Today’s Republican leadership has no serious commitment to the republican form of government (and, thus, they are not “republicans” with a lower case “r”); and they also have no commitment to democracy (and thus also are not small “d” democrats).
The evidence is overwhelming. Let’s consider: (1) refusal to abide by the results of elections; (2) voter intimidation; (3) gerrymandering; (4) hatred of “the 47%”; and (5) the push for plutocracy.
I. Refusal to Abide by the Results of Elections.
Our system envisages majority rule as to issues not removed from the will of majorities by the Constitution. As to the latter, consider that we would not allow a binding election on whether to continue to have freedom of speech or of the press. Even if, at a given moment, the majority wished to abolish those, it cannot. Those subjects have been placed beyond the reach of majorities by the Bill of Rights. If one wishes to eliminate those rights, they need to have a successful revolution.
As to non-Constitutional issues, though, our system envisages implementing the will of the majority (subject to a few historical anomalies such as the Electoral College and each state having two U.S. Senators regardless of population). Subjects like health care, immigration, taxation, government spending, and the like, should be subject to majority rule.
However, today, because of Republicans, they are not. Take for instance, the Affordable Care Act. It is not unconstitutional, according to the present Supreme Court; and it has been made law by majorities in both houses. And yet the Republican leadership has blithely resorted to extra-constitutional means in attempt to scuttle or sabotage the law. They have used extortion by threatening to damage the country by government shutdowns and debt default. The have engaged in widespread sabotage of the law in states they control. All of those Republican officials who take oaths of office to “uphold and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States” are violating those oaths.
Indeed, they do so with impunity. In most parts of the country, if they honored their oaths of office, voting Republicans would oust them in the next Republican Primary and replace them with an even more anti-majoritarian saboteur. Clearly, these are not the tactics intended by the Founders, and yet those who most vehemently insist on these tactics can often be found strutting around in colonial tri-cornered hats as if they are the would-be saviors of the system. In reality, they are not its potential saviors; they are its greatest threat.
2. Voter Suppression.
Republican leaders in the states they control have passed an array of voting laws designed to degrade the Democratic vote and, indeed, to make it harder to vote rather than easier. They have passed voter I.D. laws that they know will effectively disenfranchise a group of voters that is pre-dominantly Democratic, as well as reducing the amount of time available for early voting, for the same purpose. This was admitted last year by a Pennsylvania Republican leader, who told his caucus that their new voter intimidation laws would enable Mitt Romney to win the state. (Unfortunately for them, the laws in question were not quite that effective.) Indeed, personally engaging in voter intimidation tactics at predominantly black polling places has been for years a rite of initiation for young Republican politicos, even judges. The late Chief Justice Rehnquist engaged in the practice as an up and coming Republican pol.
Since the “one-man, one vote” U. S. Supreme Court decisions of the 1960’s, U.S. House districts have had to be comprised of virtually equal population, and that requirement has been enforced and observed. The entire House is elected every two years. Given these requirements, one would think that if one party achieved a majority of the votes, nationally, for the U.S. House, it would win a majority of the districts. But, if one would so think, one would be wrong. The districts are drawn by state legislatures, usually once every ten years after the new census.
In 2010, the Republicans had a surprisingly good year at the polls. They used their majorities in most of the state legislatures to so gerrymander the U.S. House districts in their respective states that they virtually guaranteed that the U.S. House would be controlled by the Republican Party for a decade. Now, the voters in the 2010 did not know that they were casting a vote that would result in the control of one house of Congress for a decade; but they did. Due to anti-democratic abuse of the government system by Republican state legislators, the districts are now so gerrymandered that most political scientists calculate that the Democratic Party could win close to 53% of the House votes cast nationally in a given year and still lose the House to a Republican minority party receiving around 47%.
Some commentators have said that this uneven distribution is due not only to gerrymandering but also to the fact that some Democratic constituencies are clustered in close proximity in large cities. I gather that those who so claim did not do well in mathematics or statistics in their school years. The notion is a total misconception. Large clusters of like minded voters in no way results, necessarily, in vote dilution. District lines can be drawn with precision to avoid that result, no matter how far the typical voter happens to live from his neighbors.
Gerrymandering is a much more complex subject than is generally realized. The name of the game is for one party to successfully draw lines so that its party wins districts by generally smaller margins (say, winning by 55% or 60% rather than by 85% or 90%), while the other party “wastes” more of its votes by winning a smaller number of districts by very large margins. The availability of computer-driven models makes this process potentially even more flagrant than it was when accomplished merely by corrupt human hands. Of course, when the computers are put to work on behalf of folks who do not respect democracy, then the results will be particularly deleterious to the republic and its posterity.
