As a country, we’ve generally been intolerant of bullies, autocrats, dictators, and those who would cling to power without majority support. King George III said that George Washington would be “the greatest man of his era” if he voluntarily gave up power. Donald Trump is the worst man of his era for not doing so.
His cronies hate democracy and make a point of talking about this being a “republic,” not the “democratic republic” that we actually are. It is an old saw, first trotted out by the far-right John Birch Society in the 1960s.
Historian Heather Cox Richardson laid it all out, “When Democrats set out to protect some of those rights through federal legislation, Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly voted to oppose such laws. In the House, Republicans voted against federal protection of an individual’s right to choose whether to continue or end a pregnancy and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services: 209 Republicans voted no; 2 didn’t vote. That’s 99% of House Republicans [Gallup: 55% support abortion rights]. They voted against the right to use contraception: 195 out of 209 Republicans voted no; 2 didn’t vote. That’s 96% of House Republicans [Forbes: 78% support contraceptive rights]. They voted against marriage equality: 157 out of 204 Republicans voted no; 7 didn’t vote. That’s 77% of House Republicans [Gallup: 71% of Americans support equal marriage]. They voted against a bill guaranteeing a woman’s right to travel across state lines to obtain abortion services: 205 out of 208 Republicans voted no; 3 didn’t vote. That’s 97% of House Republicans [No polling data yet]…And yet, Republican lawmakers are comfortable standing firmly against the firm will of the people. The laws protecting these rights passed through the House thanks to overwhelming Democratic support but will have trouble getting past a Republican filibuster in the Senate. When he took office, Democratic president Joe Biden recognized that his role in this moment was to prove that democracy is still a viable form of government. Rising autocrats have declared democracy obsolete. They argue that popular government is too slow to respond to the rapid pace of the modern world, or that liberal democracy’s focus on individual rights undermines the traditional values that hold societies together, values like religion and ethnic or racial similarities. Hungarian president Viktor Orbán, whom the radical right supports so enthusiastically that he is speaking on August 4 in Texas at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), has called for replacing liberal democracy with “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy,” which will explicitly not treat everyone equally and will rest power in a single political party.
In the 1880s Congress outlawed the politicization of civil servants, protecting them from the whims of politicians. Now, Trump says he’ll reimplement his “Schedule F” scheme. It was his Executive Order that created the bogus Schedule F category, and allowed him to remove civil service protections against loyalty pledges and other partisan shenanigans. Our civil servants are famously nonpartisan technocrats who keep the government working. Reclassifying them with the ill-conceived Schedule F designation clears the field for the total politicization of all functions of government, exactly what Congress outlawed long ago. President Biden reversed that order on day two if his administration. It’s reinstatement is just something else to look forward to should Trump return to power.
People who can’t win fair and square change the rules. The newly made Republican laws at the state level allow for mass challenges and subsequent purges of the voting rolls. Their battle cry is, “If you can’t beat ‘em, disenfranchise ‘em.” This has long been the Republican playbook, helped along by Washington think tanks like the Heritage Foundation that founded the American Legislative Counsel, ALEC, that writes “model legislation” for the 26 super-majority Republican state legislatures to cut and paste. They encompass everything from anti-abortion regulations, to partisan redistricting, to voting restrictions and tax policy.
Decades ago, when the GOP realized it wasn’t going to be a viable contender for the White House (they’ve won the popular vote for President only once since 1988), they landed on the brilliantly diabolical anti-majority plan to capture statehouses and then gerrymander their way into unbeatable redistricting, yielding a so-far permanent kind of minority rule. North Carolina serves as a good example as a state where the political leanings of the populace are pretty evenly split, but Republicans, through gerrymandering, control eight of the thirteen districts, and both legislative houses.
We should not have been surprised to see Republican senators on the chamber’s floor fist bumping their success in scuttling the PACT Act, designed to allow the VA to treat veterans exposed to the toxic fumes from pit burns in Iraq and Afghanistan. When the minority runs wild, outcomes too are wild.
©2022 Jon Sinton
VOL. 112, NO. 31 - Aug. 3, 2022