SAVING OUR DEMOCRACY, PART 2

Image by Aaron Burden @aaronburdeon; found via unsplash.com

A friend who’s not all that interested in politics asked me the other day why, if President Biden ran on bipartisanship, everything he’s proposing is now being rejected by the Republicans. I responded that the American Rescue Plan, which will soon pass the Senate and be signed into law, has nationwide bipartisan support: 75% of the public support it, including 60% of Republicans.

But it will be passed by Democrats alone because the Republicans in both chambers have not been willing to legislate for some time.

Thomas L. Friedman, a New York Times opinion columnist who I find generally hews toward the center politically, minced no words in a recent essay titled: ”What Trump, San Francisco and the Deer in My Backyard Have in Common.

The subtitle was “Democracy depends on understanding the connection.” (emphases mine throughout)

Friedman is fond of metaphors, and he sees a similarity between the deer rummaging in his backyard unafraid of predators and the San Francisco School Board’s “self-parodying political correctness” in trying to rename 44 schools because of what they regard as racist behaviors on the part of the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Paul Revere, and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

They are acting in this way—instead of focusing on trying to get kids back into school—because they have no opposition, no “political predators.”

Then he extends the metaphor.

“That is a lot like Trump and his followers, whose attachment to him has become so cultlike that every other Republican leader knows that challenging Trump is potential political suicide.

“The result: He, too, has no serious predators (I don’t count a waffling Mitch McConnell). This reality, plus Trump’s warped character, made him so reckless that he believed that he could shoot a whole branch of the U.S. government in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue and his base would stick with him. And he was right!

But, Friedman argues:

“My deer and San Francisco’s school board are local problems. The fact that one of our two national parties would stick with a leader who dispatched a mob to ransack the Capitol in hopes of overturning our last election is an acute national problem — a cancer, in fact. And like any cancer, the required treatment is going to be painful for the patient.

“For me, that starts with getting rid of the filibuster in the Senate, granting the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico statehood (they each have more U.S. citizens than Wyoming) and passing a new Voting Rights Act that forbids voter suppression. While that may sound hyperpartisan, it’s the necessary, but not sufficient, remedy for America to regain its political health.”

I was pleasantly surprised to find him emphatically stake out a position on issues that many on varying points of the political spectrum increasingly agree are necessary.

Friedman briefly reviews what the Republicans said they were going to do after Romney’s defeat in 2012. They called it the Growth Opportunity Project (GOP, get it?), and it was a plan to make the party more inclusive by reaching out to minorities, gay people, and women—presumably with positions on issues that would appeal to their interests and needs. “Comprehensive immigration reform” was a central tenet of that approach.

“But instead of adopting that plan, the party doubled down on its old ways: It tried to gain and hold power one more time with a guy named Trump winking at white supremacy, defending Confederate statues and using every voter suppression trick in the book to protect a predominantly white Christian America.”

“Why not, it asked? More and more, Republican members of the House were being elected from gerrymandered districts drawn up by Republican state legislators from gerrymandered districts. Meanwhile, the Senate overrepresented sparsely populated red states, meaning the Electoral College favored Republican presidential candidates, who could then stack the court system with conservative judges who would allow Republican politicians to suppress the votes of Black and other Democratic-leaning constituencies.”

This political strategy long predated Trump. Friedman quotes Gautam Mukunda, whom he identifies as a presidential expert and contributor to Naadaq World Reimagined:

“[A]n American system of government that was meant to preserve minority rights has instead ended up enabling minority rule.”

This is a critical issue. I have been informed on Twitter that I don’t understand American history and government because we have a republic, not a democracy. The founding fathers designed it that way, said my critics, because they feared the “tyranny of the majority.”

The stance of those twitterers echoes that of many elected Republicans today—on both the state and national levels. If “we’re a republic, not a democracy,” voting rights don’t matter (except for their overwhelmingly white constituents), gerrymandering is essential, and the rights of a minority of the population allow the blockage of programs and legislation that the vast majority of Americans want.

