Some Americans believe that their country is a Republic. Some believe that their country is a Democracy. In our world, the first group is called Republicans, the second Democrats.
Republicans note that we pledge allegiance to the flag and “to the Republic for which it stands.” Democrats applaud Colin Kaepernick when he refuses to pledge allegiance to the flag.
Which can only mean that Republicans are a threat to American democracy? Huh?
At the nation’s onset, Thomas Jefferson founded a political party called the Democratic-Republicans. He did it to oppose the Federalists, led by George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Many Republicans today consider themselves to be Jeffersonian. Many Democrats consider themselves to be Hamiltonians. If nothing else, this tells us that the American mind is more than slightly confused.
Anyway, the New York Times has just regaled us with an exemplary instance of muddled thinking. It does not come to us from the moon. It comes from the department of government at Harvard University. Two professors, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are terrified that Donald Trump will threaten American democracy. They use the word over and over again, as though they want to make sure that you do not think about the American Republic.
One awaits their fervent argument for abolishing the undemocratic United States Senate. To clarify the question, you know and I know that the Democrats favor open borders because they assume that arriving immigrants will, when they presumably become citizens, vote for Democrats. Apparently, many Republican business leaders favor the same policy because they like cheap labor.
In truth, all of the immigrants did vote Democratic. Unfortunately, they all voted in California… which undermined the Democratic Party policy. The American Republic was designed to protect us from the tyranny of the majority—how could Harvard professors have missed the point?
Better yet, they are so thoroughly blinded by their own ideological bias that they only offer up examples of Republicans who threaten democracy. Of course, they are appalled by Donald Trump. In fact, they echo some criticisms that I have proposed on this blog. And yet, as of now, Trump has done nothing to threaten anything about the nation’s constitution or institutions. Trump has not exercised power at all—so the learned Harvard professors are extrapolating based on some campaign promises that we have all learned not to take very literally.
One recalls the Rob Province tweet about the White House staff in its post-Trump election mode:
In any case, the Harvard authors conflate the best interest of the Democratic Party with democracy itself. I hope that that’s not what they are teaching students at Harvard.
In truth, Trump is not as much of a threat to the Democratic Party as, say, Barack Obama has been. On Obama’s watch the Democratic Party has been reduced to a bunch of whiners and cry babies. Many college students have become basket cases—and not in the basket of deplorables—because they have been educated by great professors who do not know how biased they are.
Obama violated constitutional restraints on executive power, he lied to the nation with impunity and he defied all norms of cooperation with the opposition. It’s rich to read Levitsky and Ziblatt complain about how uncooperative Republicans have been when it was Barack Obama who told them to take a walk on Obamacare: he did not need their votes.
As for demonizing the opposition, haven’t you noticed that the Democratic Party has spent much of its political capital demonizing Republicans, and especially Tea Party patriots? Whatever do you think that the IRS scandal was about? Keep in mind, the Democratic Party, devoted as it was to covering up the scandal and protecting Lois Lerner, had no interest whatever in full disclosure or justice!
One is even more amused to read the Harvard authors excoriate Trump for having suggested that he might not accept the election results, at a time when Democrats are screaming that they cannot possibly accept the elections results.
What gives, guys?
Surely, the professors are correct to say that democracies—they refuse to use the word republican government—depend on respect for norms:
Democratic institutions must be reinforced by strong informal norms. Like a pickup basketball game without a referee, democracies work best when unwritten rules of the game, known and respected by all players, ensure a minimum of civility and cooperation. Norms serve as the soft guardrails of democracy, preventing political competition from spiraling into a chaotic, no-holds-barred conflict.
While Barack Obama has always appeared to be perfectly civil, he and his Democratic cohorts have certainly not spent their time figuring out how to cooperate with Republicans. When the filibuster rule was proving an obstacle to the confirmation of Obama’s judges, Harry Reid simply suspended it. When Congress failed to do what Obama wanted it to do on immigration, the president simply signed an executive order. He declared that since Congress did not act, he had to. Where do you find that in the Constitution, professors? If you are worrying about judicial overreach and authoritarian tendencies, look first at the Obama administration.
Let’s not forget, when Obama signed a treaty with his friends in Teheran, he refused to call it a treaty because then he would have had to submit it to the Senate for ratification. So much for respecting the constitution.
One appreciates the call for non-partisanship, but has there ever been a more partisan administration than the Obama administration. After all, at the risk of repeating myself, Obama issued executive actions on immigration in order to increase the number of Democratic voters. How much more partisan can you get?
One understands that Trump supporters believed that Hillary Clinton was corrupt and ought to be locked up. One also understands that her use of a private email server might have caused her to run afoul of the espionage act. And one understands that when a foreign government paid her husband enormous speaking fees after her State Department did the bidding of said government, people might think that some corruption was involved.
But then again, how many Democrats accepted the George W. Bush presidency with equanimity and respect? And how many of them thought that he had lied and cheated his way to the presidency? How many of them thought that he had to be defeated at any cost? For the past years Democrats have blamed everything that went wrong in the world on George W. Bush.
In truth, as I mentioned in a recent post, when Trump started appointing generals and CEOs to his cabinet and administration, he was selecting people who were NOT associated with party politics.
If Democrats are worried about Trump, the reason must be that they have spent so much time and effort trampling on the Constitution that now they fear what will happen when Republicans are in charge.
In truth, Barack Obama’s Democratic Party was soundly repudiated in this and in the last three elections. With the exception of the election of Obama himself, Democrats have lost just about everything. If they want to put their party back together again—assuming that they are not the Humpty Dumpty party—they would do well to reflect on their own failures and not blame everything on Republicans. In truth, the moral cowardice that makes it impossible to accept responsibility for one's own mistakes, the moral degeneracy that always wants to shift the blame... these are the reasons why Democrats keep losing elections.