But there is an important difference to parsed here. It is one of allowing people to enter debate – an essential part of a liberal democracy – and actually courting people to a debate. For instance, as mentioned, Obama was continually criticized by people on the left side of the political aisle for trying to include Republicans in the health insurance reform discussion. It would have been one thing for Republicans to put their arguments out there for the public to consume, as they would normally do, and did. But it is another for Obama to patiently ask for and await Republicans’ opinions, especially given the recent Republican penchant during the debate to, well, provide few constructive opinions.
Yet our division of spheres of discourse means passage of a bill – or even defeat – does not mark the end of debate. Indeed, many Americans continued to discuss the merits of the legislation, with some even filing lawsuits arguing it was unconstitutional (I think these stand little chance of going anywhere). American society at large can and will continue to have the conversation about health insurance reform. Then, in the next election, they will bring their beliefs to the polls. They will expect those voted in to act. And then, the conversation will continue. Politics is a continuous process. By dividing up spheres of discourse into political and societal, we see that debate never really ends – it’s just that sometimes lawmakers need to get on with their job, and leave debate to the public.
1. Of course, many Republicans rejected the legislation purely on intrinsic grounds. Perhaps even all of them did, you might argue. But they still complained often about the Democrats' monopoly of what went into the bill, which strikes one as somewhat odd considering that 161 Republican amendments were added to the legislation.
2. "Liberals" here refers to the political group of Democrats and other left-leaning people, whereas the term "liberal democracy" refers more broadly to our system of governance and its foundational ideas of liberty, free speech, free conscience, representation, and more.