Saturday, December 3, 2016

Our Democracy has been Stolen and We Need to Take it Back!

If there is one thing for which I can be thankful out of this debacle we are currently facing in the United States it is that it has been a tremendous wake-up call to many parts of our populace...including me.  It is time for us to acknowledge that we have been asleep at the wheel.  For Democracy, the "Rule of the People" to work, it requires tremendous vigilance and engagement from its citizens at all levels.

So, what happened?  Many of us woke up on 11/9/2016 to find our Democracy had been stolen from us...but, truthfully, this is the result of a many-year game plan by a bunch of bad actors in the GOP.  It is far more than the Trump Presidency.  We need to step back and look at the bigger picture.

I need to make clear, right now, that when I say it is the work of a bunch of bad actors in the GOP, I DO NOT mean that it is every single Republican politician.  And I certainly DO NOT mean that it is every single person who is a Republican or who voted Republican.  There are many of the Republican base who at some point are going to be in for as rude an awakening as the rest of us when they finally start feeling the effects of what they voted for.

The bad actors are definitely the GOP leadership, many of whom began this work during the Clinton administration if not back further...people like Newt Gingrich.  They have been seriously playing the long-game.

So, when I am making a claim that our Democracy was STOLEN from us, I am talking about the system itself being corrupted to take power from the Demos, the people, and consolidate it into the hands of the GOP who have set things up so that they can win and hold all of the power as a minority.  There is a whole other analysis about who the GOP actually serve, but right now I want to focus on the ways that they have corrupted the system so that it is a minority who can rule over a majority without their consent.

Let that sink in.  We have a situation in which a minority can rule over a majority WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.


1.  Gerrymandering
2.  A lack of reasonable controls on campaign finance, especially in the overwhelming influence of "dark" money where there is no transparency.
3.  Weaponizing the state investigatory apparatus for political purposes
4.  The destruction of fact-based discourse as a norm in politics and the media
5.  Voter suppression
6.  The corruption of the original purpose of the Electoral College
7.  Stacking the courts

In addition, there are three structural problems that have been fully exploited by the GOP that have to do with the history of our nation and need to be changed if we are not going to be under the tyranny of the minority.

1.  The historical way in which our states were created and how the Senate is composed
2.  The Electoral College
3.  The rights of colonies and territories, especially the District of Columbia

So, let's talk about this.  I'm going to take them a little out of order.

Weaponizing the state investigatory apparatus for political purposes
For those of us old enough to remember the Clinton administration, this is where I first, personally, saw this used to extraordinary effect.  Of course, if I were older, I might remember McCarthy and we shouldn't forget that Roy Cohn...Trump's mentor...was McCarthy's main attack dog.  So, we seriously need to watch this shit and make sure we are not back into things being investigated as "Unamerican."

But I remember very well the way in which the GOP used Ken Starr to basically keep a made-up innuendo shit-show front and center in the nation's consciousness for years.  It began, if you will remember, as an investigation into a real estate deal and wrong-doing.  But Starr kept expanding and expanding in ways that, frankly, if it had been a "real" investigation in which you have to show probable cause...there was NOTHING.  There was nothing but incessant innuendo and the "appearance" of wrong-doing without anything that was know...wrongdoing.  Until they finally impeached Bill Clinton on....getting a consensual blow-job from an adult and lying about it.  But through this, the impression that was being created in the mind of the public was that the Clintons, and more broadly the Democrats, were somehow untrustworthy and corrupt...with NO evidence.  But they manipulated the press that even then was struggling with trying to keep themselves financially afloat and kept it front and center because people will tune in and watch a fucking circus.

Then we see this again in the Benghazi hearings.  No evidence of wrong-doing and, in fact, far more people had died in embassies under W. Bush - and that had never been investigated.  During the course of that, they took a page from Starr and expanded into this email investigation...not because there was any evidence of wrong-doing, but because they were keeping this manufactured "scandal" front and center in order to discredit Hillary and to give the impression of untrustworthiness.  Never mind that there were many, many more emails that had gone missing under W's administration...emails that might have been investigated to determine whether or not he and his administration know...LIED about the weapons of mass destruction to get us into a war that we are still dealing with.  Real questions.  But that is never investigated.  Because this isn't and never was about truth or anything but manufacturing scandals to distract the public and attack political opponents.