4. Hatred of “the 47%.”
History has taught us then when a large body of citizens has no respect for the intelligence or the rights of another large group of citizens, democracy suffers. For instance, in the eight decades of Jim Crow in the South after Reconstruction, we know that the white bigots who controlled the former Confederate states virtually destroyed the right to vote of its black citizens. It took progressive politicians, the courage of southern blacks, and a great deal of blood in the 1950’s and 1960’s to bring democracy to the former Confederacy.
It would thus be foolish to assume that if modern day bigots similarly disrespected the votes of a substantial group of its fellow citizens that such bigots would respect the democratic result flowing from the ballots of the disrespected voters. In Mitt Romney’s famously overheard 2012 speech to a group of friendly Republican donors, he claimed that he had no chance to receive the votes of the 47% of American who do not pay federal income taxes, suggesting that these people were just irresponsible leeches, living off of the hard, honest work of the other 53%. Now, if that is what one actually believes–and Romney must surely have assumed that his audience believed it, or he wouldn’t have said it–given what history has taught us about similar bigotry, it should not surprise us that bigots of that sort have no respect for the ballots cast by that allegedly large group. That disrespect, in fact, would go a long way to explain why that party loses no sleep in engaging in undemocratic acts of extortion and sabotage to attempt to destroy the legitimate laws of our republic, as discussed above in subsection 1.
It does not matter that the 47% notion is a complete myth. Today’s Republicans have consistently demonstrated their ability to believe in an alternative universe filled with myths, such as: global warming is a hoax; there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attack; Acorn stole the 2012 election for Obama; lowering taxes always increases revenue; the pre-presidential polls in 2012 were biased toward Obama; and we can now add to that that a debt default by the U.S. government will not do any harm.
And the 47% notion is, indeed, a myth. That group consists of many elements, but some of the largest are these: (1) seniors no longer working; (2) most members of the military; and (3) poor whites who do not earn enough to be liable for U. S. income tax. It happens that all three of the groups mentioned vote, as a majority, for Republicans. Now, those three groups are not all of the 47% (it excludes, for instance, poor blacks and young post-college students not yet able to find a job); but they are most of it. Thus, Republican office-seekers get their fair share of the 47% who do not pay federal income taxes and, in fact, probably get most of it.
But, a good democrat or a good republican might ask: what of it? Those are legitimate voters, too! And indeed they are. Some are bona fide heroes, even–those who have fought for their countries or worked until retirement succeeding in the American Way.
And yet the Republican base believes in the 47% myth. Romney is smart enough to have known that it was a bald-faced lie; he was just feeding the prejudice of the group of bigots who sat before him. When he later stated that he had made a mistake, he was blasted by Rush Limbaugh who fulminated that Romney had it right the first time! “That is what we believe!”–said the leader of the ditto-head right wing base.
5. The Push for Plutocracy
The current conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, through its decision in the Citizens United case and others, is doing all it can to allow the Republicans to rule from a minority position. It needs to do so because it is obvious that the Republican Party is rapidly losing its ability to win national elections. So, the Court increases the power of the mostly Republican billionaires. Bill Moyers has said that our elections are becoming such that they should more aptly be called auctions. Of course, Democrats are reasonably effective at raising money, as well, but usually they depend on many contributions from small donors. Obama used that effectiveness to outspend McCain in 2008. So, the anti-democratic conservative majority on the Supreme Court decided to give the Republicans an assist by increasing the power of large donors.
Pure free market fundamentalism, favored by U.S. Republicans, is also a path to plutocracy. Every freshman text in Micro-economics learns that Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” of perfect distribution and wealth creation can only exist in an economy of “perfect” competition–where the sellers are so numerous no seller has any significant power over the market as a whole and where every buyer has complete knowledge–that is, an economy devoid of any tendencies toward monopoly or oligopoly. Such an economy does not exist in the United States except for some possible agricultural sectors. The vast majority of our industries are influenced or even dominated by businesses with power tending toward oligopoly or even monopoly. And those same texts teach that in that sort of economy–in other words, the kind we live in–the result of a totally unregulated “pure” free market will inevitably tend toward the increasing monopolization of all of those industries, to the extreme detriment of everyone else. Put another way, free market fundamentalism leads to plutocracy. That is the perfect world as viewed by Ayn Rand–who numerous Republican leaders, including Paul Ryan and Ron Paul–have said was a major inspiration of their career.
When the great Miracle of Philadelphia–the 1787 Constitutional Convention–was finished, a curious onlooker asked the aged Benjamin Franklin, one of the delegates, what the convention had produced: “A republic, if you can keep it,” responded the great man. Keeping it is one of the goals of the contemporary Democratic Party. Destroying it is the goal of many of the leaders and of the “base” of the opposing party.