Think the U.S.A. is a democracy?

Republican_Flag_of_the_United_States-wavyWith the impending confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court (and the confirmation hearings are now just a formality given the rule changes by the Republican-controlled Senate), the U.S. can retire its reputation as a representative democracy. It will be a one-party state, and not of the communist or socialist kind either. Think 1921 Italy. This has been by design.

Most people reading will immediately write off such an opinion as extreme or ludicrous. To intimate that the U.S. has been “under siege” by a radical, extreme conservative movement to “take over” the country over the last 30-40 years, well, yes that sounds crazy. Conspiracy theory!

The truth is pretty fuzzy. A “coup” – if it can be called that – has been happening slowly over the last three decades or so. It seems unorganized and piecemeal. It is happening under the name of a historical, trusted political party. But just a simple run-down of current facts should be enough to chill any democracy-loving, American citizen’s soul, regardless of political orientation.

First, let’s have some perspective. From Wikipedia:

“As of October 2017, Gallup polling found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrat, 24% identified as Republican, and 42% as Independent. Additionally, polling showed that 46% are either ‘Democrats or Democratic leaners’ and 39% are either ‘Republicans or Republican leaners’ when Independents are asked ‘do you lean more to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party?'”

This is also supported by the Pew Research Center of U.S. Politics and Policy:

“Democrats hold a slightly larger edge in leaned party identification over Republicans now than in 2016 or 2015.

“In Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2017, 37% of registered voters identified as independents, 33% as Democrats and 26% as Republicans. When the partisan leanings of independents are taken into account, 50% either identify as Democrats or lean Democratic; 42% identify as Republicans or lean Republican.”

So, a majority of American citizens are left of center to some degree overall. Here is the state of the Union:

  • Of the last three presidents elected, only one was elected to office as a new president with a majority of voting citizens – the popular vote. Not “by” the citizens – presidents are elected by the states, and the states are represented by the electoral college. Barack Obama had majority support (both times). George W. Bush and Donald Trump – both Republicans – did not win the popular vote. (Bush was re-elected with a majority over John Kerry.)
  • The majority of states have Republican governors: 33 Republican to 16 Democrat and 1 Independent as of January, 2018.
  • “As of June 29, 2018, Republicans controlled 56.1% of all state legislative seats nationally, while Democrats held 42.6%. Republicans held a majority in 67 chambers, and Democrats held the majority in 32 chambers.” – Ballotpedia
  • Republicans have majorities in the House of Representatives (236 to 193) and the Senate (51 to 47, plus 2 independents).

And yet:

  • 71% of Americans think climate change is real, is starting to happen, and is potentially a threat of varying degree.
  • 64-67% of Americans support the Supreme Court’s decision Roe vs. Wade affirming women’s right to choose an abortion.
  • 83% of voters support keeping FCC’s net neutrality rules. Even 82% of Republican voters favor keeping the rules as they were set under the Obama administration.
  • Around 90% of Americans support “universal background checks” on gun purchases. 97% of gun owners favor such a measure.
  • 53% of Americans support a national health plan like universal healthcare.
  • “… almost half of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, with 48% opposing versus 30% supporting the decision. Given the chance to change the campaign finance system, a majority of Americans (57%) would place limits on the amount of money super PACs can raise and spend.” – Ipsos
  • Only 24-26% of all voters supported the Republican tax cuts when it was passed.

The Republican Party is officially opposite to all of the above. The Trump administration with the Republican-controlled Congress has been swift to overturn regulations that enforced, and block new efforts in favor of those majority opinions. So how did the Republican Party come to be in power throughout the U.S. despite not representing the views of the majority of Americans – conservative, centrist, and progressive?

There has been a lot of ink spilled on this. Primarily, though, it has been a concerted effort by a coalition of conservative business and radical conservative religious organizations, and the Republican politicians bank-rolled by them that actively gerrymandered voting districts to favor Republican Party candidates, especially after the success of the Citizens United decision. Given that pivotal decision in cementing a Republican Party ruling majority in two of the three branches and throughout the states, the Supreme Court became the final branch that needs to be “overtaken” by the radical conservative right. That is going to happen with Kavanaugh’s confirmation. And of the efforts to cement a ruling one-party state, the battle for the Supreme Court is the most glaring effort to “overtake” our government; Senate majority leader McConnell (Republican) without precedent illegally blocked hearings on the nomination of Obama’s justice pick, Judge Merrick Garland, to prevent a centrist or progressive Supreme Court – despite the Constitution expressly permitting the president to submit the nomination for confirmation hearings. With Kavanaugh replacing Kennedy, the Supreme Court will not only be conservative, it will be extremely conservative, and very much out-of-sync with current majority thought on gun control, campaign finance, net neutrality, healthcare, privacy rights, corporate rights, and abortion.

If you look at that list – gun control, campaign finance, net neutrality, healthcare, privacy rights, corporate rights, and abortion – it is immediately apparent that none of the authors of the Constitution could have had any foresight on those issues some 200 years later. The hard-right canard of “original intent” or “strict Constitutional construction” becomes absurd on issues that didn’t exist in 1787. There was no original intent on abortion as it wasn’t even in the realm of possibility then. Net neutrality? Automatic weapons and bump stocks? These issues must be decided by the progressive (as in the dictionary definition, not political) interpretation of Constitutional thought in response to today’s societal needs. Otherwise a Supreme Court filled with strict constructionists could argue (absurdly but factually) for reinstating slavery and revoking women’s right to vote – both were the law of the land under the 1787 Constitution.

I am no where as literate on this current political crisis as others that are now sounding the alarm: “America Is Not a Democracy” by Yascha Mounk in The Atlantic, and “There’s So Much You Don’t Know About Brett Kavanaugh” by the editorial board of The New York Times both eloquently detail the extreme right coup slowly unfolding in the U.S. But most of the press has been failing to accurately report this dichotomy of governance and governed under the wrongful auspices of trying to be fair and non-partisan. Trump’s incessant attacks on the press spook them even more into being more meek for fear of looking partisan.

But even if you discount my words and the whole idea of a coup, whether you are conservative or progressive, just how do you explain the facts and numbers above showing a population more centrist-left but ruled almost entirely by a conservative right political party? A party moving even farther right politically and socially? That isn’t the definition of a representative democracy.

This isn’t a conservative or liberal issue, this is an American one. We citizens better unite and restore our representative democracy (regardless of how our country swings left or right in the future), or face the consequences of allowing a minority-backed one-party state to arise on our watch.

 

 

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