- refuse to vote on the budget until they get their way on gun control, tax cuts for the wealthy and Citizens United? Is that what statesmanship has become?
Unless our leaders with higher order ethics take away the power of the thugs, they'll run roughshod over those they perceive to be weak and meek. Can a takeover of the entire Republican Party be far behind? And what then becomes of the government when such people hold sway?
Anyone who isn't concerned ought to be. We now have a government conducted by coercion in the absence of courage. When such becomes the norm, democracy simply cannot abide.
Kathleen has been blogging with the Huffington Post since 2005 and also blogs here. She writes about politics, persuasion and negotiation. Her latest book about the dangers of behind-the-scenes pathological politics is the debut mystery-thriller Shadow Campus.
Follow Kathleen Reardon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kathreardon