Are The Walls Closing In?

Somehow you can just feel it. I don’t want to get too optimistic, but as we see the extreme radical right continuing to overstep the bounds of democracy we are also seeing a backlash especially among the young folks who will have to live with the gawd-awful policy that the extremist right is pushing through state legislatures across the land.

I think most people would agree that the straw that broke the camels back was last year’s Dobbs v Jackson SCOTUS decision that reversed nearly 50 years of reproductive freedom for the half of our population that bears children – women.

 The Dobbs decision seems to have opened a gusher of research into why what the public wants in public policy is nowhere what the public is getting. Instead of policy that promotes democracy, state legislatures in particular  have continues to pump out more and more restrictive policy aimed at making life much harder for specific groups in society.

Once again as has happened in recent decades as the public policy nears some idealistic liberal policies such as medical care for all or well funded public education through college, somehow the system is hijacked and within a short period we are once again chasing diversions pushed into prominence by extremist right wing media. 

As I write this some of the distractions of the moment are books(!), trans people and drag queens. Truly crazy accusations of sexual deviancy are hurled on a regular basis by extremist right wingers at public servants and anyone they disagree with. 

Why does the American extremist right use such tactics? Because they are on the wrong side of every issue that truly matters to people in this country and around the world. Philosophically they are aligned in the world with the likes of Vladimir Putin, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohamed Bin Salman and North Korea’s Kim Jung Un.

The tactics of the extremist right has been in recent years to use massive amounts of money combined with a large presence in a very friendly mass media and influencers on the internet plus openings in the laws and right wing court decisions to turn what should be a democracy into a minority autocracy.

I bring all this up to lead into a very insightful editorial a friend sent me from the New York Times written by Thomas Edsall from April 12.  

When I asked him why the Republican Party had moved in this direction over the past generation, Grumbach elaborated in an email, observing that the two major elements of the Republican Party — “extremely wealthy individuals in an era of high economic inequality” and “a voter base motivated by cultural and demographic threat” — have a “hard time winning electoral majorities on the basis of their policy agendas (a high-end tax cut agenda for the elite base and a culturally reactionary agenda for the electoral base), which increases their incentive to tweak the rules of the game to their advantage.”

Pippa Norris, a political scientist at Harvard’s Kennedy School, argued in an email that contemporary cultural conservatism depends on support from declining constituencies — non-college-educated white people (as pollsters put it), evangelical Christians and other ideologues on the right — which places these groups in an increasingly threatened position, especially in the American two-party system.

“At a certain point, the arc of history, which bends toward liberalism, means that traditional values among social conservatives lose their hegemonic status,” Norris wrote, which “is eventually reflected in progressive changes in the public policy agenda evident in many postindustrial societies during the late 20th century, from the spread of reproductive rights, equal pay for women and men, anti-sex-discrimination laws, passage of same-sex marriage laws, support for the international rules-based world order based on liberal democracy, free trade and human rights and concern about protection against environmental and climate change.”

Edsall goes on to cite many leading experts on the American system on the how and why the right is in the process of destroying democracy in the very birthplace of modern democracy. One of the more telling comment is from 

With their backs to the wall, Norris argued, conservatives have capitalized on

“institutional features of U.S. elections that allow Republicans to seek to dismantle checks on executive power — including the extreme decentralization of electoral administration to partisan officials with minimal federal regulation, partisan gerrymandering of districts, overrepresentation of rural states in the U.S. Senate and Electoral College, partisan appointments in the judiciary, primary elections rallying the faithful in the base but excluding the less mobilized moderate independents, the role of money from rich donors in elections and campaigns and so on and so forth. The Trump presidency exacerbated these developments, but their roots are far deeper and more enduring.”

Let me put it more bluntly. The right will do just about anything, including destroying democracy, to attain and maintain power. They will use this power to favor the elite and punish others.

Let us hope there is enough democracy left to stop this move to autocracy and restore the rule by the people. But the people must act through the political processes.


About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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