Pointing out that Democrats have won a plurality of the popular vote for President seven times since 1989, while Republicans have won it a total of once, Mukunda also told Friedman:

“Governing effectively enough to win a majority is hard. Appealing to the grievances of a minority is easy. Is anyone surprised the Republicans keep choosing the easy path? If we want to revive American democracy, we have to close off that easy path for them once and for all.”

To do that, Friedman reiterates his call to end the filibuster, enabling President Biden to succeed in reviving the economy and revitalizing our infrastructure.

And by granting statehood to Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, we add four senators who’ll likely be Democrats.

“That will tell the G.O.P. that if it wants to hold power it has to once and for all abandon its fantasy of minority rule based largely on white voters — and take up the “growth and opportunity” strategy of that 2013 R.N.C. report.”

“For America to be healthy, this white-grievance, QAnon-embracing G.O.P. has to die. It is not a governing party.

“Can you imagine how much healthier American politics would be if we had a center-right conservative party that was embracing diversity, inclusion, climate change mitigation, and common-sense health care and immigration reform — based on conservative, small-government, more market-oriented solutions — competing with a center-left party?

But that party is nowhere in evidence today. Every one of the issues Friedman cites has been either ignored or denied by the Republicans. Friedman underscores the dearth of ideas we’ve seen from Trump and former Senate Majority Leader McConnell over the past four years, as they’ve held onto power just for the sake of holding onto power.

And he didn’t even discuss the elephant in the elephant’s room that fueled the insurrection: the continued adherence to The Big Lie that the election was stolen from Trump, which pollutes, divides, and endangers our democracy.

But Friedman was surely thinking of it when he wrote the following:

“This Trump-cult G.O.P. is sick and must be kept away from power until it heals and broadens itself.”

We cannot and will not realize our full potential as a nation unless we have both parties working to forge a new sense of shared association that can enable a much more diverse America to journey together into the 21st century.

“Today, sadly, only one party is in that business.

_______________________________

To add an exclamation mark to Friedman’s message, this is historian Heather Cox Richardson’s summation from her February 28th message. She’s discussing the American Rescue Plan, discussed above, that passed the House and is awaiting final passage in the Senate (still powerful legislation, despite changes made to ensure moderate Democrats’ votes).

“[It] will likely pass–without the increased minimum wage–but it will do so only because the Democrats won both Georgia seats in January, giving them an equal number of senators to the Republicans.

“The Democrats will be able to pass a bill popular with more than 3 out of 4 of us only because they have a slight majority in the House and can use a special budget measure to work around the Republican senators who represent 41.5 million fewer Americans than the Democrats do.

The coronavirus relief bill illustrates just how dangerously close we are to minority rule.”

UPDATE: The bill just passed the Senate and will return to the House for final vote. Looks like it will reach President Biden’s desk before March 14, the critical date in terms of expiration of unemployment assistance.

Your thoughts?

Annie

31 thoughts on “SAVING OUR DEMOCRACY, PART 2

  1. It is pretty clear that the current GOP has no governing philosophy. The opposite, to a great extent, it has become a party of anarchy Over the last 10 years they have put forth no plans for immigration, health care, infrastructure or other important areas of government. In 2020, for the first time in history (I think), the GOP did not bother to even present a platform. They said that whatever Trump wants they would do.
    The best the Dems can do is try to get things done by catering to the more conservative Dems who need to keep their jobs or Mitch takes over again, which would be a major catastrophe. No reason to even try to compromise with the GOP any longer as they have already shown they will do anything to keep Biden from succeeding. That ship has sailed.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree, Joseph—as I have written many times. And I think it’s clear from Friedman’s words that he thinks so too. He sees a QAnon-infested party that must, he wrote, “die.”
      But there are lots of never trumpers out there looking for a home, and as big as the Democrats’ tent is, we won’t woo them all. I felt Friedman’s message of what’s needed for a new center-right party that shares certain real-world assumptions about America’s urgent needs with the Democrats was worth presenting. And I feel the need to keep reminding people that now that we have good government again, we must not forget how fragile our democracy remains.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have been informed on Twitter that I don’t understand American history and government because we have a republic, not a democracy

