Democracy Dies in the USA

Democracy Dies in the USA

Ever since the publication of Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt in their new book, How Democracies Die, I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about how Trump isn’t the cause of the death of our democracy but merely a symptom.

What Makes a Democracy?

This is undoubtedly true and certainly not a keen insight. Although I must admit that the acceleration of our democracy’s demise has been so great the last couple of years that even I’ve been surprised. I used to tell people that we didn’t have to worry about democracy dying in the US because democracy was not about voting. It was about the institutions of democracy that would keep the ship on course. I should have known better.

Republicans Figured Out How to Destroy Our Democracy

I did not reckon for the modern Republican Party which has absolutely no interest in democracy or even the country. I don’t consider myself terribly patriotic, but modern Republicans aren’t patriotic at all! As I have said too many times before: all they care about is power. Power so that they can enrich themselves and their rich friends.

This all really started in 1994 with Newt Gingrich. He’s the man who really changed the Republican Party from a bad but normal political party into one that cared only about power.

The Real Witch Hunts

And it was because of the Republican caucus that he created that started the actual witch hunt of President Bill Clinton. In fact, I find myself extremely angry when Trump mentions that there is a witch hunt after him. He’s gone through nothing the Bill Clinton went through! He’s not even gone through anything that Hillary Clinton went through. And they were both innocent of any wrongdoing. Day by day it looks like Trump is more guilty than Richard Nixon was.

Hillary Clinton Witch Hunts

As of 2015, there had been 7 Benghazi probes by Congress. Each one of them found the same thing: not only did Hillary Clinton do nothing wrong, no one did anything wrong. The 2012 attack was a tragedy. But the Republicans went on a witch hunt. They just knew that Hillary Clinton had to be responsible for the deaths of Christopher Stevens and three others. And when they found nothing, they started the whole thing over again. It was one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in American politics. But it wasn’t surprising in the least.

Bill Clinton

And then there is Bill Clinton, but let’s not forget that these were also attacks on Hillary Clinton.

People remember Monica Lewinsky. But they tend to forget about how we got to her. Ken Starr, the special prosecutor for Bill Clinton was determined to get him regardless of what the facts where. He investigates the death of Vince Foster. That’s right! The death of Vince Foster. And after billing the US government for ungodly amounts of money, they produced a 100+ page report that determined what others had found: Foster had killed himself.

(I have a certain affinity for Foster, because I believe that I would have done the same thing that he did. And in the end, in death, he was used in the same way that made him kill himself. Vince Foster was a good man — better than our society deserves.)

And Then Monica Lewinsky

When that went nowhere, Starr just threw the investigation open and looked at everything: Whitewater, the travel office, I assume even Clinton’s supposed drug running when he was governor of Arkansas. But in the end, Starr got him! He knew that any husband would lie about an extramarital affair. And that’s how we got to Monica Lewinsky.

The problem was, the people didn’t care. They could see what the Republicans were doing. Their lives were good, and whatever problems Bill and Hillary had in their marriage, that was their problem.

This, my friends, is a witch hunt. Both of the Clintons have been the subjects of witch hunts. Donald Trump has not. To him, anyone questioning him about anything is a witch hunt. Because Donald J Trump is not the kind of man you question. He’s the kind of man you protect. So if the FBI isn’t protecting him, it must be corrupt!

December 2000

But the day democracy truly died was late in the year 2000. That was when we saw that even the Supreme Court was more interested in having their guy win than seeing the law properly applied. It’s truly amazing that it is conservatives who constantly talk about our legal system being out of control when it is the conservatives who are doing it.

Equal Protection for Our Man Bush Jr

Once that happened all bets were off. There was no democracy. What was the point of even voting if your vote didn’t count. If 9 unelected justices could just say no we’re going to decide who’s president and we’re going to use the precedent we hate and say it only applies to George W Bush.

So don’t ever try to use this equal protection thing to protect poor people. It only applies to George W Bush.

From 1994 Onward, Republicans Will Protect Their President Regardless

The real issue we’re having in this country right now is that the Republican Congress will protect Trump no matter what. And I don’t believe that is any different than it was in 1994. Newt and company would have done the same thing. I just wasn’t paying attention. Few of us were.

Would a Parliament Help Us?

I tend to think that a parliamentary system would have fewer problems of this nature. That’s because it is so hard to get a majority in a parliamentary system. Thus most governments are made up of two — sometimes even three — parties. Thus, getting a government who would protect a man as unfit for the job as Donald Trump wouldn’t happen.

You certainly wouldn’t see what’s going on with Trump right now in a parliamentary system. Because you wouldn’t have enough people in one party who would do anything to protect him. His party might stand behind him, but his coalition partners wouldn’t.

What About Hitler?

But even there we still have the example of the Nazi’s rise to power. And that was in a parliamentary system. But that was very hard. The parliament simply could not form a government. My understanding is that this is no longer a problem.

The winning party gets the first shot at forming a government. But if they are so vile like the Nazis were and like the Republicans are then the second place party gets to see if it can form a government.

More Parties Would Help

I tend to think that if the United States had five or six major parties the Republicans would not be able to get more than about 20 percent of the vote. In a parliamentary system, a party would rise up that would offer the current Republican voters a real populist party: one that was socially conservative and economically liberal. And this would force the current Republican Party to be less just a party that offers oligarchy and one policy (anti-choice) that they like.

But it doesn’t really matter because the truth is when you get that many people who care only about power, democracy is dead. And it’s not like the United States started at a high level.

Constitutional Convention of 1787

The Anti-Democratic Foundation of the United States

Remember the Three-Fifths clause? Slaves who were in every other way property gave the slave states 2/3 of a vote for each slave or rather their master’s. And also we have the Senate which is incredibly undemocratic. And finally, we have gerrymandering.

