Greetings from Sunnybrook Farm. I’m Rebecca, your naïve host.
See, I have this vision of America being peopled by honest and honorable hard-working, can-do sorts that come from all walks of life. Used to be, if there was a problem, we thought, then invented our way out of it. Darkness yielded to Edison’s light bulb; Eli Whitney automated the farm and we became the breadbasket of the world; Einstein offered relativity, and the Atomic Era was born; we collaborated to conquer polio and put a man on the moon.
There’s a scene in the World War II movie “The Battle of the Bulge,” where the Germans intercept a fresh chocolate cake from Boston in a shipment of mail bound for our troops. It’s a wake-up call for the SS Field Marshall who says to an underling something to the effect of, they send cake at such a desperate time. The Americans have no concept of defeat. We are doomed.
That’s why our present situation is frightening. We are in the hands of the worst and most craven among us. Honor and truth are out the window. Shockingly, there are a lot of elected officials willing to weaken democracy, which, it turns out is more fragile than we knew. They’re using the Big Lie to tilt a playing field on which they can’t fairly compete.
You always know that there will be some bad apples. There will be an attorney general whose connection to industry makes him less likely to pursue legal action against it. There will be a land management administrator who profits from his power and relationship with developers. But we never expected that our institutions could be so vulnerable to thieves and cheaters who believe that the ends always justify their means. There have always been bad actors, but not at this scale since the Civil War.
They’ve recognized that while the presidency is glamorous, and that while it’s important to dominate the Senate were you can gum up any agenda, power begins in earnest in the State Houses. Beginning in the 1990s, Republicans went local and dedicated their efforts to taking over state governments, knowing they’d own the keys to redrawing both state and Congressional districts.
This has something to do with a disorganized and action-averse Democratic party in most states, but it has more to do with power-mad self-righteous bureaucrats conniving to game the system, undermining our honor-driven foundations to the point where they are about to crumble.
I make it a rule to reject false-equivalency arguments, e.g., you shouldn’t include holocaust deniers in every story about the holocaust. To that point I generally reject the “both sides do it” argument in politics. But in the case of gerrymandering, both sides actually are culpable, but the Republicans do it better, and have much more opportunity. Through State House captures and highly sophisticated software that parses neighborhoods down to lot-lines, they have used Big Data to stack the deck so thoroughly that their Congressional representation looks completely different than the way the popular vote breaks.
The Guardian provides a useful illustration: “In Wisconsin, losing the popular vote for the statehouse 54-45 percent gave Republicans a 63-36 supermajority. Now that would truly impress a foreign autocrat – a system locking a minority into power despite a clear mandate by the voters that they wanted the opposite.”
The partisan gerrymander is A-Okay with the Supreme Court which says as long as the discrimination is political in nature, and not racist or ethnic, it’s allowable. Following that perplexing ruling, both Texas and North Carolina reintroduced district lines that SCOTUS has already rejected as racist. This week, the Department of Justice sued Texas again, deciding that relitigating the case is worthwhile since Texas has gone back to the well. Expect North Carolina to be the next defendant.
And this: According to Pew Research, as many as 91% of Americans want stricter gun-safety rules, and 59% of Americans want to protect a woman’s right to choose, but those majorities are shut out.
Now we find that just before the debate with President Biden, the Former Guy tested positive for the COVID case that nearly killed him. According to a Washington Post analysis, “From the day he tested positive until his hospitalization, Trump came in contact with more than 500 people, either those in proximity to him or at crowded events, not including rallygoers.” This example of unmitigated selfishness and the abject lack of concern for others’ safety only underscores the malignant narcissism that animates his every act. Whether out of fear of reprisal or the instinct to win no matter the cost, he remains the primary role model for the cowards and cheaters who follow his every example.
Our democracy is vulnerable. Will we defend it?
©2021 Jon Sinton