And then the HEAD OF OUR FEDERAL POLICE throws a bomb into the election 11 days ahead of time to provide more baseless innuendo about Hillary Clinton's emails...when he keeps oddly silent about the investigations going on about the Trump campaign's connections to THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT and its influence on our elections...the kind of thing that is APPROPRIATE to investigate.  That is the heavy hand on the scale and should be investigated as a violation of the Hatch Act if ever there was one.

What all of this does is to get people to inherently distrust the Clintons but more broadly the Democrats based on NOTHING while simultaneously serving as excellent misdirection (you know...what stage magicians use) for all of the actual corruption that the GOP leadership is engaged in spreading throughout the country.

And, I believe that it directly leads to:

The Destruction of Fact-Based Discourse in Politics and the Media

For years the parts of the "inner workings" of government that are given incessant coverage by the broadcast media, especially, in their 24-hour news cycle, is a non-fact based circus of shouting people with nothing but innuendo, accusation and drama.  And people tune in.  In fact, politics has just been reduced to...REALITY TV.

Except Reality Television is NOT reality and this has real effects.  So, what is learned from this is that things that generate passion and upset and drama...they get people to watch...and anyone who watches reality TV is an expert in reality TV.  And it does not matter one whit if what is said is true or not.  It is all about their "perception."  And there is a whole spin-off industry that was already there but gets steam, of angry "reality tv" type stars screaming more made-up bullshit.  When the comedians on the left (Stewart and Colbert, especially, now Jon Oliver, Samantha Bee etc.) do more truth-telling than most of the mainstream broadcast media...we are in serious fucking trouble.

Add to that social media and the fact that only a few of the old hardcore journalistic outlets even have investigative reporters AND that they do not have a viable business model to stay in business...we have a very, very serious problem.

So, we have a real crisis where people in power say things in order to provoke particular reactions and have no commitment to truth-telling and two-generations of a population whose main exposure to politics has been through the televised circus that is indistinguishable from "reality television" in which made-up bullshit drama is accepted and swallowed...and then they are basically told that they can choose their own adventure through voting.  They watch their own news outlets, which for many in the GOP is outlets that directly, repeatedly and intentionally lie to their viewers because they have accepted the axiom that all truth claims are really rationalization of power.

The trouble (and hopefully the salvation), of course, is that there is such a thing as reality.  It will bite us in the ass.  The coal miners who thought they are getting their jobs back...their jobs aren't fucking coming back.  They just aren't.  The messaging from the GOP leadership and their segment of the media will, of course, be that somehow it will be the fault of the Democrats...but their jobs aren't coming back any more than being a stable-boy or chimney sweep will be common and viable forms of employment.

But the point of this is that in a post-fact situation, we have unscrupulous actors who are intentionally manipulating the populace through misdirection, lying, and innuendo and that they are overwhelmingly members of or aligned to the GOP.

All of the above serves as giant misdirection
while the GOP advances several major pieces of agenda that steal our Democracy.  I will need to go into these in more detail at some point but they have very systematically:

1.  Corrupted Campaign Finance...well...the conservative justices through things like Citizen's United...but it enables dark money to be used in order to influence campaigns.  What is most important to know is that Dark Money is especially used in LOCAL campaigns....especially in state legislative races and so forth.  Why?  Both to influence policies that are created on a local level...and we often forget how much power is given to states as a result of federalism...but also, to enable:

2.  Gerrymandering!  Urban areas are the economic centers, the population centers, and tend to be overwhelmingly politically progressive.  This is where most of us live and because we are the economic centers, we are the main tax base.  Now, there are some urban people who are Republicans and vote for tax laws that directly benefit them...especially if they are part of the 1% because the GOP has been taxing in ways to increase the share of the wealth that the 1% has at the expense of everyone else since Reagan, but in general, urban areas go blue.  So, thanks to unscrupulous gerrymandering at state levels, in states where the GOP has systematically managed to get control over state legislatures...often through dark money and attack campaigns that use the innuendo, lies, etc. discussed above...urban centers and areas that typically tend to have a strong progressive presence tend to be carved up, often in totally insane ways, so that it is ridiculously difficult if not impossible for a Democrat to get elected.  So, you can have a county that will vote blue in every presidential and Senate election that is ALWAYS going to have GOP reps in the House and state legislature.  As far as I am concerned, this should be utterly illegal and we should go to a system in which computer algorithms determine district boundaries based on nothing but population compression.  Technologically, this could be done.  Now, to be fair, Democrats have definitely used gerrymandering also...Maryland is a notorious example...but the vast majority of this is GOP.

3.  Voter Suppression:  Once the GOP began getting control of the state legislatures, then they started instituting both laws and practices that are specifically targeted at suppressing voters who tend to vote Democrat.  These include voter ID laws that disproportionately affect poor people of color who almost all vote blue; closing polling stations so that lines are incredibly long in areas that have higher proportions of registered Democrats; stripping the voter roles for people who haven't voted in the some number of elections using criteria that they test-model first to ensure that it will disproportionately affect Democrats (which requires re-registering and they often don't inform people who have been stripped that they are no longer registered...until they show up and aren't listed); closing down early voting; denying citizens who have previous incarceration the right to vote...which when you consider the disproportionate impact of policing/conviction/incarceration on poor people of color, especially African-American men, this permanent disenfranchisement is deeply morally problematic.  All of these measures are statistically modeled first with an intention of disproportionately suppressing voters who tend to vote Democrat.  Most of this was made possible by gutting the Voting Rights Act, a key piece of Civil Rights legislation that is CLEARLY still needed.

4.  Corruption of the Original Purpose of the Electoral College:  The Electoral College was originally designed, as described by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers to keep the populace from electing a demagogue.  Well...if ever there were a test case...we are facing a true demagogue.  But at the same time, most states have passed laws that aim to restrict the so-called "faithless electors," those who vote against the decision of the popular vote in their state.  So, one of two things really should happen here.  EITHER the electoral college should be a carefully selected group of people with high-powered critical thinking skills, a dedication to doing what is right for the country, and they should be fully empowered to vote their conscience OR we should abolish the Electoral College and go straight with the popular vote.  What we have now is a situation in which if our electors voted their conscience, in many states they would be breaking the law AND the understanding of their role is so misunderstood that there is a decent chance it would mean armed insurrection.  That being the case, I would advocate for abolishing the Electoral College.  What we have now allows for the tyranny of the minority in selecting a President.  Because of the way in which the electoral college is created, it structurally benefits rural I will discuss in a minute.  But these state-level laws making it an offense for delegates to the Electoral College to perform their constitutionally appointed role of protecting us from the threat of a demagogue, while still maintaining the Electoral College - this is systemic corruption of our system.

5.    Stacking the Courts:  This, to me, is one of the most egregious and, I believe ILLEGAL forms of corruption in which the GOP has systematically engaged.  It is the duty of the President of the United States to appoint federal judges...not just to the Supreme Court, but to the federal appellate courts and federal district courts, with advice from the Senate - which is obligated to hold conformation hearings.  Under the "leadership" of Mitch McConnell, the Senate has just refused to hold hearings for hundreds of nominees put forward by Obama...they have just refused to do it and kept the positions vacant until they could recapture the White House.  Let me repeat that...THE GOP HEAD OF THE SENATE HAS SYSTEMATICALLY REFUSED TO PERFORM HIS CONSTITUTIONALLY MANDATED DUTY FOR YEARS IN ORDER TO CORRUPT THE BALANCE OF POWER BY ONLY ALLOWING NOMINEES FROM HIS PARTY TO APPOINT JUDGES.  McConnell is going to go down in history as one of the great destroyers of the great American experiment.