    This is a formulation that right-wingers nowadays routinely use in a dishonest matter. Yes, a constitutional republic puts limits on the power democratically won by the majority. A party that wins full control of the government still can’t declare an official religion, ban newspapers that support the other party, confiscate guns, etc. But that is not the same thing as engineering or legitimizing minority rule. The majority rules — within constitutional limits, to protect the rights of the minority, but still it rules.

    Republicans, increasingly aware that their current incarnation is doomed to minority status in a nation growing steadily less religious, less racist, more educated, and more urban, have twisted this into legitimizing a system that allows the minority to rule, not just be protected from the majority’s potential excesses. Less explicitly, they justify doing so based on a conviction that the rural, religious, uneducated minority is more genuinely American than the majority which doesn’t share those traits. This is not the logic of “a republic, not a democracy” — this is the logic of apartheid.

    it was a plan to make the party more inclusive by reaching out to minorities, gay people, and women

    The problem is that this was a project of the party elites. The rural, fundamentalist, and largely racist and male-supremacist rank-and-file voting base was never on board with it. On the contrary, they immediately saw it as threatening to dilute the Republican party’s value to them as an instrument for maintaining the dominant position to which they felt they, as a group, were entitled. To the elites, the party itself had intrinsic value and needed to ensure its survival by reaching beyond its existing base. To that existing base, the party only mattered as a tool for achieving their own objectives.

    And so in 2016 they smacked down the party elites and spanked them hard, by rallying around Trump, who was all too willing to step into the role of embodiment of the base’s real agenda. Most of the party elite learned their lesson. A few, such as Cheney, still dared to defy Trump and are getting stomped by the base. Trump has no predators? He is the apex predator, before whom other Republicans grovel in fear and supplication, with a gruesome political demise being the price for opposing him.

    The way to deal with this problem is clear, but very difficult, and is largely as Friedman has laid it out. Changing the minority-rule-promoting character of the Senate and the Electoral College would take a Constitutional amendment and is therefore impossible, but DC and Puerto Rican statehood, and abolition of the filibuster, could at least dilute and weaken it. A tough new voting rights act would roll back the piecemeal imposition of American apartheid (and the fact that this could be characterized as “hyper-partisan” tells you all you need to know about the nature of the present Republican party). To achieve these things, of course, Manchin and Sinema must be brought on board.

    But there’s no point in hoping the Republican party will change until after such measures have squelched its current strategy for maintaining minority rule. As long as that strategy is working, or could be restored to full effectiveness by flipping even a singe Senate seat in 2022, they have no incentive to change it.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Infidel, I had written a rather lengthy explication about why my Twitter opponents had it all wrong, quoting James Madison, et al, but decided to move on to the fact that their words simply echo current Republican dogma. I’m glad you added what you did.

      I agree with much of what you’ve written here, but I think there are elites—and then there are elites. The rank-and-file voting base is to a large degree being manipulated and financed by the likes of Rebecca Mercer, Clarence Thomas’s wife, and other extremely wealthy, ideologically driven and anti-democratic forces. I hope we’ll learn the identities of some of them as all the investigations of the insurrection unfold.