We have the technology to do this. It’s the same technology that we now use to make are congressional districts as unfair as possible. Use exactly the same tools and you could have a fair and Democratic country. But we don’t.

Gerrrymandering Is Bipartisan

And that’s not just the Republican Party’s fault. The truth is that every elected official has a stake in the current system because it is the current system that got them elected. But I truly believe that the Democrats would be in favor of fixing the system.

Look at California: the bluest of blue States. It passed a law and pretty much got rid of gerrymandering. But you don’t much see that in red States. And the reason for it is that Republicans are not popular. They understand that in order to gain power they must the system.

Our Broken Judicial System

What I find truly amazing though is that conservatives complain about how Obama abused the Constitution. I remember no such thing.

He was extremely careful. There were many things that he did that I don’t like. But he did not trample the Constitution. The truth is that we have a constitution that is over 200 years old. It might have been state-of-the-art then but it is not today. There are much better constitutions. But that’s not Obama’s fault.

People Think Trump Is Saving Our Courts

At the same time, the people who think that Obama destroyed the Constitution think that Trump is saving it. And while I don’t think that Trump has done much damage to the Constitution because he’s so incompetent, it’s true that he knows so little about it that his general instincts are to run roughshod all over it.

He thinks like an authoritarian. He thinks that everyone in government is there to protect him. He seems to think that people join the FBI and pledge to protect him and not the Constitution.

I would be shocked to find out that Donald Trump has ever read the Constitution. He doesn’t understand it and he doesn’t understand our country. That’s really the biggest problem with him. How can you love America when you know nothing about it?

Donald Trump's Eyes

We Will Survive Trump, But…

So I think we’ll get through Trump. And I think the next president will be a Democrat. And they will do a lot of cleaning up. They will also do some bad things but let’s face it: the Congressional Democrats won’t let them get away with much.

This has been one of my complaints about the Democratic Party. They are not loyal to their own. The Republicans have the opposite problem. They are so loyal to their own that they will see their country destroyed before they will turn on a president like Donald Trump.

The Next Republicans

So we’ll get another presidency and things will go back to the way we thought they were. But I assure you the next Republican president will be even worse than Trump. Remember how bad George W Bush was? Remember how we couldn’t imagine someone worse? Welcome to president Donald J Trump.

So the next Republican president will be like Trump but he will be far smarter. He might even manage to dismantle our democracy completely without anyone even noticing. He might be rather well-liked — even by Democrats! Our problems don’t stop with Trump.

I don’t expect to live that long. But if I live to be 90, I know I will see a country that is unlike anything I ever thought possible when I was 30 years old. Things just get worse and worse.

The Real Fault: No False Equivalence

And I will not play any false equivalence here. There are many problems with the Democratic Party. But they are a normal political party. They are not the reason that our democracy is dying. Our democracy is dying because of the Republican Party. That’s all there is to say. And if you are Republican voter, you’re voting for the death of democracy in America.

I don’t want to be cute about this. You need to read some books. You need to pay attention. You need to see that the Republican Party is something more than just the party that will install anti-choice judges.

Because that is the real question for you. Does getting a few anti-choice judges on the court enough? Because they will also, by the way, always vote against individuals and for large corporations and basically vote against you in every way except on this one issue. Is that an acceptable exchange for the end of democracy in the United States?

Because there are already countries you can go to where abortion is completely illegal even to save the life of the mother. Many of them are authoritarian. So if that’s what you want go there. Why destroy our flailing democracy here?

2 replies on “Democracy Dies in the USA”

  1. Natalie says:

    This is a powerful piece, Frank. Thanks for laying the argument out on the table. I’m more optimistic than almost everyone I know — except on this topic. I agree with you completely. It would be great to see some links out to some of the things you reference for people who are on the fence to go educate themselves. But, alas, if they’re not curious enough to go do the research on their own, they’re probably lost anyway.

    The only halfway controversial comment I have is to point out that the UK, a parliamentary government, has Teresa May heading it. They’re on the path to authoritarianism, just like we are.

    My opinion is that we’ve actually been headed down this path since the industrial revolution aimed capitalism at the working class like a loaded gun.

    • Frank Moraes says:

      I agree with you. Our Constitution was set up for an agrarian culture. We aren’t that anymore, and so the whole thing is falling apart.

      I also agree about Theresa May. But I thought I had that covered with my discussion of the Nazis. Of course, note that Labour beat the hell out of the Conservatives at the last election. But I must have dreamed that, because Jeremy Corbyn is running Labour, and as we all know, Labour could never win under him! (Note how similar the Democrats and Labour are. We are constantly told we will lose unless we move to the right. But when we don’t, we do fine.)

      I’ll look at putting the links in. The truth is that I work so much these days that I just don’t feel like I have the time to put in the necessary links (or images or pretty much anything). But I’m spending more time on FC and Psychotronic Review, so hopefully, things will change.

      The funny thing is that about the only conservatives who come by complaining are libertarians. That seems to be the case because libertarians always think they are the smartest people around and all they have to do is tell me what they think and they will be converted! It’s amazing, really. They really do think they’re smart, yet their ideology is so simplistic. All they believe in is the NAP (non-aggression principle), and I can destroy that in about 10 seconds by noting that the NAP depends upon a non-libertarian police force throwing other people in jail just because they are true libertarians and don’t believe you have the right to act aggressively just because you believe in property “rights.” Where did these “libertarians” get the idea that they can own land? That’s a ridiculous thing. They didn’t build it. It’s just a natural resource that we should all share. Why should you get land just because when your ancestors came here they could use aggression against the natives to take their land? It makes no sense! But arguing with a libertarian is like slamming your head against a wall.

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