Friday, November 4, 2016

The First Rule of Republican Politics

Warp the thing a little more, and voila! Scalia!
If there’s a general rule about modern conservatism, it’s that they’re almost certainly doing whatever it is they accuse their opposition of doing, and typically more of it. Examples abound: railing against President Obama for “dividing America” while identifying their partisans as “Real Americans” and speaking only to and for them; claims that Democrats lie to voters against the backdrop of Donald Trump lying daily and brazenly and an infotainment infrastructure that promotes ignorance among its own voters; extolling a definition of “freedom” that, again, defines “freedom” as being and thinking conservative; labeling Democrats as “extreme” as their party explodes a new societal norm every other week.

And then there’s voter fraud, the whole idea of “rigged elections.” Yes, elections are being rigged, and all over the country. As with all of the above, it’s conservatives who are doing the rigging:
“From 2011 to 2015, after Republicans gained control of many state governments, legislators introduced 395 bills in forty-nine states designed to make it more difficult to vote, and half the states, nearly all under Republican control, adopted such restrictions.”
Reports on all this stuff come in daily and from all over the country (and was this good news?), but David Cole pulled a lot of them together in one good, intellectually honest review that The New York Review of Books ran back in mid-October. I note the honesty of the piece because Cole carefully separates actual fraud – e.g. voter suppression and gerrymandering – from tactics to challenge bad laws through the courts, etc. I tell ya, quality comes through when one looks for it…

All this is of a piece with other nefarious scumbaggery, like refusing to fill judicial vacancies, not just in the Supreme Court, but throughout the federal judicial system. These are the actions of a party that does not have popular support. Unable to win the arguments on the merits, conservatives go with changing the rules. While totally scummy, it’s basically understandable: they’re fighting to preserve the world as they want it to be and, in a lot of ways, conservatives lost their last institutional firewall when Justice Antonin Scalia went down. In that setting, what’s there left to do but tear down the institutions?

Cole’s piece, which is good, especially the second half when he’s explaining what aren't end-runs around democracy, ends on this hopeful note:
“Instead of modifying their policies to address the interests of new voters, however, the Republicans have sought to suppress those votes. The strategy, profoundly antidemocratic in the small ‘d’ sense, can swing elections in the short term. But in the long term, it will not only damage American democracy but will be self-defeating for the GOP.”
Maybe. One assumption implicit in Cole’s argument is that the institutions will survive the monkey wrenching and carry on in some restored state. It also glosses over the potential for chaos to alter the trajectory on how the public sees the world and, therefore how it votes. Which seems odd, seeing as the country has endured a real-time social experiment of this in real time since…when’d that piece of shit descend from his chintz elevator to let us know he’d be ruining our lives? Was it last June?

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