We spend extra money just to have a chance to listen to John Fugelsang on his Sirius radio show. The few radio terrestrial outlets for those of us on the left side of the aisles are in Minneapolis and Chicago. All the others have been shut down.
What we get for the money we spend to get Fugelsang are one-liners like this one that is concise yet profound: “Republicans love government. It is democracy that they hate.”
Well, let’s unpack that little bundle as the cool kids say today.
Many folks believe that when they hear Republicans say they believe in limited government that they mean they don’t like government. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just think of someone who says they don’t like to swim, yet they go to the pool daily and swim until they are so tired they must be dragged out. This is similar to how Republicans practice their hate for government. They spend billions to get elected and elect those they want, then they spend more billions influencing those that are in office.
When a Republican spews the little cliche about limited government what they mean is, they want the benefits of government to be limited to their donors, friends and others that may be of some use for them. Those who are not in that circle that defines the limits they want government to extend to, are people like you and I who pay taxes, women who cannot even be in charge of their own bodies, the poor, the disabled, the disadvantaged – just about anyone who isn’t at least a millionaire.
Even as Republicans attack government with a vehemence bordering on violent, they still pony themselves up to run for every open seat from school board to president. Not only do they run for government seats, those with the big bucks pony up huge amounts of money – especially since Citizens United – to run the very government that they rail against. Have you ever thought of why those who want to eliminate government would work so hard and pay so much to run that same government?
The answers should be obvious. Once in control of the levers of government the various parts can be used in turn to punish enemies or groups of people that hate, to enrich friends and family, to control groups that challenge you for power (e.g. – unions) and to dismantle the parts they do not want to work. Using governmental titles when making statements gives an air of truth and gravitas to anything you say. Thus having a governmental title behind your name is a great way to , as George W. Bush would say, “propel the propaganda.” When you deny climate change and have “Senator” as part of your name, it has gravitas.
But let’s face the truth, enriching family and friends at the public trough is one of the two big draws. The other big draw is being able to control persons and groups that challenge your access to that huge pot of graft. Let’s look at Terry Branstad for illustration. He hands over huge chunks of government money to his donors in the insurance industry to “administer” the Medicaid program while his Republican toadies in the Iowa House block any attempt at first stopping this unilateral move, then any attempt at oversight.
Wisconsin and Kansas are two of the worst examples of why Republicans, who nominally hate government, so desperately want to be in charge. For the sake of brevity I won’t go into detail. Simply stated, both Walker and Brownback have wielded the powers of government to break unions and universities alike while cutting taxes for the rich to near nothing.
Now let’s take a look at the other half of Fugelsang’s statement, “it’s democracy they hate.” From the view of Republicans there are many bad aspects to democracy. for one thing getting elected is the first problem. If Terry Branstad had said “I plan to bust unions, close state facilities illegally and hand a big chunk of state money to my donors based on pretty shaky reasoning” who would vote for him? But that is only what he did, not what he said he would do.
Then there is the problem with those nettlesome people from other parties who believe that they should have some say in what goes on. They also believe that the party in power should be watched for missteps. Our government structure is set up to promote that. Added to that, there is that pesky first amendment provision of a free press. That was put in so that one group of people could and should act like watchdogs just to make sure things work like they are supposed to. Right now the power of the press seems to be in major remission, but the power is still there.
Finally there is the whole foofarah of getting re-elected. Having to go out and convince people that handing your tax dollars to their buddies on flimsy excuses is a good idea. Without an active press, this is much easier.
In sum, Republicans want control of the levers of government to enrich themselves and their friends and especially their donors. Never think they don’t love government. It is the best way to accomplish wealth transfer from the poor and middle class to the rich. Government is also the means to control those who oppose them. It is just that the very mechanics of democracy threaten to expose them at every turn.
Much like the question of whether a tree falling in a forest makes a sound, does malfeasance in office happen if the press does not report it or the voters refuse to hear it? That dulls the power of the press and of elections. Without those the checks of a democracy become much less workable.
Thanks to John Fugelsang for that powerful little statement.