      BTW, Friedman’s use of the word “hyper-partisan” was, I believe, because he was forcefully advocating ideas that he normally would not be because he sees the crisis we’re in. That’s why I expressed my delight that he reached these conclusions and committed them to print.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Annie, how not to be deeply weary of the horrible partisan divide and what it has wrought, the ignorance and racism, the manipulation, the rancid (as one of your readers put it) GOP . . . the complete adherence to the cult of he whom I hope never to have to name again (fat chance)? It’s as Friedman so clearly put it: unhealthy times. Much as I’d like a reprieve from the toxicity of the cult of Trump, much as I feel we’ve earned it with the colossal effort it took to put Biden into office, to flip Georgia, my plan is to look to our clear thinkers (this blog included!), our doers and thinkers. find something I can help with and get it done. So much to protect. No rest for the weary.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Denise: that’s exactly how I feel. We just have to keep on keeping on. The voting rights issue has got to be the animating force. We need to defy the odds in 2022 and expand the Democrats’ numbers in both chambers.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Leading on from my comments of your last post re the blessed lack of noise and campaign-mode from the Biden administration, this is where the most vicious politics are going to be in the next four years in my opinion – the GOP battle between Trumpers and those closer to the centre. I think he is now the benchmark by which others judge where they sit on the political spectrum, and if he chooses not to run a lot of potential candidates will be very tempted to go after the Trump demographic. Really interesting discussion re Washington DC and Puerto Rico representation too – the right thing to do but so politically charged.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Matthew: unfortunately, the trumpers seem to have already won that battle, which is terrible for our country. And their shadow hovers over those Republicans who despise them too. It’s shameful that not a single Republican in either House or Senate would vote for assistance when the needs are so great.
      I’ve been hoping to take a break from writing about politics, but…

      Liked by 5 people

  5. Annie, there is a terrific metaphor that speaks volumes. The first six months of the former president’s tenure was spent trying to take away people’s health care and replace it with some of the most ill-conceived ideas where they did not follow due-process (this was a key reason John McCain gave it a thumbs down). Rather than shore up areas of concern, the former president was cheerleading its demise.

    The first two months of the Biden presidency has reopened the ACA for people who lost coverage and is focus on another pandemic stimulus. Both devised to help people. By the way, McCain saved the GOP from itself, but got vilified. As a former benefits consultant and actuary, what the GOP devised as replacement ideas were God-awful.

    Helping people.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. A very apt metaphor, Keith. And it’s worth noting that Krysten Sinema’s emphatic thumb down vote on the minimum wage—an apparent homage to McCain—fell flat because his vote was to help people, while hers was the opposite.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I noticed Sinema’s flaky, pathetic imitation of McCain and was baffled by the tone-deafness of it. She needs to be careful — unlike Manchin, she represents a distinctly purple state and could reasonably be subject to a primary challenge, since the fact that Arizona’s other senator is also a Democrat shows that a less right-leaning candidate could actually win there in her place.

