REPUBLICANS HATE DEMOCRACY
December 6, 2018Share:
THE CORE PRINCIPLE OF DEMOCRACY is the one-person, one-vote dynamic. Republicans hate that and prove it consistently.
When we deprive individuals of their vote, we harm our democracy. And in the US, we have one party that devotes itself to depriving targeted populations of their votes. One party. Not “both parties do it”. One party. Republicans.
So whom do they target to deprive of their vote? Who are those targeted populations?
- Some are targeted based on RACE. African-Americans, Asians, and Native Americans, for instance.
- Some are targeted based on ETHNICITY. Latin Americans and Jews, for instance.
- Some are targeted based on RELIGION. Muslims, Hindus, Sikh, etc. Let’s just say non-Christian.
- Some are targeted based on GENDER. Women.
- Some are targeted based on AGE. Young adults and the elderly.
- Some are targeted based on SEXUAL IDENTITY. LGBTQ, Transgender, etc. Let’s just say non-hetero.
AND NON-TARGETED? - White Christians over 30. The Republican Party is run to benefit this minority of Americans. This segment accounts for less than 30% of Americans. Add in the under-30 crowd and their numbers are still a minority. 43% of Americans.
REPUBLICANS GOT IT - It is the demographic reality of the “browning” of America that spurred the Republican Party to abandon the pretense that they cared about our democracy. Starting in the mid-nineties, they adopted a philosophy that some have called “scorched earth” politics. Webster’s defines this as “A military strategy that aims to destroy anything that might be useful to the population while it is advancing through or withdrawing from a location.” It also mentions that it is a war crime.
Rather than engage in policy debates the party bought in on an unfortunate electoral truism. Voters don’t connect policies with parties; they vote with their “gut”. Newt Gingrich took this approach and ran with it. The Contract with America, little more than a Declaration of Culture War, flipped the Congress. With that as proof, Republicans never looked back.
THE US CONSTITUTION is the shortest in the world. Part of its genius was the ambiguity of its provisions, enabling it to be interpreted by different folks as necessary for their own times. It does not prescribe, in detail, how our democracy is to work. It depended on We The People practicing the norms of democracy. And that is where the Republicans realized they could prevail. They would just ignore those norms, and in doing so weaponized our Constitution.
IN A RECENT “ATLANTIC” ARTICLE, by McKay Coppins, he described Newt Gingrich’s legacy. “During his two decades in Congress, he pioneered a style of partisan combat—replete with name-calling, conspiracy theories, and strategic obstructionism—that poisoned America’s political culture and plunged Washington into permanent dysfunction. Gingrich’s career can perhaps be best understood as a grand exercise in devolution—an effort to strip American politics of the civilizing traits it had developed over time and return it to its most primal essence.”
Shortly after he’d arrived in the House he had figured out that as long as Republicans kept compromising with the Democrats out of some high-minded civic desire to keep congressional business humming along, they would never win the House back. His plan? Blow up the bipartisanship. Seize upon the resulting dysfunction and wage a populist war against the very institution - against Congress itself. Make people so disgusted with our politics that they would “throw the bums out”. And vote his bums in.
But “…most members still believed in the idea that the Framers had in mind,” says Thomas Mann, a scholar who studies Congress. “They believed in genuine deliberation and compromise … and they had institutional loyalty.” It took Newt and his new-era Republicans a couple of years to destroy that idea. They ushered in the system we see today.
Republicans oppose all things Democratic. Period.
We see the 2000 election fiasco, where a Republican-appointed majority of the Supreme Court shut down the state-law mandated recount in order to award the Presidency to George W. Bush, until recently widely regarded as the worst President since Buchanan.
That’s followed by the acting Chief Executive, Dick Cheney, declaring victory for the Project for the New American Century, a charter for 21st American imperialism (and it’s not dead…just sleeping). Then the solidly Republican Congress bullied and browbeat virtually every Democrat into supporting an invasion that most knew was based on sham intelligence.
As the Great Recession took hold, the Republican Congress supported GWB’s TARP $700 billion bailout a month before the election. Once that election was won by the Democrats, all Congressional cooperation to respond to the financial crisis was over.
THE REPUBLICAN STRATEGY OF THE NINETIES HADN’T CHANGED. Whether it was McConnell vowing to make Obama a one-term President by obstructing EVERYTHING he wanted to do (including alleviating a global liquidity crisis) to the state-by-state gerrymandering that effectively deprived voters of proportional representation (In this midterm election Wisconsin Republican State Assembly candidates got 46% of the vote, Democrats 54%, but Republicans wound up with 64% of the State Assembly seats), Republicans have doubled down on their repudiation of our democracy.
Half of all the states have voter restrictions passed in the past 10 years designed to keep the “wrong” voters from voting (see the list of “wrong” voters, above). Currently in the news:
- North Carolina - Vote-By-Mail fraud and destruction of ballots
- Georgia - Voter purges, voting centers closed in minority neighborhoods, rat-holing voter registrations, tossing absentee ballots, and draconian “exact match” of the voter’s signature to how the state databases show their names to be spelled.
- North Dakota – established requirements for a voter to have a “street address”, fully aware that Native American reservations don’t have such addresses.
- Wisconsin and Michigan - Post election legislation to cripple incoming Democratic Governors and Attorneys General.
WHILE GERRYMANDERING PREVENTS VOTES FROM BEING CAST, what Wisconsin and Michigan are doing is negating votes AFTER they are cast. As Ben Wikler of Truthout wrote yesterday, “The truth is, Wisconsin’s GOP power grab took place precisely because the state GOP is afraid of democracy. That fear is etched all over the bills…that lawmakers just rammed through the statehouse.”
The laws enable the state legislature to veto any effort by the AG to initiate or change the state’s litigation of a federal law, specifically to withdraw the state’s lawsuit seeking an end to the ACA. Also, now the legislature can, on their own, weigh in on any state law using their own attorneys, regardless the AG’s opinion.
The Republicans have, for the past 25 years, abandoned democratic norms. McConnell didn’t break the law by refusing to give Merrick Garland a hearing. The Constitution did not specify the when and wherefore of that action; it just said it was to occur. And he ignored it. He won that seat by discarding the democratic norms that our Constitution and our form of government were founded on…and require to function.
WHAT ARE WE TO DO? Democrats will need to abandon our beloved policy debates and reasoned arguments and fight just as dirty as the Republicans. Sad to say, only a minority of American voters care or know about policies and how they affect us. For most, what they base decisions on is emotion, and until Democrats shed that bloodless, cool, rational demeanor, we will be at a disadvantage, bringing our knives to the proverbial gunfight.
HOW DO WE FIGHT BACK? Adopt the same structural tactics employed by the Republicans. For instance, we can divide California into 7 states, adding 14 (mostly Democratic) Senators to Congress. We can expand the Supreme Court. The norm of 9 Justices is a 20th century norm. Let’s add a half dozen next time we take the Senate. And we can make Federal judges a term-limited appointment, upending the stacked Republican courts.
We can decide to fight the way the Republicans have been doing so successfully for decades, or we can simply surrender this country to a minority cabal of authoritarians that despise democracy. It is our choice.
In It’s Time to Fight Dirty, David Faris offers accessible, actionable strategies for American institutional reform which don’t require a constitutional amendment, and would have a lasting impact on our future._ _
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