It’s the bottom of the ninth inning at Safeco Field. On the fourth pitch, Ichiro puts the ball in the right field bleachers and the Mariners beat the Twins 5-4. Game over.

But wait! The Twins are taking the field for the tenth. Their manager is motioning for the Mariners to come out of the dugout. But the Mariners are going back into the tunnel to the clubhouse. Game over.

The Twins’ manager wants to replay the top half of the sixth inning. The Mariners manager refuses. Suddenly the Twins’ players start tearing up the bases and ripping holes in the sod! They’re throwing things at the crowd and shouting to Mariners players to come out.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Sounds dumb. Tempers flare even though the rules of the game were followed. Sounds a lot like Republicans in Congress, doesn’t it?

When introduced to politics many, many years ago, the first lesson learned was you campaign, you work, you present the most forcible facts you have, then conduct the vote. If you lose, you accept the outcome as binding and get on with life. If you still feel strongly, you prepare for the next election and begin working. That’s democracy.

The issue here is not health care or economics or national debt. Those are topics for another time; another campaign; another vote.

The issue here is the fundamental concept undergirding this nation’s survival as a democracy. Or republic, if you will. When the 51% makes the decision, the 49% have the obligation to accept the outcome; accept and abide. That is both our history and our key to lawful self-governance. Without it we would’ve succumbed as a nation centuries ago.

I’ve been on the losing side in political contests. After weeks or months or even years of hard work, it’s never easy to accept defeat. You want to keep fighting while insisting if those on the other side really knew the facts or even knew what you know, they would have voted differently. Loss in the face of deeply held conviction is not easy.

But congressional Republicans, and much of the party’s leadership, have undertaken a most dangerous course. And they know it. In their petulance, by refusal to abide by rules and law, by heated rhetoric and verbal threats, they have created an atmosphere for violence and lawlessness. And when those events happened, their surprising silence and distancing themselves has lent credence to the actions of the lawbreakers. And they know it.

I know of no one from president to peasant who is entirely happy with the new health care law. No one. But, with good minds and honest labor, the new law can be reshaped into what will serve the nation best. That’s the process. That’s how it works.

But congressional Republicans are poisoning the process. And the system. After more than a year in which to participate, they’ve offered nothing and have become dedicated to killing what they refused to help create. When they could have written their own ideas into bill form and offered an alternative … as the process allows … they chose not to.

But the real cause of my concern for the future is not with them. Their child-like tantrums, defiance and refusal to work within our two centuries old system is not uppermost in my mind.

What is … and what should be in theirs … is the distorted and tragic view of our democracy they are portraying for young Americans … those who will lead the country next. Majority rule, legitimate dissent, working within the lawfully adopted process, losing an issue but continuing to work for your own beliefs … these building blocks of democracy are being undercut by people who know better. They know better.

Good parents teach their children from early age the issues of work, competition, honesty and fair play. They use these values as lessons to be learned in the maturing process. Schools reinforce them in classrooms, sports and competitive activities.

There is nothing honest, fair or undertaken as legitimate competition in the picture now being presented by the leadership of one of this country’s two major political parties. The actions … and the dangerous results we are seeing … are directly contrary to the lessons we want our children to learn. And how we expect them to live.

When the ball game is won in the ninth inning, there is no tenth. When the vote is taken, the game is over. For now.

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