So, THE GOP HAS SYSTEMATICALLY DISMANTLED AND DESTROYED THE CHECKS AND BALANCES that form the foundation of our Democracy.  They have stolen it.  They broke the rules about the courts.  They have used dark money to break the rules about how we are supposed to have representation in Congress through shameless abuse of gerrymandering, the protective purposes of the Electoral College are undermined.

There are also, as I mentioned, some deeply problematic structural problems that have to do with history.

1.  The historical way states were created
The admission of states into the Union was subject to various reasoning at the time.  We have had some shifts, though, in the way in which our country is structured that render this problematic.  So, each state gets two senators.  The Senate, of course, was never intended to be a proportionately representative body.  However, when the Constitution was created, it was 13 colonies, not 50 states, and the proportions were more reasonable.  At this point, we have 50 states and an overwhelming portion of the citizens live in cities, especially cities situated on the two coasts.  So, historically, there may be reasons why there are so many states in the middle even though they all have low populations.

If you were to combine and make a single state out of the following

  • Wyoming
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Montana
  • Idaho
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Kansas
  • Utah
It is STILL almost a million people smaller than New York.  It is many millions smaller than California.  

So, New York gets two votes in the Senate.  The states listed above that represent fewer people get 18 votes.  There are some small states that tend to vote Democrat also, but there is a massive population disproportion that has to do more with historical circumstances concerned with governing territory in an era that predates modern transportation.  If we were dividing up the states now, many of these low-population states in the middle would be combined and would not give them THIS level of extraordinarily disproportionate power.

2.  The Electoral College
Looking at the above combined with the fact that the Electoral College does NOT function the way initially intended, not only do small, low-population states have overwhelmingly disproportionate influence in the Senate, the electoral college combines the numbers of House and Senate representatives, structurally diminishing the power of states with large populations.  For example, one vote in Wyoming is worth about 4 Californians.  Additionally, most states are winner take all.  This is especially problematic since the population has moved into big cities often on the coasts.  We are now in a situation in which we have a President who lost the popular vote by an extraordinarily large margin and is about to be sworn in based on this structural problem in which the majority has no power because of the inequality of the worth of votes.  One possible solution would be to pass a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College - especially since the original purpose of the EC has been undermined.  A reinstitution of the principle of one voice, one vote.  However, since the GOP has corrupted the system so that it can remain in power in the legislature, it is unlikely that they will do such a thing...thereby seizing the power of electing the Presidency away from the majority.  Again...our Democracy has been stolen.

3.  Colonies, including the District of Columbia
There are a number of colonies, but the two that especially should be made into states are the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  DC is a particularly problematic case since we pay federal taxes and have no voting legislators and don't really have home rule.  We don't because we vote 96% Democrat.  We have more population than Wyoming or Vermont.  The ONLY reason that we are being denied statehood is not the original reason set forth by the framers when they believed that no one would actually live here...we are now like London, Paris, or Athens.  It is interesting, also, to note that those who live and work around the capital and who, frankly, are the MOST informed about how the federal government actually works are overwhelmingly in favor of the Democratic party...which is why we are systematically disenfranchised.  Puerto Rico has a population of 3,480,000, which makes them more populous than 20 states.  They, at least, do not pay federal income taxes right now, but they have no representation.  But the reason that we are not given the full rights of citizenship is all about the GOP suppressing the power of the Democrats.


So, all of these things, again, when taken together have created a situation in which a minority can rule over the majority without their consent.  I understand that the GOP is exultant and drunk on their power, but they might want to seriously remember that there are REASONS why our founders created checks and balances because what they are doing is not the way to govern in a sustainable manner.  The only way to govern is through the consent of the governed...if you don't have that, you have tyranny and the appropriate response to tyranny, according to our own founders, is to overthrow it.  

I believe in the great American experiment.  It was an attempt to create a stable system that did not create the conditions that lead to tyranny and from thence to revolution.  I hope that our leaders and, specifically, the leaders of the GOP, take a good look at what they are doing and reconsider whether or not "winning" is really worth the cost.


Katrina Messenger said...

By George, I think she's got it! Excellent analysis and accessible writing, great job, Gwendolyn!

Gwendolyn said...

Thank you, Katrina!