        The more I learn about the covid-19 relief bill which now seems assured of passage, the more of an enormous accomplishment it seems. Everyone’s focusing on the $1,400 checks, but if I’m understanding the changes to the ACA and the COBRA subsidies correctly, the benefit in terms of helping people keep health insurance would be even greater. We didn’t get everything we wanted (it’s politics — nobody ever gets everything they want), but still an incredibly impressive thing to get through after just a month and a half in power, with razor-thin majorities in both houses, and with unified obstructionism by the Republicans. Independent analyses have said that it will hugely boost the US economic recovery as the pandemic starts to subside due to vaccines. “Every Republican voted against this” should be a powerful campaign message in 2022.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. I recently ordered 10,000 postcards which say “the future belongs to those who vote” on one side which I and a team of friends are using to send encouraging messages to potential voters in political races still unfolding all around the USA. I am quietly confident that Biden and Harris and Pelosi and Schumer remember how the GOP behaved when Obama and Biden were elected (ie: pretending to be willing to compromise as a strategy to slow down and stall any and all legislative accomplishments) and are planning to accomplish all that they can in the next 20 months… and hopefully longer if we can join together to re-ignite profound motivation for the 2022 mid-term elections. And looming over all of the political wrangling is CLIMATE CHANGE, which is likely make our year+ of COVID-19 disaster and life-style changes seem like a walk in the park…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi, Will—
      Good for you! We’ll be starting our postcard efforts shortly as well.
      I do worry how much can be accomplished with the filibuster still in place—and Manchin’s opposition seems firm. My hope is that the infrastructure bill will bring so much help to rural areas that he’ll be tempted to change his mind. But we must expand the numbers of Democrats in 2022!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I hope the discounters will be as happy as I will to cash their stimulus check, and I hope they know how they got it. I say crowd the table with good, popular stuff and turn up the spotlight on the dissenters.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It seems a shame that a movement that only has 25% support of the population (assuming only 50% of Republicans still support Trump), can still have such a big influence. It seems minority rules!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Joni,
      That’s the battle we’re fighting, and the Republicans have lots of structural advantages that we must counter. But we’re on the right track now. I’m hopeful when people see government as a force for good, they’ll feel more positive than they have.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. At this point, the mindless divisions are so deep that I feel Democratic efforts to get rid of the filibuster are only part of the solution and even that might only be temporary if or when Republicans regain control of the legislature. I think it’s also important for a third party to emerge, perhaps the Party of Lincoln. A key question I’ve seen them posing on the liberal side of the Twittosphere is what issue will compel people to jump the Trump ship. I hope they are asking Republicans this same question because I don’t think Democrats can answer it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The trick there is to get as much legislation as possible passed to help people between now and November 2022, to improve the odds that the Republicans will not regain control of Congress. The 2022 Senate map is actually very favorable to us, especially with some Republicans retiring. I’m more concerned about the House. The voting-rights bills now under consideration, to combat gerrymandering and vote suppression, would help there. And minority voters will be more motivated to turn out for the party if the party shows it’s fighting like hell to protect their right to vote. DC statehood would also help, if we can get it through. Manchin is starting to come around on weakening the filibuster, even if not totally abolishing it. The prospects are there for getting things done.

      Trumpanzees exist along a spectrum of varying intensity of cult fervor. The most hard-core ones will probably never jump ship. Many of the most loosely-attached ones already have, after the Capitol lynch-mob attack. The benefits of the covid-19 relief bill may pry away a few more. It’s always going to be about shifting people on the margins rather than converting a whole ideological bloc en masse. But it only takes a few percentage points of change to flip a few close states or a few close Congressional districts.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Carol—
      There is an effort to form a third party: the Serve America Movement (SAM), founded by former Republican representative David Jolly of Florida.
      My worry is that such a movement would detract more from the Democrats and enable the trumpian conspiracy-oriented Republicans to regain control—and thus ends our democracy. I addressed this concern to Jolly on Twitter—twice—but have received no response (I didn’t really expect one).

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Absolutely correct, Infidel: this is a hugely important piece of legislation that has multiple wonderful pieces. Add to the ones you’ve mentioned the expanded child tax credit, which can cut child poverty in the US by half! That alone has been singled out as a remarkable legislative achievement. It’s just for one year, but I heard an administration official say it’s much harder to take something out of the tax code once it’s in than to get it in, and he expects it to be ongoing.

    I’m hoping that now people who have never been helped by government before will see its value and find their way to the polls for the first time. This is what responsive government looks like—and shame on every Republican who voted against it.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Thank you so much for this post, Annie: I’m too weary to write more at the moment, (but: ““Democracy depends on understanding the connection.” ” -exactly!),
    am sharing this shortly…
    -shira

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Annie, this is on point. Thank you so much for sharing this with your audience. This is all too familiar to me, but I am so happy that more people are seeing things for what they truly are, not what they pretend to be. Thank you for adding to this voice of “democracy depending on the connection!” 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Another great contribution, Annie! I agree with you, and Tom Friedman, wholeheartedly! As of now, President Biden’s signed the COVID relief bill and it’s law. There is talk about at least some change to the filibuster, which could hopefully allow passage of firearms regulation and protection of voter access, though maybe those are “stretches”.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s